News Today – Fairy Creek blockades a political ’embarrassment’ for NDP government

by Guwahati_City

News Today | Today Breaking News – By

NDP grapples with political fallout as more protesters mobilize to protect old-growth trees in the sequel to the war in the woods

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The arrests of activists opposed to logging old-growth trees west of Victoria have galvanized hundreds of people to join the new war in the woods. The protests, set in Premier John Horgan’s riding, have turned into a political embarrassment for his NDP government, say critics.

The blockades at the Fairy Creek watershed — where people have chained themselves to trees, suspended themselves in trees with pulleys and cemented themselves into the ground —  are quickly becoming one of the largest acts of environmental civil disobedience in Canada since Clayoquot Sound in the 1990s. The original war in the woods culminated in the arrests of 900 people and forced the NDP government of the day to protect the temperate rainforest from clearcut logging.

At Fairy Creek, at least 137 opponents of old-growth logging have been arrested at five different blockades northeast of Port Renfrew since May 17. That’s when the RCMP began enforcing a B.C. Supreme Court injunction banning interference with logging by Surrey-based forestry company Teal Jones Group.


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Environmentalists with the grassroots group Rainforest Flying Squad have been manning blockades since August but the recent arrests, with RCMP officers using jackhammers and metal cutters to free protesters, have attracted broader support with families, youth and seniors heading to the remote area.

Protests have also erupted across B.C. at the legislature, outside the Castlegar office of Forests Minister Katrine Conroy and on Friday, outside Horgan’s constituency office in Langford where hundreds gathered.

“Seems to me that the government remains mute in all of this and has not responded, even though Fairy Creek and most of the other blockade sites are within the premier’s own riding,” said 82-year-old Saul Arbess, who on Tuesday organized a group of 100 seniors who defied the RCMP exclusion zone around the area where logging is continuing.

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Tzeporah Berman, the international programs director for and one of the organizers of the protests at Clayoquot Sound, said she sees parallels between the environmental movement 28 years ago and the groundswell of support for the blockades at Fairy Creek.

“It feels like one of those tipping point moments where it goes from people who have been closely following the issues to being one of the conversations around everyone’s dinner table,” said Berman, who was arrested May 22 for defying the injunction. The difference now, Berman said, is that images of 1,000-year-old trees being logged can be shared widely through social media.


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“Today, the images of what’s happening in Fairy Creek are being broadcast around the world in minutes,” she said. “That’s galvanizing people. And I think it’s an embarrassment for this government.”

One of the images that sparked outrage this week was the photo of a massive old-growth spruce being hauled on a truck near Nanaimo. The tree was cut down on north Vancouver Island sometime between March and mid-August of 2020, shortly before new rules were brought in in September to protect old-growth trees, according to a statement from the Forests Ministry.

Horgan was not made available for an interview on Friday. His relative silence suggests a political calculation that favours the NDP’s union base — many of whom are forestry workers represented by the United Steelworkers, a major NDP donor before union and corporate donations were banned — over environmentalists who are more likely to support the B.C. Greens.

David Black, associate professor in the school of communication and culture at Royal Roads University, said B.C. is unique in Canada in the way environmental politics are key to determining the broader party politics in the province.

After the NDP broke the power-sharing agreement with the B.C. Greens to call a snap election last fall, “what they have left is an aggrieved Green-leaning faction of the B.C. population who maybe isn’t really in a position to trust the NDP on environmental issues,” Black said.

In an interview with Postmedia News, Conroy disputed that the government is making a political calculation to support its blue-collar voter base over environmentalists.


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“Quite the opposite,” she said. “We’re working to bring people together and end the division over this really emotional issue.”

Conroy said she wants her grandkids and future generations to be able to walk in ancient forests but she also wants them to have the opportunity to work in a well-managed, sustainable forestry industry.

“So it’s really critical to ensure that we have those ancient forests around for those future generations and we have to bring people together to enable us to do that,” she said.

Horgan previously said that protesters must respect the wishes of the Pacheedaht First Nation whose elected and hereditary leaders said third-party activists are not welcome on their unceded territory. The issue, however, has divided the First Nation, with Pacheedaht elders such as Bill Jones supporting the blockade and any measures taken to prevent the destruction of ancient forests.

Horgan promised during last fall’s election campaign to implement all recommendations  in the old-growth strategic review completed in 2020 by foresters Garry Merkel and Al Gorley.

A key recommendation was to defer logging in old forests where ecosystems are at a high and imminent risk of irreversible loss. The province announced in September it would defer logging for two years in nine different areas representing about 3,530 square kilometres, but it has not acted on the other recommendations.

Merkel said he understands the NDP faces a difficult balancing act between moving quickly to protect vulnerable ecosystems and ensuring the forest industry remains viable.


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“Most of the (forest) industry now, on the coast in particular, relies on old growth,” he said. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Okay, we’ll shut down industry tomorrow.’ I’ve been through governments who have tried that and the odds of them getting back in are pretty much close to zero.”

Conroy said her ministry has been consulting with Indigenous communities and promised that in the coming days, the government will release details on how it will “modernize” the forestry sector while protecting old-growth forests.

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said her party has been pressing the NDP government for months to lay out its forestry policy and plans to protect the province’s remaining three per cent of old-growth forests.

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“The people of British Columbia have an expectation that these rare and endangered ecosystems should be afforded some protection,” she said. “At every step of this trajectory, the NDP, the government had the ability to intervene and to avoid this crisis.”

A coalition of conservationists called the Endangered Ecosystems Alliance is urging the province to tap into some of the $2.3 billion set aside in the federal budget to protect sensitive land ecosystems.

“There are solutions everywhere yet there’s silence, for the most part, from this government,” Furstenau said.

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