Canada’s Resource Works stands with the Pacheedaht First Nation and RCMP in condemning the recent actions of anti-forestry protestors in Tree Farm License 46 on Southern Vancouver Island. Source: Resource Works
“Rather than playing a constructive role in moving British Columbia towards ever-better ways of responsibly managing our forests the blockaders are actively sowing discord and conflict, even after their initial demands were met,” says Stewart Muir, Resource Works Executive Director. “They have become extremists, less interested in the cause than in continuing the conflict.”
Supported by a small team of independent forest experts, Resource Works has identified numerous ways the groups organizing the blockades and related protests have violated the wishes of local First Nations, the laws of Canada, and human norms.
“Perhaps most alarming from a human perspective is the deaths of two individuals involved with the blockades, including a 17-year-old woman last week,” Muir says. “Authorities should ensure that other lives are not being recklessly placed at risk.”
Taken individually, many of the actions by blockaders are alarming enough. When taken together, they demonstrate a clear pattern of wanton disregard, colonial and racist attitudes, and questionable ethics.
Among the alleged violations are:
- Smoking and using chainsaws in the bush despite the high fire rating and dry conditions. Lighting ‘sacred fires’ at protest sites in dry forests. At the same time, falsely accusing a forestry company of risking forest fire when in fact the company is following all provincial fire regulations.
- Cutting live trees to use as barriers, for structures, and firewood, a hypocritical act defying both the Pacheedaht First Nation and BC law.
- Declining to abide by repeated requests from the Pacheedaht and other local First Nations that they leave. They have justified staying based on the invitation of a single member of the First Nation, who is not in a leadership role.
- Refusing to acknowledge Pacheedaht First Nations’ Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones as the legitimate hereditary leader, instead trying to install a young man who has not met the conditions for being hereditary chief in that role, apparently because he is willing to speak in favour of the blockades. This is not the first-time white environmentalists have undermined a First Nations leader who disagreed with them.
- Using Pacheedaht First Nations territory and its resources to solicit more than Can$1 million in donations from the public, without returning any of those funds to the First Nation or offering any transparency in who is accessing those funds and for what purposes.
- Defying a court injunction and encouraging others to similarly break the law.
- Assaulting RCMP carrying out their court-ordered duties.
- Issuing false statements about the extent of old growth forests in British Columbia. The blockaders claim only 3% of productive old growth forest remains in BC, which would be 35,000 hectares. In fact, mapping shows there is more than 500,000 hectares of large (more than 37.5 metres tall) old growth forest on the BC coast alone. By the province’s definition BC has about 14 million hectares of old growth forest, 10 million hectares of which is protected.
- Failing to abide by COVID-19 pandemic orders.
- Encouraging parents to bring children to the site to have them engage in unsafe activities and be arrested.
- The initial demand of the blockaders was that logging be stopped in the Fairy Creek watershed. When the province deferred logging in that watershed for two years in response to a request from local First Nations the blockaders simply moved the goalposts – first insisting all old growth logging in the area must stop, and then extending that to the entire province.
- Spreading significant misinformation about the nature of logging in the area generally and Fairy Creek specifically.
- Failing to acknowledge most of Fairy Creek itself is protected, including the areas with large tress, and that there are significant stands of old growth preserved in nearby parks.
- Portraying blockaders as a simple grassroots movement when in fact they are organized by sophisticated and well-financed organizations with large staffs of full-time employees capable of launching costly legal campaigns and producing commercial-quality video and advertising.
- Stealing logs, chainsaws, and other equipment to use in their blockades.
- Sabotaging vehicles and equipment.
- Parking vehicles illegally to block legal access to the area, in some cases removing tires to make them more difficult to remove, and then launching a legal challenge when those vehicles were removed.
- Failing to maintain sanitary camp conditions. People who have visited the camps report a strong smell of feces, and outhouses have been established immediately up from waterways.
- Leaving behind garbage and waste, including hardened concrete apparently brought in for use in barriers but dumped on the forest floor.
“The Fairy Creek blockades are unfair and unhelpful for First Nations and ordinary workers, especially at a time when there is broad commitment to continue evolving and improving forest practices,” Muir adds. “It’s time to move on.”