Solidarity builds for Indigenous claims over Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island

Save Fairy Creek supporters sport red to the May 29 Elders circle gathering to show solidarity with Indigenous People. (Nora O’Malley photo)Save Fairy Creek supporters sport red to the May 29 Elders circle gathering to show solidarity with Indigenous People. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Disputes over a block of Crown land known as Tree Forest Licence 46, located between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew in Pacheedaht First Nations territory, erupted on May 29 as more than 2,000 Save Fairy Creek supporters made the journey to the Fairy Creek HQ.

With temperatures pushing upwards of 28C, supporters wore red to show solidarity with Indigenous People and carried signs reading: ‘Respect your Elders, they are our lifeblood’ and ‘Trees for our children’s children’.

Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones says his Nation is split: half want to reclaim TFL 46 and save the old growth while the other half want to uphold a Revenue Sharing Agreement Pacheedaht First Nation holds with the Province of British Columbia signed in October 2020 by elected Chief Jeff Jones. Under the agreement, the First Nation receives a percentage of the stumpage revenues from all timber cut by tenure holders like Teal Jones.

Bill Jones would rather see TFL 46 turned into a memorial park.

“We now must give a gesture to our Great Mother by saying no. The whole world is being run on a colonist extraction economy and it’s at the end of its “sucking” I call it. There are no resources left. I think we are trying to save the last remnants of our own sensitivities. Once the old growth is gone, there is no connection to our historic past,” he said.

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said the province has already acted and protected thousands of hectares of old growth. There are approximately 13.7 million hectares of old growth forest in B.C.

Ten million hectares of these old growth forests are currently protected or not economical to harvest.

“I understand that how old growth forests are managed is an emotional, divisive, and complex issue. B.C.’s beautiful ancient forests are part of what makes our province a great place to live and we owe it to future generations to protect them. We recognize the right for people to engage in peaceful protest, but we also expect all British Columbians to follow the law,” said Conroy in an email.

“There is a better way for B.C. to manage old growth forests and our government will work collaboratively with all our partners to do this. We know there is much more work to do and we are committed to a comprehensive approach for how old growth forests are managed in our province,” she said.

Yogi Shambu has been helping the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) since August 2020 when their blockades were first set up. Shambu, a former forest worker for a small wood lot, stressed the fact that the RFS is pro-logger and pro-old growth.

“We want conversation with the industry. We do not want to polarize ourselves away. We want to find a solution for everyone. We do not want homeless loggers so please reach out,” he said, adding transitional government funding is needed to help the forestry industry orient their second and third growth forests.

“We know that the old growth is only going to be lasting another five to at the very most 10 years, so we are already in the evening of the whole industry, so how do we now lean into transitioning away from that?”

Gerrie Kotze, Teal Jones Vice-President and CFO, said the company continues to engage in constructive dialogue and acknowledge the Ancestral Territories of all First Nations that encompass the Tree Farm Licence, including the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations.

“In addition, we will abide by the interim conservation measure referenced by the Pacheedaht First Nation in their recent media release, pending the development of their Integrated Resource Forest Stewardship Plan,” wrote Kotze in an email.

He went on to note that TFL 46 is vital to sustaining hundreds of jobs in the province and produces products British Columbians rely on every day.

“We will mill and utilize 100 percent of every log cut right here in B.C. Teal Jones has a decades-long history of engagement with First Nations, responsible forest management, and value-added manufacture in B.C.,” said Kotze.

RELATED: RCMP arrest all but one at Waterfall blockade, protesters take it back next day



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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VIDEO: Vancouver Island loggers rally against Fairy Creek blockades

READ: Collective vision needed, forest industry rep tells Cowichan officials

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