The February 2021 agreement compensates Pacheedaht for something the Province wanted to do—allow industry to cut down ancient trees. It is not about self-determination.
June 6, 2021
Logging and road building close to the ridge line above pristine Fairy Creek Valley, which can be seen immediately behind the recent clearcut. This is occurring on unceded Pacheedaht traditional territories. (TJ Watt photo)
THIS WEEK PREMIER JOHN HORGAN and Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy released their intentions paper to reform the forestry sector in British Columbia.
During the announcement Premier Horgan talked about Indigenous sovereignty and pointed to the threat of repeating British Columbia’s colonial past. In doing so, the premier illustrated how his government is dragging our colonial past into the present and further entrenching it in the future.
It is shameful for Premier Horgan to invoke the legacy of residential schools to justify his government’s lack of action to protect endangered old growth ecosystems. He said, “If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place [at Fairy Creek], that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops.”
It was disturbing to watch Premier Horgan as he proposed reforms for the forestry sector that he knew would place Indigenous people at the centre of protests and further entrench an economic reliance on old growth logging in these communities.
To be clear, a premier who is talking about sovereignty and pointing to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), which refers to the right to self-determination, should not be using the same transactional agreements as the former BC Liberal government that expressly did not believe in Indigenous sovereignty. But this is what the government continues to do.
The agreement that the Province of British Columbia signed with Pacheedaht First Nation on February 17, 2021, is a Forest and Range Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement. This is the same model of agreement that the BC Liberals created and used.
For years, the BC NDP loudly criticized the BC Liberals for these transactional forestry agreements. The BC NDP of the past were correct to criticize this approach because it epitomizes the colonial approach Premier Horgan claims he moved away from by passing DRIPA.
Nowhere in these take it or leave it agreements is United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or DRIPA mentioned. Given what the Courts have said about Aboriginal title—that it is real, meaningful, and territorial in nature—such minimal agreements that provide limited benefits, do not affirm the human rights of Indigenous peoples, or recognize their rights, is a continuing expression of the legacy of colonialism.
This approach is just as reprehensible and unprincipled today as it was in the past.
There is nothing in the agreement that demonstrates this government is embracing Indigenous sovereignty.
This agreement clearly benefits the Province of British Columbia “to assist in achieving stability and greater certainty for forest and range resource development on Crown lands within the Traditional Territory.”
It’s not about self-determination. These agreements compensate Indigenous Nations for activities that the Province desires to undertake—not the other way around.
There are clauses in the agreement that commit Pacheedaht to “not support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities.”
Further, the contract commits Pacheedaht to “promptly and fully cooperate with and provide its support to British Columbia in seeking to resolve any action that might be taken by a member of First Nation that is inconsistent with this Agreement.” Does that sound like self-determination to you?
I find section eight of the agreement particularly hard to read. The First Nation must provide the Province with a list of socio-economic priorities, it must keep the list current, and each year the community must provide an annual report to the province “identifying all the expenditures made from the “Payment Account.” They must make these priorities publicly available, and finally, “British Columbia may, at its sole discretion and at the sole expense of Pacheedaht First Nation, require an audit of the expenditures made from the Payment Account to determine that all such expenditures were made in furtherance of the purposes and objectives.”
This section plays on an old stereotype that Indigenous people cannot be trusted with land or money. How can Premier Horgan say he is advancing sovereignty and self-determination and have such a clause in an agreement, especially one that was just signed in 2021—18 months after DRIPA was passed?
For decades Pacheedaht and other Indigenous Nations toiled, negotiating modern treaties in good faith with the Provincial and Federal Crown governments. Those negotiations went nowhere, as was the intention of the Crowns. So Indigenous leaders, struggling to lift their people and communities out of poverty, can hardly be criticized for signing these revenue sharing agreements when the Crown offers them.
When Premier Horgan invokes words like sovereignty to free up a little space as he feels increasing heat for his lack of action on protecting old growth, he does Indigenous people and all British Columbians a great disservice.
If Premier Horgan truly believed in sovereignty, he would not advance these BC Liberal-era agreements. Instead, he would be referencing the Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision from June 2014. The decision would feature prominently in his forest sector intentions paper, and it would form the core of forest and range agreements with Indigenous Nations.
To repeat it again—the agreement with Pacheedaht was signed in February 2021. So instead of negotiating an agreement that provides economic alternatives to logging, provides real choice to the nation, and enables the conservation of the endangered old growth in Pacheedaht traditional territory, the Provincial government negotiated an agreement that almost assured that those ancient trees would be cut.
This situation illustrates how deeply disingenuous the government has been as the tension in our forests continues to grow. Rather than offer conservation solutions, the BC NDP are effectively using BC Liberal policy to put Indigenous Nations in the centre of conflicts and use the language of reconciliation to cover for their inaction.
Clearly, colonialism is alive and well in Premier Horgan’s government.
Adam Olsen (SȾHENEP) is Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and a member of Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP).
Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
June 2, 2021
UP AT FAIRY CREEK, known to the Pacheedaht as Ada’itsx, while trying to protect the forest, I find myself bearing witness to the current relationship between Indigenous peoples and our mainstream society. I would like to put some thoughts on your table to help us toward reconciliation.
As I file this story, news of the discovered bodies of 215 First Nations children at the residential school in Kamloops is breaking hearts across our nation. If we wish to make peace, we have a long way to go, and must acknowledge that racism in Canada is not all in the past.
I hear many of my white middle class family saying: “I feel constrained to come to Fairy Creek because Indigenous people don’t want us there.”
I celebrate the soul searching, but people’s good intentions are being manipulated by a “divide and conquer” strategy, an example of which is a letter published by the elected Pacheedaht Council saying we are unwelcome. This letter has been traced back to a request from the Premier’s office for the Council to fulfill their contractual obligations not to interfere with the destruction of their forest heritage, for some cash. Why were they placed in this position?
True reconciliation will begin when First Nations get what they have never had in BC: a percentage of the profits from resource extraction, veto power over projects in their territories, and first dibs on the jobs in their communities.
Instead, Premier John Horgan, in his new “Modernizing Forest Policy” document, inverts reality by using First Nations as a human shield and blaming them for his job-killing, ecosystem-killing forest policies; by saying he can’t protect old growth or stop clearcutting without consulting First Nations. Sierra Club BC summarized it as “Orwellian” and “talk and log.” Horgan’s “Old Growth Protection Strategy” is a bald lie, as bald as the hillsides of BC.
John Horgan’s Old Growth Protection Plan at work near Caycuse (photo by Dawna Mueller)
The issues confuse most people, because most Canadians don’t know that hereditary chiefs have traditional control over what happens in their territories, but elected chiefs—a construct of the Indian Act of 1876—have control over what happens on reserves and the cash flow from government.
Industry and government throw money at the elected chiefs to get them to sign off on mines, pipelines and clearcutting, but these activities generally take place outside the reserves, in the territories, which should require sign-off from hereditary chiefs.
When the Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs signed off on the pipeline, and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blockaded it, John Horgan refused to dialogue, and used the RCMP to smash their resistance.
First Nations are not a couple of elected chiefs. First Nations are a people. And with all his talk about consultation, the premier has rejected calls to sit down and talk with Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones at Fairy Creek.
So, on Saturday, May 29, at Waterfall Camp, Pacheedaht leaders Grannie Rose, Kati George-Jim, and Bill Jones brought Victor Peters, whom Jones says is the true hereditary chief of Pacheedaht First Nation, to the police line which denies Pacheedaht citizens access to Waterfall Camp, and declared:
“I ask you, police man, to escort my chief to where he needs to go—these territories. He needs access to his lands to care for the old growth. You’ve been draining this territory for 200 years. You have cut all our timber with no remorse. You are invaders. I say to you: Clear the way, to escort my chief.”
Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones speaks with RCMP near Waterfall Camp
Jones was calling out the RCMP, and John Horgan who sent them, but all around him in the forest, and down in River Camp, 1,500 people, mostly settlers, had come to Fairy Creek in support, to stand with the “tall standing ones” and our First Nations.
Bill wrote this invitation, which you can read here. Please read it. It is short, eloquent, and moving. It begins with an exhortation to walk in the woods, and it ends with an exhortation to walk in the woods. You are invited. If you come down to Fairy Creek, you don’t need to get arrested. Come to build relationships with First Nations people, support them, and listen to their teachings.
That evening at the 7:00 pm welcome circle at HQ below River Camp, Rueben George (grandson of Chief Dan George), spoke. He is Sacred Trust Manager of the Tsleil Waututh Nation. He urged us to build relationships between ourselves and the land. He told us how he buried the placenta that nourished each of his children in the womb, near their home, and planted a tree over it, so they could come home any time in their lives, to find their roots.
Rueben George of Tsleil Waututh Nation
I was born in Toronto, raised my children in Guelph, and my daughter lives in the Yukon. Rueben’s words uncovered for me a great sense of loss—that I have no generational connection to place. Our bodies have settled here, but not our souls.
But Rueben invited us to join with the land wherever we live, and shared his traditional knowledge of how trees talk to each other and support each other in times of need. He called this a reciprocal relationship. He pointed up to the ridge line of Fairy Creek, and told us that every gift of love we give the land, will give us so much love and strength back.
I know this is true, because I have felt it at Fairy Creek.
One night around the camp fire I observed how committed everyone was to non-violence. “This has gone up a level from just non-violence—everyone’s hearts are full of Peace.” We puzzled over the mystery of this, until someone said: “I think it is seeping up out of the ground, from the trees.”
LIKE MANY, I CRIED TEARS OF JOY watching the BC Legislature sign UNDRIP into law. Maybe humanity was moving forward!
A month later, Premier John Horgan’s government created the RCMP Community Industry Response Group (CIRG), a tactical squad, who are authorized to use “lethal oversight” to crush community resistance to industrial resource extraction. UNDRIP was just a photo-op for Mr Horgan.
Regular detachment RCMP officers are required to enforce laws as neutrals, without interference from politicians. That is why the civil disobedience at Clayoquot Summer was a relatively “civil” affair.
When officers are collected from all over the province into a CIRG, by declaration of a “provincial emergency,” their mandate pits them against communities, on the side of industry. The RCMP have enough trouble with systemic racism, but initiatives like CIRG destroy any credibility they have left.
Because where do we do all our resource extraction? First Nations unceded territories.
RCMP officers face Indigenous warrior matriarchs at Caycuse (photo by Arvin Singh Dang/ @arvinoutside)
This same CIRG group is now at Fairy Creek, using illegal “exclusion zones” that are being challenged by the Canadian Association of Journalists, and false arrest practices that have outraged the BC Civil Liberties Association. They are even turning away biologists documenting endangered species at Fairy Creek, claiming “public safety” as an excuse.
While a small minority of the logging community have slashed tires and assaulted First Nations youth, the constant stream of violent, racially-fuelled behaviour from the RCMP is more appalling.
I went to Fairy Creek to save trees, but I’ve spent most of my time intervening between First Nations youth and cops.
I watched a peaceful young woman, a minor, manhandled so harshly that her shirt ripped open, exposing her breasts to 30 armed male police. Her arrest was unlawful, and the assault on her dignity unnecessary. When she asked “Who are you serving?” they slammed the steel paddy wagon door in her face.
I have dug deep to try and understand this behaviour. It is tactically foolish and morally wrong. As a sports coach, I am good at uncovering motivation, but I simply couldn’t understand it until I sat down to write this column.
The police didn’t touch the 100 white elders who came down last week. And they were civil while they arrested me. Yet they are repeatedly singling out First Nations for violence. Why?
Because they know they can get away with it.
First Nations and other marginalized youth don’t have the resources to shadow box with some “complaint commission,” which they know will side with police. Their experience is grounded in the knowledge that Chantel Moore was one of three Tla-o-qui-aht youth from her small village who have been shot to death by police or died in police custody in the last year. Less than 200 population, 3 children dead in separate incidents, one year. This is not random.
After the arrests, I said to one young man with quite dark skin, “This is why the RCMP have lost everyone’s faith.” He replied calmly, “This is why they are so hated.” There was no hatred in his voice, just an acceptance of the reality of his life: “Don’t let the cops get you alone.”
But reconciliation is being practised at Fairy Creek, by the forest defenders.
The Rainforest Flying Squad Legal Support Team is painstakingly documenting dozens of police violations, including “racist, trans or queer-phobic, or misogynistic incidents.” These will be presented to Justice Verhoeven to ask for his help in restraining police while they enforce his injunction, and used to support legal challenges and official complaint procedures.
As well, realizing Indigenous peoples need to have control over their own resources, the forest defenders have started a separate GoFundMe page to prioritize protection of First Nation youth from targeted RCMP activity, and give First Nations resources to free them from what Bill Jones describes as “predatory lending and predatory agreements that have shackled his people with unsupportable debt, impoverished his people, and destroyed the forest they consider to be their mother.”
The rest of us can accept their invitation and that of Elder Bill Jones to come to Fairy Creek to try and shield the forest and our youth from violence.
Myself, I have chosen to go to jail because our leadership has failed us and we have no time to waste. When elected leaders make mistakes, we must listen instead to the voice inside us which knows right from wrong. We are all Indigenous to this planet. We are all family.
One more thought on building healthy relationships between our cultures.
Some people are uncomfortable with the term “settler.” Being uncomfortable with a term is a good sign. It means we are learning something new. “Settler” is not meant as a pejorative, but simply as an identifier, to bring clarity, to enable dialogue. Here is why the term makes sense to me.
Indigenous peoples live for a long time in fixed territories. To regulate their relationships with their neighbours, they greet each other at the boundary. Let me demonstrate, with my own statement.
“Hi, my name is Yellow Cedar. My Scottish ancestors came here when the English banned our culture and language, massacred us with superior technology, burned our crofts, and put the survivors on boats for Canada. Needing a place to live, we settled in your territories, for which we are grateful.
“In this time of emergency, I respectfully enter Pacheedaht Territory, invited by Elder Bill Jones, to help protect both the forest and people, whom I consider my family, from irreparable harm done by corporations and governments beyond both of our control.”
Bringing a gift is a traditional greeting when entering a territory. At Fairy Creek, the gift to bring is your self. True reconciliation is born in people’s hearts, one by one. How can we build this if we are isolated from each other?
Rainbow Eyes, the first on the Fairy Creek blockades to be arrested (photo by Dawna Mueller)
Rainbow Eyes was the first to be arrested. You can see in her eyes that she knows what she is up against, but also the depth of her resolve. Will you come down to Fairy Creek to stand with her, laugh and cry with her, learn from her leadership, and help protect her from violence?
Yellow Cedar is a writer based on Canada’s West Coast. See his earlier entries, including about his first arrest, here and here.
Rainforest Flying Squad statement in response to violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples, civil liberties, and human rights by RCMP in the Caycuse forest area, on Ditidaht First Nation Territory
May 27, 2021
ARRESTS IN THE CAYCUSE EXCLUSION ZONE on Tuesday May 25 2021 and the various restrictions that have been placed on media, legal observers, local Indigenous peoples and the general public during RCMP enforcement actions are an illegal and extrajudicial use of force, according to legal representatives for the Rainforest Flying Squad.
Lawyer Noah Ross, who represents the Rainforest Flying Squad says that “The RCMP enforcement zone actions arguably violate the civil rights—including the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression—of those seeking to protect old-growth forests.
“This is further exacerbated by the fact that the lion’s share of the arrests in question were dropped, and led to no charges.
“When the underlying issue is one of ecological health and colonial injustice, the RCMP and government should approach civil liberties violations cautiously, or they will be seen to stand on the side of industry and frontier colonialism,” Ross added.
The so-called “exclusion zone” was enforced by armed checkpoints on public roads located on the traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation.
On May 25th, about 45 people arrived at Caycuse to peacefully protest the wide and arbitrary exclusion zone established there by the RCMP, and to hold a vigil for the Ancient Forests.
They included RFS members as well as many public supporters. Among these were a group of Indigenous youth from various nations, elders, and an individual who wanted to show her support for a few hours before returning to the bedside of a dying relative.
One RCMP vehicle arrived on site and officers requested that the road be cleared or civil disobedience charges would be laid. This message was delivered over a loudspeaker but was not audible for many of the people who were present.
Police liaisons approached the RCMP vehicle and requested to speak with members from the RCMP Division Liaison Team (DLT) to find out where peaceful protestors could go to continue their vigil.
Instead of replying, 10-15 RCMP vehicles rapidly pulled up and, without prior warning, RCMP officers immediately began violently arresting people. They seemed to focus first on those wearing high-visibility vests, such as legal observers and police liaisons.
At least 42 people present at the site of the Caycuse exclusion zone were arrested that day.
After these first arrests at around 8:30 AM, RCMP officers corralled the others, and announced that every person remaining was also under arrest. All had been standing peacefully off the road. Some were detained in the corral until about 7:30 PM before being transported to Lake Cowichan RCMP station, without food or support for over 13 hours. The final arrestees were not released until 10:30 PM.
The RCMP did not read the injunction to the people on the road. They did give a fair warning to withdraw from the road, and at the time arrests started, protestors were in the process of trying to learn where they should go to safely continue their vigil. Despite following orders to move, all present were arrested anyway. Clearly they were not in breach of the injunction.
There appears to have been overt misconduct by the RCMP. Unjustified force was used on numerous individuals who were peaceful and in no way resisting arrest. As well, there are accounts that RCMP officers targeted and threatened Indigenous and BIPOC youth.
One young woman of colour said an RCMP officer tried to rip off her hijab. Multiple others said they were threatened by police to have their piercings cut out. A small, 18-year-old police liaison cried out in pain when she was roughly grabbed by four or five officers and brought to her knees. She cried out “I’m a minor!” and was not resisting arrest.
Without cause or reason, all vehicles belonging to the protestors were towed about three kilometres down the road. None of these vehicles were blocking the road. Protestors were told they could access their vehicles after their release but might have to pay Teal Jones for the cost of the towing.
Over the past 10 days the RCMP have made approximately 104 arrests total in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse area. Fifty-four people were arrested but released without charges, and another 50 people have been charged for civil contempt of court and/or obstruction of justice.
Individuals have been detained for 13 hours or more before release, yet almost all arrestees have been released without charges.
The exclusion zone was set up on May 17th, 2021. It preceded the enforcement of the injunction at the Caycuse Forest Protection camp the following day.
At that time, forest defenders on site were given 24 hours to leave even if they were not blockading or violating the terms of the injunction in any way.
DLT officers informed them that anyone remaining on site at the time of enforcement -- including Indigenous peoples on their own territory, media, legal observers, police liaisons, medics and witnesses -- would be arrested if they chose to stay.
The RCMP stated that this exclusion zone is justified: "The primary concerns of the police are public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction."
However, Ross states that the exclusion zone is not in keeping with the geographic scope and terms of the April 1st, 2021 Injunction Order given by Justice Verhoeven, which specifically allows for peaceful protest within the injunction area.
He adds that “the Injunction stipulates that only those directly interfering with logging activity, or within 50 metres of company equipment, are subject to arrest.”
Limiting public access to the injunction area directly undermines the safety of those peacefully protesting within the exclusion zone. They are left vulnerable and without witnesses.
“The RCMP has repeatedly announced to the media and public that there was no planned enforcement on a given day, and used this to deny access for everyone including members of the press -- while proceeding to enforce the injunction and make arrests,” Ross said.
At the checkpoint on both days of action, the RCMP arbitrarily moved the exclusion zone line, with the effect of criminalizing peaceful public protest and severely limiting press freedom.
Furthermore, RCMP ignored reports of logging activity within very unsafe distances from forest defenders who were still on site.
Finally, the RCMP denies access for Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nation members to large parts of their unceded territory without free, prior and informed consent or a clear and properly communicated plan to facilitate their entry into the so-called exclusion zone.
“The fact that, at the same time, the RCMP actively enables industry to inflict further violence on the land speaks clearly to the state’s complicity in ongoing colonialism,” said Elder Bill Jones, a member of the Pacheedaht First Nation. Jones has welcomed the Rainforest Flying Squad and its supporters to help him protect the old-growth forests at Fairy Creek since last August.
These concerns are shared by a number of other groups, including a coalition of media and the Canadian Association of Journalists which is initiating their own court challenge.
On May 20th, the BC Civil Liberties Association released an open letter condemning the Caycuse exclusion zone.
The RCMP was censured in 2019 by its internal Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the use of exclusion zones on Wet’suwet’en and Elsipogtog territory (see here for a link to a recent Ricochet news publication regarding this issue, and here to a link to the letter from the CRCC). In a statement, The Canadian Association of Journalists also called on the courts to limit the powers of the RCMP in granting injunctions in order to protect the freedom of the press.
—Rainforest Flying Squad
Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
May 27, 2021
ON SATURDAY, MAY 22, I WAS STANDING PEACEFULLY before an RCMP roadblock set up near the intersection of Caycuse Main and Maclure Main, with 100 citizens. We were warming our hearts around a sacred fire, bearing witness as a young Pacheedaht woman sang in her own language, songs of healing and resistance, in response to being savagely beaten by three male white police.
It was a powerful and moving moment.
The young woman put her drum down, and explained that she had just been ordered to leave the public space we stood in, because the RCMP had arbitrarily declared it to be an “exclusion zone” around the injunction against active logging in Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46.
Citizens protesting the legality of the RCMP exclusion zone at Caycuse (photograph supplied anonymously)
Because the active logging was 9 miles away, and the injunction specifically states “50 metres from active logging and machinery,” she told us that she considered these exclusion zones, which are meant to protect citizens at crime scenes, to be an abuse of police discretion. She wished to exercise her rights and freedoms under the Charter and “stand here.”
I asked, “May I stand with you?” She smiled and said “Yes.”
Twenty of us got up and linked arms at her side. Thirty armed police engulfed us in an arrest wave from the rear. Moms with strollers scattered, children ran for safety. One seven year old said “Mom, I want to stay.”
When two burly officers used unnecessary force to hustle an Indigenous woman still tending the fire away, I stepped forward, and extended my hands out to an officer, to facilitate handcuffs. He said “would you like to be arrested?”
What a question! Well, “yes and no.”
What I would like, is for Premier Horgan to start practicing sustainable forestry, so we can stop killing 8 loggers a year in clearcuts, and rebuild the 40 percent of forestry jobs we just lost to mechanization.
What I would like, is not to be complicit while my species causes an entire bioregion to go extinct.
But time was short, so I said “I’m with her.” And so I was.
The old-growth at stake—these trees in Caycuse area are likely gone now (photography by Will O'Connell)
From my paddy wagon seat, I watched the muscular white male police officer slam the much smaller female Indigenous fire-tender through the small steel-framed opening, and heard the sickly thump of her head hitting the steel wall.
I heard him hiss: “You just assaulted a police officer,” so that she would realize if she laid a complaint, he would claim she was “resisting arrest.” Her Indigenous word, against his white male professional word. She knows how that will turn out. She kept quiet, so it wouldn’t get worse.
Racist violence is alive and well in Canada. At least in Alabama, it’s on the table, and Black Lives Matter. Here in BC we sweep it under the rug, and RCMP officers at Fairy Creek (Ada’itsx), are wearing Blue Lives Matter ribbons.
Nine of us, perhaps five identifying as white, spent the next six hours, the first two without water, being softened up, and having our resistance gauged, by seven different officers. The door would open. “You’ll never be able to cross a border again. Just try getting a job with a criminal record.” Slam. An hour later, “By the way, it’s a long weekend, so you’ll be in jail until Tuesday, but who knows, maybe the judge is busy, or on vacation. And this is no nice little jail.”
One of us replied: “Uh, the ventilation fan is broken, and its about 35 degrees in here, can you just leave the door open a crack for air?” “You should have thought of that before you committed a criminal act.” Slam.
“Under the uniforms, the RCMP are people, but their military culture has dehumanized them. They suffer from police brutality too.” (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
The police had tacked on a criminal charge of “mischief” to the civil charge of violating the injunction so they could threaten us with criminal records.
Then the door opens, and “good cop” brings us one tiny water bottle for three, and says: “Hey, if you sign here, you can walk free, once we drive you to Cowichan Lake.” Someone replies, “Can you give us a lift back down the 100 kilometres of logging roads to our car?” “No, that’s Uber.”
Despite myself, I smiled. Under the uniforms, the RCMP are people, but their military culture has dehumanized them. They suffer from police brutality too.
Most of us were prepared to go to jail, so we could try and convince a judge that our need as humans to slow the rate of species extinction is more pressing than the need of Teal Cedar to profit from that extinction.
If we succeed, the judge can use their discretion to “be kind” with the sentence. If we don’t, we can get 90 days in jail for singing in a public road.
And while we sat in the wagon deliberating, six species went extinct on our planet.
After all of that, and so much more, just before midnight, I walked up to the intake window at RCMP Cowichan Lake, where the local detachment officer stood frozen and mute. Puzzled, I smiled to reassure him, and said words to the effect of “Book’em Dano, TFL 46.” He blinked. The officer who assaulted the Indigenous fire tender said “Get out of here, we’re not charging you.”
I asked to be charged. He refused, and hustled me out of the building.
Police have discretion to apprehend a suspect, and release them. George Floyd (may he rest in honoured peace), handed a store clerk a counterfeit $20 bill. But was he a counterfeiter? Maybe someone gave him the bill? If things hadn’t gone so wrong, police procedure was to apprehend him, investigate, and decide if charges were warranted, or just record the incident, and release him.
But at Caycuse, the RCMP had 30 officers present to witness and testify in court that we were in the injunction zone. We were told to leave, and refused. There was no doubt. Why keep us in a paddy wagon for six hours, and drive us 100 kilometres, to release us?
Then the penny dropped. They never had any intention of booking us. If 1,000 citizens go to jail, the trees win. If 20 citizens go to jail, the logging corporation wins.
But why are the RCMP spending millions of public dollars to help the logging company win? Why weren’t they just doing their jobs and enforcing the injunction? The betrayal of being lied to by seven police officers all day shocked me more than I expected.
And then the bag of pennies dropped. I realized this was not just any ordinary civil disobedience, like the Votes for Women campaign, or so many others, that won us everything good in society.
This is a real War in the Woods.
After Tzeporah Berman, now director of Stand.earth, was arrested, she said “Compared to this, Clayoquot Summer was the Picnic in the Woods.”
After a little digging, I discovered that the Rainforest Flying Squad is facing an elite RCMP “Clearcutting Flying Squad,” led by Dave Attfield, the Gold Commander who oversaw the raid at the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory.
A BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) press release, which you can read here, details how this Community Industry Response Group (CIRG) was originally created at Premier John Horgan’s request, requiring the declaration of a state of “provincial emergency” under the Provincial Police Service Agreement.
A state of emergency, that the public was not informed of.
As a citizen, I’d like to know:
Is this the same squad, or a new one?
Does the “provincial emergency” or CIRG, have an end date?
Is the CIRG audited? What are our costs?
The name “Community Industry Response Group” makes it sound like a reconciliation effort. To date, the squad’s activities have all been to suppress communities to facilitate industry, at taxpayer’s expense.
I consider this deployment to be a conflict of interest, as TFL 46 is in John Horgan’s riding, and the forestry workers who are benefitting in the short term represent votes for John. A judge who owned shares in Teal Cedar would recuse himself from our trials.
Using a military group to crush dissent is something I expect from China, not British Columbia. This unit has helicopters and a SWAT team. At Wet’suwet’en, they were authorized to use lethal force, indirectly as “lethal oversight,” as reported in this article in The Guardian. At Caycuse, they have threatened to shoot the tree sitters out of the trees with snipers.
In response, some sitters came down, some refused. I watched a tree sitter who climbed down, and was released, lying back in the arms of her support group, sobbing and crying for an hour. “And then they…” more tears… “and then....”
She could hardly get a full sentence out until she was completely overwhelmed, her body wracked with convulsive sobs.
She poses no threat to life or property. She is not a criminal. The forest defenders are scrupulously non-violent. She’s just a kid, about the same age as my daughter, who climbed into a tree to protect the ecosystem she lives in, full of ancient trees that have no voice of their own.
The BCCLA has written an open letter to the Province stating that “the RCMP’s actions are…an inconsistent, arbitrary, and illegal exercise of police discretion to block members of the public, including legal observers and the media, from accessing the area.”
Forest defender holds up Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling on courts to limit the discretionary powers of police to enforce injunctions, because “police have failed again and again” to respect the Charter. Forest Defenders will be asking our judge for this protection in our trials. If we can get a trial!
John Horgan has a lot to answer for. I believe he should start by apologizing to the Fairy Creek Forest Protectors, and then:
Disband the RCMP Community Industry Response Group.
Declare a provincial emergency to protect BC’s Ancient Temperate Rainforest Biome, which is critically endangered.
Ensure unrestricted access for media, international observers, and citizens.
Come out of hiding and start providing some leadership.
Create an environment for dialogue by declaring a temporary moratorium on TFL-46, compensate the families of the loggers for lost time, provide other logs for the Pacheedaht sawmill, and sit down with the Forest Defenders to talk.
The tragedy, is that this war in the woods is completely unnecessary.
Here in BC, we are lucky to have the foremost forest scientist in the world—Dr Suzanne Simard. She has just published her first book, Finding the Mother Tree, and has initiated the Mother Tree Project to prove that we could have double the forestry jobs by practicing woodlot forestry that preserves a forest’s biomass.
She’s putting “Peace In The Woods” on a plate for us by creating a scientific forestry blueprint for healing our ruined clearcuts, and turning them back into old growth, which the Forest Service should have done before they started clearcutting. Eco Foresters call it “single tree selective forestry.” Loggers call it “hand logging.”
Hey John—more forestry jobs means more votes for you. Maybe it’s time to park the helicopters, and pick up the phone.
Yellow Cedar is a West Coast BC-based writer.
Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
May 26, 2021
“HI MY NAME IS DOUG,” the engaging young man at the gate says. “That would be Doug Fir, I presume?” I inquired, echoing the Stanley and Livingston greeting in a forest far away now in time and space. Perhaps his funky home-made tree costume gave him away. The people here have a twinkle in their eye, and fun is never far away.
The spirit of Emma Goldman dances in their revolution.
I arrived in Camp last night to careful scrutiny as a potential RCMP infiltrator, a warm welcome, and an exhortation to bring my Self to the Movement. There are no mistakes in forest activism. There is no one path, and no Shining Path. Each of us make our own choices about how we are called to civil disobedience, and what our lives can support.
I sat around the camp fire with “Rainbow Eyes,” after her first arrest, and before mine, discussing whether we might or might not get criminal records, and whether we should let Fear be the deciding factor, or Courage. “You know what Winston Churchill said about that,” someone chimed in.
Myself, the only Fear I have is caused by the 2019 UN Report on Biodiversity telling me that 25 species will go extinct today, in large part due to the clearcut deforestation taking place at Fairy Creek, and all over BC.
Clearcuts in the Caycuse River area, near blockades (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
Apparently, when we get our day in court, the judge will balance my right to peaceful protest, and the severity of my need, against the right of the Corporation to make profit without interference, and the severity of their need. A human, against a non-human. The non-human seems to win every time.
Why is that?
And the forest has no rights. The ecosystem has no rights. “The only stream around here with rights and freedoms, is the corporate income stream.”
We need to change this.
I will admit that I have broken the injunction. I will not sign the “promise not to return” waiver. My promise is to return, and return again, in an endless cycle of Arrest, Court, Judge, Arrest, Court, Judge, until they stop. “Rinse and repeat.”
I will rest my defence on the urgency of our need to take action. The “Greta Thunberg defence”—Pawn to Queen 4. I have a daughter just her age—a young ecosystem scientist.
I will close my summary to the judge by saying that if an assailant broke into my house at night and threatened my daughter, I would follow the explicit instructions of no less than Gandhi himself, and take him down by whatever means necessary. If I did, the RCMP would arrive and say “good job,” and no judge would take the assailant’s side.
Today, I will peacefully attempt to stop an assailant from causing my daughter and her generation imminent and catastrophic harm. The RCMP will hand cuff me and take me to jail. As I calmly and reasonably inform the arresting officers that clearcutting is deforestation, and deforestation is causing species extinction, they might just say: “Tell it to the judge”.
And that is exactly what I will do.
In fact: “Make my day.” 🙂
Yellow Cedar is a West Coast BC-based writer. Watch for Part II: 6 hours in a paddy wagon.
A handful of politicians should not have the right to forever destroy the non-renewable wonders that exist for the benefit of all.
May 4, 2021
I DREAM OF ONE DAY SOON being able to take a bus excursion to the rare and treasured old growth forest just north of Port Renfrew, in the Fairy Creek watershed and stretching all the way west to the Caycuse watershed. I dream of hopping off a Wilson’s electric bus at several stops in this spectacular new park, and walking quietly and contemplatively among the now-protected, ancient giants. I follow soft forest trails that languidly weave their way around massive, deeply-ridged trunks. Closer to the waterways I step on protective boardwalks over the tender lushness that is typical of a riparian ecosystem.
There is nothing typical about this place. I slowly inhale the world’s cleanest air and hear the songs of countless birds that make their home here, in the immense forest canopy that rises full of life to dizzying heights. Here and there along the path, carefully placed panels explain the science and the marvels of this magnificent place. I want to read every word.
I’m keen to hear the history too, from the local Pacheedaht and Ditidaht guides who are finally receiving adequate remuneration for the work they’ve been doing for centuries—protecting and stewarding their land and its resources. In their presentation, they will share how they lived before “civilization” befell their land, how the imposed colonial business model deliberately and persistently undermined their sovereignty, how it carted away entire old-growth forests and paid for them with the trinket equivalent of a stumpage fee. They will recount how decades of rapacious old-growth clearcutting and other accumulated tensions finally came to a head, in a David vs Goliath standoff at what has become known as the Fairy Creek Blockade in the time of the devastating pandemic.
We visitors are a rapt audience.
Photograph by Laura Mina Mitic
THE VISION FADES, but here in the present, I get history’s gist. The model that has worked for settler governments from coast to coast to coast for the last five centuries is this: Pay people just enough to keep them appeased but still dependent on the continued trade of paltry handouts for irreplaceable resources. Pretend to consult meaningfully. Continue talking about clean water (without mentioning that white towns have had this almost forever). Throw in goodies like a sawmill or community centre if you have to. Stir dissent in any number of ways, including covert interference with Indigenous government systems. Find individuals that you can pay off—money talks in every setting. Make backroom deals and swear everyone to secrecy. Use your law enforcement resources if you have to.
That’s the way it still works in 2021, and you can see it playing out at Fairy Creek and related blockades. Never mind that a standing ancient forest is worth untold millions for its capacity to combat climate change by capturing and sequestering vast amounts of carbon. (An 800-year-old tree typically stores 20,000 kg.)
Never mind that it is a complete, unique and endlessly diverse biome—from the soil way up to the towering canopy—and therefore a key player in keeping future pandemics at bay. Scientists agree that the rainforest treetops are teeming with species yet to be discovered. University of Victoria researchers, who liken that world to a hanging garden, recently discovered 20 of them.
Never mind that it has the power to heal. First Nations people have always known this, but the rest of us might finally be catching on. We keep hearing about forest bathing, and some healthcare providers, using resources developed by the BC Parks Foundation’s newly-formed ParX program, have begun prescribing visits to the forest for health and wellness. We’ve always loved our urban parks and forests but are beginning to realize that the wilderness beyond is even more crucial to our survival and wellbeing.
Never mind that ancient trees are lucrative magnets for world-weary locals and eco-tourists alike. Forget cruise ship revenue with all its carbon-laden drawbacks: An old-growth forest is a rare and benevolent living shrine that will bring back people from around the world, time and time again.
Port Renfrew knows that, and has called for a moratorium on old-growth logging in the region. Not so long ago, its few hundred residents were mostly loggers and other employees of the forestry industry. Now rebranded as Wild Renfrew, this “gateway to ancient forests, epic hikes and mighty surf” has become a busy tourist town, full of amenities for the steady stream of sightseers eager to experience the world’s oldest and tallest trees.
The BC Chamber of Commerce knows that too. In 2019, and citing the transformation of Port Renfrew as an example, it passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to increase old-growth protection, stating, “In many areas of the province, the local economies stand to receive a greater net economic benefit over the foreseeable future by keeping their nearby old-growth forests standing.”
I’m not sure, however, that Premier Horgan grasps that. Nor does he seem to get the irony—and tragedy—of some of his own doings. Last month in a chat with the CBC’s Gregor Craigie, he touted the improved cellular service coming soon to Port Renfrew and surrounding area. He specifically enthused that it would help bolster tourism. When pressed, though, he kept his distance on the Fairy Creek dispute. What seemed lost on him was the scenario that cable trucks carrying tourism-enhancing infrastructure might end up rolling in just as oversized logging trucks carrying our most lucrative tourist attraction are rolling out. All with his tacit approval.
The way we do forestry in this province is maddening. Last year, at the behest of the government, an independent panel produced a report titled, A New Future For Old Forests. The overarching message was the need to recognize that, “old forests are more than old or big trees. They are a product of ancient and unique ecosystems, and their characteristics vary greatly across the province. They can only be effectively managed in the context of broader public priorities, including the interests of current and future generations.”
And yet, the forestry industry always seems to find them, peg them for easy, top-grade lumber, and manage to wrangle a license out of the government of the day.
Not all old-growth grabs have been successful, however. A vigorous anti-logging campaign in 1990 in the Carmanah Valley, not far from the current blockades, resulted in the loggers being turned away for good and the establishment of the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. (Forestry company Macmillan Bloedel received almost $84 million in compensation for lost tree-farm licenses.)
A few years later and further north, Clayoquot Sound became the scene of a long and acrimonious War in the Woods. After some 800 arrests and the dumping by loggers of 200 litres of human excrement at the activists’ staging site, the Harcourt NDP government shut it all down and declared the region protected. That was in 1995. Five years later, Clayoquot Sound received designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
But that’s not how today’s government is doing Fairy and Caycuse Creek. Horgan seems to have stubbornly dug in his heels and—it has been speculated—played a hand or two in the deal-making backroom. There’s been no expressed interest in seeking internationally recognized status and protection for the valleys and watersheds where these giants thrive. Instead, the government and industry—the “mindustry,” as writer David Broadland refers to them in FOCUS—continue to assess old-growth trees solely for their value in board lumber that, according to a spokesperson for Teal-Jones, the logging company with the license, is mostly destined to become decking, fencing, and other utilitarian products.
That’s as ludicrous as tearing up rare old books to line the kitchen garbage pail.
Premier Horgan has asked for patience while the report recommendations are slowly being digested by bureaucracy. But in the meantime, he allows the rampant cutting of old-growth trees to continue. This borders on the farcical and almost certainly ensures there’ll be nothing left to steward when protection finally becomes policy. Small wonder public objection is persistent and growing.
Teal Jones had sought an injunction against the activists, and last month the BC Supreme Court granted it to them. It ordered the blockade gone and the roads opened for logging. Instead of complying, the activists have deepened their resolve and are appealing that decision.
I’m not surprised. Judge Verhoeven, who granted the injunction, seemed less than wholehearted in his decision. (He also seems to have been working with incomplete or incorrect information provided by the company.) He based his decision on the strict letter of the law, but seemed to concede that he was limited to assessing the issue in isolation and unable to take the larger critical issues of climate change and environmental degradation—the “broader public priorities” cited in the above-mentioned report—into consideration. Clearly, and perhaps inadvertently, he has added to the argument that it’s time to change that law.
And now in early May comes word that the activists have also served a Third Party Notice to the Province of British Columbia, thus drawing the government into a case it probably would have preferred to continue watching from the sidelines. It’s a gutsy move, but again, I’m not surprised. Its arguments have sharp teeth.
In Quebec the Magpie River was recently granted all the rights and protections of personhood. Our giant trees—for starters—must receive this too. A handful of politicians in any given era do not have the right to forever destroy the natural and non-renewable wonders that exist for the benefit of all.
NEAR THE END OF MY FUTURE EXCURSION, I learn that not all the trees could be saved by the blockaders, who braved months of public indifference and cold wet weather in rudimentary shelters before the madness was finally halted for good. Our last stop overlooks a barren valley dotted only with giant stumps that stand like stepping stones in a sea of destruction.
I spot former premier Horgan gazing wordlessly into the distance. I wander over and ask him who our real heroes were, back in those times.
Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic is a Victoria-based writer. She has had a life-long passion for the care and preservation of nature but never imagined it would become such a battle. She’s grateful to all of the old growth’s defenders for doing the hard work that will benefit us all.
THIS PAST WEEK the Rainforest Flying Squad has been faced with a choice: “We can be complicit in the pressure exerted by government and industry to exploit ancient territorial land for profit,” Glenn Reid says. “Or we can continue to support Indigenous peoples as they assert their right to defend unceded territory and their ancient relatives - the forests.”
As Kati George-Jim says: “Uncle Bill is not an activist. He is a sovereign person asserting his Aboriginal rights, and upholding his responsibilities to future generations.”
The blockades still stand while organizers pause to understand the forces at play and to consult with Indigenous peoples on the territory.
Last year, RFS began the blockades to protect these precious ancient forests that are at imminent risk. Over months of sharing time with elder Bill Jones, who has asked us to stay on his traditional territory to help defend it, we are learning more about the deep-rooted, complex oppression of Indigenous peoples that continues to this day.
Jones and George-Jim explain that when reserves were created, Indigenous people were forced to live on a tiny fraction of their original traditional territories - or even on the territories of other peoples.
The longhouses that had been central to economy, culture, and spirituality were replaced by settler-style housing that imposed nuclear-family life. The band council system was also imposed. It eroded and displaced the role and value of women. It unbalanced power in favour of males, which set them up to be coerced by government and industry to allow exploitation of the land.
And the same violence continues today. Systems and structures set in place at the beginning of colonization are still enforced.
Indigenous peoples and societies are seen as standing in the way of settler, industrial and government use of unceded lands. Freedom to live a life true to traditional cultures and laws - free from oppression - is a promise that has never been honoured by B.C. or Canada.
“Colonialism is based on separating our peoples from our lands by putting them on reserves, for example, using genocide and assimilation,” George-Jim says. “These structures attack Indigenous societies by legalizing violence against women, children, and the land. They go against the foundations of who we are as Indigenous peoples.”
Jones and George-Jim explain that reserves do not represent traditional Indigenous territories. The Crown’s duty is not fulfilled by consulting solely with band councils. And consultation alone is not consent. The Crown is responsible to gain consent from all title holders without coercion. Without real consent, resource extraction directly infringes on Aboriginal title and rights. Cultural practices and Indigenous food sovereignty are not possible on destroyed land.
Both federal and provincial governments have a legal requirement to consult all Indigenous peoples affected by proposed projects. Governments exert pressure on band councils in order to further their own ends. Industry benefits from the failure to consult by both levels of government.
Provincial and federal governments, along with industries, offer “benefit carrots to the political elite,” Jones explained, to entice them into coercive agreements. “We are being choked out.”
“Indigenous peoples are forced into the extractivist economies because of the entrenchment of poverty, where the only way out of poverty is to surrender their inherent rights and responsibilities." says George-Jim.
Tragically, in the process Indigenous traditional values, worldviews and ecological land stewardship (ie. Indigenous governance) are sacrificed for short-term profit.
So-called ‘mutual benefit agreements’ or ‘revenue sharing agreements’ are actually coercive tools used by government and industry. They are designed to force Indigenous agreement. These agreements gag dissent and bind participants to non-interference clauses.
“These agreements are accepted as legal,” Jones added. “But they ignore the rights and privileges of the band membership.”
“There is no power to say yes or no to the actual decision. If bands disagree with a project, like old-growth logging or pipelines, they are basically surrendering their right to be consulted,” George-Jim explains. The end result is predetermined, inevitable, and outside of Indigenous control.
Although the BC government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, it has yet to put Indigenous rights first in situations where that would halt exploitation in traditional territories.
“It is a colonial deceit to selectively recognize Indigenous leaders when it benefits industry, under the guise of reconciliation,” Jones said.
We are learning to understand the laws of the land and be accountable to them.
For all of the above reasons, RFS feels we must stand behind Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones and other Indigenous people to protect the old-growth forests.
The old-growth forests hold the spirit of the land, the integrity of the waterways, and all beings that live in or among them. We pledge to help defend these irreplaceable ancient relatives until they are protected forever. We hope you will join us.
“We have to be protectors and custodians of our earth,” Bill Jones said. “We are losing our inheritance. We are being stripped of all our value of selves.”
The Rainforest Flying Squad is blockading attempts by Teal Cedar Ltd to cut old-growth forests in TFL 46, which overlaps with Pacheedat territory. This comment was written in collaboration with Bill Jones and his niece, xʷ is xʷ čaa (Kati George-Jim).
He demands they “behave” on the virus front but earns their disrespect by allowing abuse of the natural world.
March 31, 2021
AN OPEN LETTER TO PREMIER HORGAN:
Let me start by saying clearly – leave the public announcements about the pandemic to Minister Dix and Doctor Henry. They have been doing an exceptional job of providing clear, factual information and explanations to us for over a year. I trust them. They address us respectfully, as the responsible adults that we are.
I am a senior. I watched the press conference on March 29th and am annoyed at the accusations you hurled at the young people, specifically the 20 to 39 year olds you blame for the exponential increase in COVID transmissions. That is unfair and if I were in that age group, I would not be listening to you or following your advice. It is this very group of young people who are facing into the escalating threat of climate change and the widespread destruction of our forest ecosystems. These same young people you are now calling out for their behaviour have been pleading with you for months and months to fulfill your promise to stop old growth logging. You have been deaf to their pleas. And yet you expect them to look to you for leadership? To trust you?
Scientists tell us the underlying cause of the pandemic is our abuse of the natural world: mistreatment of animals, destruction of wildlife habitat, including overlogging. Thousands of people, including people in all demographics, have petitioned you, stood outside your office in all sorts of weather, rallied outside the legislature, calling on you to show leadership in the protection and restoration of the natural world. And yet you are silent and speak not to them, to us, but instead accept the invitation as key note speaker at the COFI convention. When will you speak to the young people, the 20-to-39-year-old’s to reassure them that the natural world they are inheriting will be safe for them to enjoy a full life and raise children?
I am old now. I, like you, lived my younger years in the sweet spot of time, without the heart-wrenching fear of seeing the last tree fall, the last caribou die, the last salmon gone, the last wolf slaughtered. I am alarmed at the legacy we are leaving behind for those very same young people you blame for, as you said, “putting the rest of us in a challenging position.” It isn’t about us and them. It is about all of us sticking together, in it together, exactly as Minister Dix and Doctor Henry have been patiently and kindly saying for months.
Please leave Minister Dix and Doctor Henry to deal with the pandemic and put your attention where it is most needed—to changing legislation to protect and restore our ecosystems and to protect species at risk. You owe us that now that you have orchestrated an unnecessary election to eliminate the agreement with the Green Party, the only party that truly seems to understand the threats we are facing.
Grand Forks, home of the threatened Kettle Granby Grizzly and 241 other blue- and red-listed species.
Widely circulated new map depicting BC's disappearing primary forests raises thorny questions about the state of BC's forests. The creators clarify what it shows.
February 16, 2021
Part of the Seeing Red Map showing remaining primary forest (in green) and the part of BC that has been industrially logged (red). Click on the map to enlarge, or see a live scalar version which allows you to examine specific areas of the province in finer detail.
AT CONSERVATION NORTH, we are pleased with the widespread viewing of our primary forests map called “Seeing Red” and with so many favourable comments.
“Seeing Red” is the first freely-available map of its kind. Its veracity is only as good and complete as the publicly available provincial government information underlying it.
The matter of definition of “primary forest,” which the map depicts in the colour green, is tricky and, in response to some comments from the public, needs further clarification.
“Primary forest” is a commonly used and scientifically accepted term for forests having composition and structure that largely reflect natural processes. Primary forests have never been industrially logged.
Sometimes primary forests are referred to as “original,” or “natural,” or “intact” forests. Primary forests are important because they are the best habitat for wildlife, support the largest stores of forest carbon, and contain the last old-growth forests.
If readers were to view some selected red areas of the map on Google Earth, they may appear green and forested. It is important to understand that Google Earth imagery is blended and often years behind reality. Also, on this imagery one cannot distinguish between primary forest and replanted cutblocks—they both look green.
The scientific community disagrees with claims that “greenness” as inferred from Google Earth is a credible indicator of ecological integrity. Even-aged monoculture plantations in cutblocks do, in fact, contain chlorophyll and are indeed green, but they are simplified, fragmented, degraded, and ecologically impoverished.
Some areas of the “Seeing Red” map are light grey. Light grey is clearly defined in the map legend as places where there is no forest or for which no forest information exists (See the map legend).
These areas with “no data” simply represent gaps in the government’s forest inventory available to the public or urban areas where the government does not conduct a forest inventory (e.g., the UVic campus).
One reason that gaps exist over some areas the reader may know to be forested is that some industry holders of tree farm licences either refuse to share their forest inventory with the government, or will not allow the government to share their forest inventory information on Crown land with the public.
The forests ministry would be doing a badly needed public service if it were to make all forest information on Crown lands freely available to the public so that we may make an even better map.
Michelle Connolly MSc is a director of Conservation North.
For more information about the Seeing Red Map, read Sarah Cox’s report at the narwhal.ca
Open Letter: Ecoforestry Institute urges moratorium on old-growth logging
January 18, 2021
Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Conroy:
We write to you today out of grave concern for our last and vanishing old-growth forests in British Columbia. In view of the social, cultural and ecological values of these vastly diminished, yet iconic ecosystems, we respectfully request that you place an immediate moratorium on all harvesting of our remaining old-growth forests as a means to save these precious areas of biodiversity and climate change resilience. Old-growth forests have high cultural significance for First Nations and we would ask that their views be considered with equal priority in the decision-making process.
First, an introduction. We are the Ecoforestry Institute Society, the owners and trustees of Wildwood, the longest continuously managed ecoforest on the west coast of North America. Situated in Yellow Point on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Wildwood was previously owned by Merv Wilkinson, who received the Order of BC and the Order of Canada for his pioneering work in ecoforestry. EIS has managed the property since 2001 and gained ownership in 2016. We are proud to hold it in stewardship on behalf of the people of BC.
Wildwood has been harvested since 1945 on a single tree selection basis and according to the practices and principles of ecoforestry. Harvests are conducted while ensuring all ecosystems and wildlife habitats remain intact and functioning. It is a model that has served us well, with Wildwood retaining its old growth legacies over time while providing income from its forest harvesting. It now models a diverse income stream from multiple revenue sources.
We understand all too well how old-growth forests contribute not only to a multitude of cultural and economic returns over generations but also provide those essential life functions—wildlife habitat, oxygen production, carbon storage, water and nutrient recycling—that allow us and our fellow living beings to exist on this planet. We are sure you understand this dynamic as well and how intact forests are inherent to the character and spirit of our great province.
We commend you for committing to adopting all the recommendations in the Gorley/Merkel Old-Growth Report, but your statement that your consultation process regarding their recommendations will take place over the next three years is very alarming.
There is no doubt that consultations with First Nations and stakeholders are critical and must occur, yet if the clearcutting of our old-growth forests continues during this time, perhaps at even faster rates than ever as industrial forest companies sense oncoming changes, the areas remaining will be significantly diminished. Forestry workers, too, are understandably concerned about their employment futures. Indeed, the United Steel Workers Union and forest communities across BC must be assured of a transition to a new and sustainable future that is independent of the availability of old-growth forest.
We believe that we have come now to a place where we can no longer risk what little remains of old-growth ecosystems. Government has long known the risk to cutting this non-renewable resource, and over time, both the Auditor General and the Forest Practices Board have spoken of the need for innovative approaches and practices on the part of government to preserve these forests.
We understand that, historically, government has relied heavily on forestry as an economic revenue stream and job creator, yet the current need for increased taxpayer subsidies and the ongoing industry mechanization guarantees this industry is no longer the economic driver it once was.
We argue that the benefits of old-growth forests to our province in terms of their biodiversity, carbon sequestration, tourism and cultural values far outweigh the short-term economic gains to be had by destroying them. We ask that government recognize the irreplaceable resource that it is and protect what little is left for future generations.
So, the crux of the matter is that while your government works on the consultation process to come up with solutions, we must ensure our old-growth forests and the biodiversity that defines them are protected until this process is complete.
We respectfully ask that the Government of British Columbia place an immediate moratorium on all industrial harvesting and development in old growth forests (as defined in the “Priority Actions” section of the Price, Holt, Daust report BC's Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity).
EIS has reaped the benefits from a forest that has been managed to protect its Old Growth attributes over time and now provides educational resources to both students and professionals in the discipline of ecoforestry. As well as hosting international visitors, we have been privileged to host several of your staff and meet with your predecessor, Minister Donaldson, all of whom seemed impressed with our philosophy, forest management system and with our magnificent Old Growth trees.
We would be happy to share with you our model for ecological forest management and our new initiative with Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw and other First Nations to create the “Syeyutsus” or “Walking Together” program which combines western science with First Nations Indigenous Knowledge to create an holistic approach to forest management.
We would be pleased to meet with you and ministry staff at your earliest convenience for further discussions. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in response to this email.
Thank you for your consideration.
Peter Jungwirth, EIS Co-chair, RPF and Wildwood Ecoforester
Barry Gates, EIS Co-chair, Wildwood Forest Manager and Ecoforester
Kathy Code, EIS Vice-chair and Communications Director, Economic Development Strategist
Sharon Chow, EIS Treasurer and Secretary, Education Committee
Dr. Nancy Turner, EIS Education Co-chair, Professor Emeritus, Indigenous Liaison and Ethnobotanist
Erik Piikkila, EIS Education Co-chair and Ecoforester
Cheryl Bancroft, EIS Architectural Designer and Homestead Manager Stephanie Johnson, EIS Director and Indigenous Liaison
Chris Walther, EIS Director, RPF and Ecoforester
The hidden agenda of industrial forestry companies in BC is privatization of publicly-owned land. Rural communities dependant on forestry need to resist that and support changes that would increase local, public control of the working forest.
THE FOREST SECTOR has deep roots in rural British Columbia with multi-generational families working in the industry either directly in logging or in related businesses like selling logging trucks. Continued forest industry decline threatens a long-established way of life for those relatively few people remaining in the sector.
The forest industry’s decline began in 1988. Since then, that decline has been exacerbated by the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and by a shortage in timber supply owing to unsustainable logging, wildfires and forest health issues related to clearcutting and climate change.
Since 1988, the forest industry has contracted radically. The pulp mills that once stood in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Ocean Falls, Port Alice, Campbell River, Gold River, Tahsis and Woodfibre are long since gone. Since 2000, over 80 sawmills province-wide have been shuttered. Mining, not forest products, is now B.C.’s largest export sector.
The Elk Falls pulp, paper and lumber mill at Campbell River on Vancouver Island is one of many major forest product manufacturers around BC that have closed permanently since 2000, cutting forest-related employment in half.
Rural British Columbians have dealt with, and adapted to, massive job losses in the forest sector over the last three decades. In 2000, jobs in forestry, logging, support services and wood products manufacturing numbered 101,000. Since then, over 55,000 jobs have been lost.
The industry’s once-proud claim that forestry paid for healthcare and education is now illusory. Government revenue reporting shows that forestry does not pay its own bills never mind underpinning social service expenditures. The forest industry now accounts for a mere 2 percent of provincial gross domestic product.
The once vibrant Ocean Falls (inset), now all but abandoned.
The choice for industry was clear and it decided on its strategy years ago: maximize short-term profit; invest profits in mills overseas as the best of the old-growth forests are logged; shutter mills; and sell associated assets and working forest (tenure).
Forest-dependent British Columbians have a choice between two options for their future: to maintain the industrial status quo and suffer further decline, or to collaborate with government in changing how forestry works in B.C. and reap the rewards of forward thinking.
Ninety-four percent of B.C. remains public land. By retaining public ownership of the land, British Columbians keep open their options for land use compatible with timber production. This allows for diversified local economies.
The forest industry has had a “working forest” since the beginning of the 20th century. It is called the “tenure system.” Unlike the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), from which land can be removed for other uses, timber volume or land cannot be removed from a forest tenure holder for other uses without compensation.
So, with security of timber supply in place, why do some rural British Columbians sign petitions for a “working forest” at the behest of the Council of Forest Industries and the BC Forestry Alliance? They do so not recognizing that the forest industry already has a working forest and blind to the industry’s hidden agenda, which is to privatize forest land.
That said, the present working forest or tenure system does badly need revamping to take away control of public forests from an oligopoly of multinational corporations and to place it in the hands of local forest trusts. This would require removing large corporate industry from the woods and having it do what it does best, which is manufacturing, not forestry.
Regional log markets would allow mid-sized and small manufacturers to access the available supply of timber. Local residents would find employment both in the woods under the administration of local forest trusts and in private sector manufacturing plants—niche, value-added and primary.
A forester general would report to the legislature and have powers to set standards for regional forest practices, to audit the activities of local forest trusts and regional log markets, to oversee regional research, and to provide the legislature with detailed, annual forestry reports.
Change in the governance of forests along these suggested lines would preserve a rural way of life now badly threatened by maintaining the industrial status quo. Such change would be focused on local economic and environmental well-being.
This vision would be achieved by re-writing forestry laws based on the principles of sustainability and conservation, of local forest administration, of open access to timber, and, last but not least, of reliance upon the will of rural British Columbians to change, survive and succeed.
Anthony Britneff worked for the B.C. Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.
Statement of solidarity with Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations taking steps to end unfair, discriminatory trespassing by Western Forest Products on their lands.
SIERRA CLUB BC and Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chiefs are standing in solidarity with Mike Maquinna, the Council of Chiefs of Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation and with affected communities of Tsaxana and Gold River. We denounce the reprehensible actions and sustained disrespect shown to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people with the blatant trespassing on Ahaminaquus IR 12 by Western Forest Products (WFP) and the tacit provincial government approval evidenced by inaction on the matter.
For the entire 50-year lifespan of Sierra Club BC’s existence, the province of B.C. and successive logging operations have committed offenses under sections 30 and 31 of the Indian Act, namely trespassing. This is a shameful act that illustrates the arrogance WFP shows to the forest and the people who steward them.
If WFP wishes to log within Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory or any other territories they need to respect that the Mowachaht/Muchalaht are the keepers of the land, and therefore entitled to fair compensation. Moving forward, the Province and companies like WFP need to ensure all commercial operations seek out Free, Prior and Informed Consent in ways that uphold community-based sovereignty of First Nations on their territory.
In a statement, Hereditary Chief David Mungo Knox, Walas Numgwis, with the support of Hereditary Chief Calvin Hunt, Nas’am’yus, said, “WFP has shown Kwagu'ł people their true colors. They care about their shareholders more than the forests and Indigenous people who steward them. It pains me to see WFP violating Mowachaht/Muchalaht territory as they also do here. We speak with one voice when we raise our voices in thanks to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht for asserting their rights.”
Chief Rande Cook, ‘Namgis Hereditary Chief An’anxwisa’gamayi, with the support of ‘Namgis hereditary Chief William Wasden Jr., Waxowidi; ‘Namgis hereditary Chief Ernest Alfred, Kwakwaba’las; Musgamagw Hereditary Chief K’odi Nelson, Maxwayalis who all have a traditional connection to the Mowachaht/Muchalaht said “The sacred Nimpkish River connects Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-Chah-Nulth people through ‘Namgis territory. The government and industry try to divide us so they can exploit our resources and lands but we have deep roots and family ties to the West Coast. The Mowachaht/Muchalaht struggle to be seen and respected, it is also a Kwakwaka’wakw struggle to be seen and respected and vice versa. A violation of Nuu-chah-nulth law is a violation against all Indigenous people. We know the damage that Western Forest Products has caused and we will remember the silence of the province who let it happen.”
Half a century of blatant trespass is a profoundly disturbing indication of colonial racism. It’s past time for WFP to pay reparations and for the colonial governments to prioritize this once and for all.
Mark Worthing is Sierra Club BC’s Coastal Projects Lead.
BC to destroy old-growth caribou habitat, sabotaging restoration efforts nearby
DAYS AFTER THE PROVINCE announced a new provincial approach to old-growth forests, conservation groups are blowing the whistle on plans to log more than three square kilometres of intact rainforest north of Revelstoke, destroying endangered southern mountain caribou critical habitat. While B.C. quietly advances plans to log the old-growth, the province is trumpeting spending of more than $33,000 to restore caribou habitat nearby.
The B.C. government is taking two steps forward and three steps back by attempting to create habitat while also obliterating old-growth habitat that caribou have been known to use. It’s a net loss. The government is sabotaging itself and caribou, not to mention wasting taxpayer money, by logging right next door.
On the ground investigation from Wildsight, Echo Conservation Society and the Wilderness Committee in the Argonaut Valley has revealed the planned logging will destroy a large area of primarily old-growth rainforest, with massive cedars and hemlocks over 50 metres tall and many hundreds of years old. This comes right after a provincial review of old-growth forests found that a paradigm shift is necessary to manage B.C.’s old-growth forests. The authors recommended 14 steps to preserve the remarkable old-growth found in the province including immediately deferring logging in old forests where ecosystems are at high risk of irreversible biodiversity loss. Argonaut Creek is one of these areas where biodiversity and old-growth forest is at risk.
The Upper Argonaut Valley (Photo courtesy of Wildsight)
“The rainforest in the Argonaut Valley is an incredible place, with giant ancient cedars,” says Echo Conservation Society Executive Director Thomas Knowles. “B.C.’s interior rainforest is a hidden ecological jewel along the eastern edge of the province, but we’re letting it slip away to logging.”
This rainforest is critical habitat for endangered southern mountain caribou, which have recently disappeared from the southern part of their range in the Kootenays after two herds were lost in the Purcell and Selkirk mountains.
“Mountain caribou have already been wiped off the map in southern B.C., mostly because of the destruction of their habitat through logging,” says Wildsight Conservation Specialist Eddie Petryshen. “The North Columbia herd is the southernmost herd left in B.C. with the best chance at survival but they won’t survive if we keep clearcutting the old-growth forest they need.”
These cutblocks are being auctioned off by BC Timber Sales, which is the provincial government’s own logging agency. The groups are calling on the provincial government to cancel the auction of these primarily old-growth logging blocks and restore the five kilometres of already-constructed road.
If B.C. won’t protect this critical caribou habitat, then federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson must use his powers under the Species at Risk Act and issue an emergency protection order to protect irreplaceable caribou habitat.
The proposed clearcuts fall within the 150-member North Columbia herd’s critical habitat under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and tracking data shows that caribou use the area. Logging and other industrial activity is largely blamed for the severe decline of southern mountain caribou to less than 1,200 animals. This population of deep-snow caribou survive by eating lichen from trees in the winter and are disappearing not just because of the loss of the old-growth forests they rely on, but also because of an increase in predators because of changes in forest ecosystems and backcountry roads that come with logging.
This summer, the B.C. government announced $1.1 million in funding for caribou habitat restoration. Splatsin First Nation is leading a restoration project in the area and the province has devoted over $33,000 to this effort. Yet at the same time, the province is auctioning off cutblocks less than two kilometres from the area being restored. In past years, the province has also spent significant sums on maternal penning for caribou in the North Columbia herd, culling predators like wolves and other measures.
“Habitat restoration is an incredibly important aspect of recovery,” says Knowles. “But it makes no sense to restore habitat, build maternity pens and kill predators for caribou and then turn around and cut down the old-growth forest they need to survive.”
With less than 5 percent of the inland rainforest still standing as old-growth, conservation groups are asking why the province is allowing any logging of the little old-growth that remains
“British Columbians want their old-growth forests protected, not logged,” says Petryshen. “So why is B.C. planning to log one of the few remaining valleys of old-growth in the rainforest north of Revelstoke?
Charlotte Dawe is Conservation and Policy Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.
BC's minister of forests refers to forests as "feedstock." Why does he use an agricultural term to describe a forest?
A new logging road under construction in the Inland Rainforest (Photo by Taylor Roades)
IN Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a dystopian society in which language is used to control people. In Orwell’s fictional world, vocabulary is constrained and new words are created in order to simplify and manipulate people’s understanding of the world around them. Orwell suggested that the well-known connection between language and worldview could also be used to manage human behaviour.
Not having worked in industrial forestry, it was only three years ago that I started hearing the word “fibre” used instead of “forest” with confusing frequency. This word appears on industry and government websites and it is used regularly by timber company representatives. Last week, BC Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson described the lands he is in charge of as “feedstock” in my community newspaper. One could be forgiven for thinking that the timber industry, with the Province’s help, is attempting to replace the notion of a forest—and everything that word means —with vague abstractions.
The term fibre conjures up Metamucil, while feedstock summons the mental image of food for livestock. Why are government and industry employing these euphemisms, rather than just saying forest? The purpose is two-fold: to change how we view these complex living systems and to prevent us from acting to defend them.
If forests can be rebranded as stands of consumable objects (which the terms fibre and feedstock achieve), then the work of obtaining social license to destroy them has already been done. If an ecosystem is merely feedstock for a pellet plant, what on Earth else would you do with it? If a tree falls in a fibre, no one will hear it because it doesn’t exist.
Natural forests, including those that have burned or are full of decay fungi, provide food and medicines and mitigate floods. Forests also store and sequester carbon in soil and plant tissues, and old forests are particularly good at this. Beetle-killed forests provide critical structures for wildlife.
Michelle Connolly surveys a clearcut in the Inland Rainforest. Old growth cedars in the interior are often considered “waste” by the forestry sector. (Photo by Mary Booth)
The founding belief of modern forest management—that natural forests are a commodity—is among the root causes of declining ecosystem health in B.C. Under this belief system, old growth is in the way of plantations that can provide a predictable flow of wood and revenue. Burned or beetle-killed forests are waste. Paired with corporate control over public lands, the conceit that people can and should manage complex ecosystems has led us to where we are today.
Emerging research confirms that BC’s productive old-growth forest is all but gone. Companies are being awarded licenses to cut down remaining primary forests to feed pellet plants. The Council of Forest Industries, whose member companies have levelled most of the economically valuable old growth on the coast and in the interior, are demanding that the province set aside the remainder in a “working forest landbase” (read: make available for logging), according to their Smart Future report.
As a part of their ongoing efforts to ensure continued access to BC’s last primary forests, those in power are trying to reduce these ecosystems to objects so that the public won’t fight for them. We will not abide lies of omission that obscure the truth of what natural forests are and we won’t stop defending them. Natural forests will always be more than fibre or feedstock; and in nature, there is no such thing as waste.
Michelle Connolly, MSc, Conservation North, Prince George
The most important part of this "potentially significant" Govt. announcement is of course the commentary provided by the Wilderness Committee, since "these draft frameworks, plans & consultations are all happening while habitat is being destroyed & species are being pushed toward extinction." I.e. it's meaningless unless acted on with the urgency spelled out by Coste & Dawe, to avoid further deadly consequences - most obvious & pressing of which are out-of-control wildfires proven to be spread (if not caused directly) by the criminal clearcutting/spraying of healthy forests: THAT emergency must be prioritized as a key impetus for timely implementation of new measures, by Spring at the latest, before a repeat of last year's 'wildfire season'.
The Wilderness Committee sent out the following news release in response to Minister Nathan Cullen's announcement:
New BC biodiversity framework positive but law to protect species is needed
Long-delayed legislation and lack of new interim measures mean harm to wildlife continues
VICTORIA / UNCEDED LEKWUNGEN TERRITORIES — The BC NDP government released a long-anticipated draft framework on biodiversity and ecosystem health for First Nations and public consultation today; it’s a step towards a final plan to prioritize ecosystems in all legislation for all sectors in the province. The Wilderness Committee welcomes this potentially significant measure toward addressing gaps in B.C.’s environmental laws. The group warns, however, that these draft frameworks, plans and consultations are all happening while habitat is being destroyed and species are being pushed toward extinction.
“We need a law to protect species and ecosystems that are at risk,” said Conservation and Policy Campaigner Charlotte Dawe. “The longer government delays on delivering a law, the harder it will be to tackle the biodiversity crisis and its devastating impacts in B.C., especially with no immediate interim measures to safeguard the most vulnerable ecosystems and species.”
The Wilderness Committee is reviewing and assessing the draft framework but is initially happy to see the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems will be prioritized above resource extraction and other development across all sectors and ministries and that this will be reflected in legislation co-developed with First Nations titleholders.
The organization is concerned the lack of a specific commitment to an overarching law to protect species and their habitats means it could be left out. The vague framing of “ecosystem health” leaves the door open for logging, mining and oil and gas projects that destroy or degrade habitat and threaten biodiversity.
Following a 2017 campaign promise to enact endangered species legislation, the BC government launched a consultation process and engaged stakeholders across all sectors before walking away from the commitment in 2018.
“We’ve been on this ride with this government before, and we know logging and mining companies will again be lobbying hard to protect the status quo,” Dawe said. “The BC NDP is promising to do better, promising this time will be different, but they need to put this framework into action and truly put biodiversity ahead of corporate interests.”
The Wilderness Committee has been advocating for a law to protect species at risk in B.C. for more than two decades. Tens of thousands of people have called on the provincial government to pass this legislation. The group says a strong law would be enforceable, free of loopholes, account for cumulative effects on at-risk species and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous titleholders. The timeline released by the government today states an implementation plan will be released along with the finalized framework next spring. The Wilderness Committee expects to hear concrete steps the government will take to implement a new law then.
The draft framework released today is a result of the Old Growth Strategic Review, which included prioritizing ecosystem health and biodiversity as the second recommendation in its groundbreaking report in 2020.
“The old-growth review recommendations had a three-year timeline — those three years are gone, and the BC NDP is only just now releasing a draft framework to make biodiversity and ecosystems a priority,” said Associate Director Torrance Coste. “These delays have deadly consequences, and species like the spotted owl and southern mountain caribou are being pushed to the brink of extinction while the government continues to ‘talk and log.’”
The Wilderness Committee will be preparing its submissions in the coming weeks. It will continue to work with other organizations, First Nations and the public to push for a strong law to protect species and ecosystems across the province.
I am a Wetsuweten wing chief. I was very touched by Catherine McClarty's personal story of activism. I am reaching out to wish her wellness and recovery. It is so sad how much power industry has. A great personal sacrifice on her part. Thank you Catherine for that. God bless and universe energy to heal you. Dolores