The RCMP moved into an area near the Fairy Creek Watershed on Monday to enforce a court injunction banning blockades from preventing old-growth logging in southern Vancouver Island, within Pacheedaht First Nation’s traditional territory.
In a statement, RCMP said that anyone who breaches the injunction, as well as those refusing to leave the access control area, will be arrested.
The Rainforest Flying Squad, an old-growth activist group, have had blockades at the Fairy Creek watershed since last summer. They were erected to prevent forestry company Teal-Jones from accessing what is considered one of the last remaining old-growth forests untouched by industrial logging.
In the morning of May 18, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Chris Manseau said Mounties were sent to the watershed to read the injunction to protestors stationed at the blockades and will “make a determination on how to proceed next.”
An RCMP check-point has been established at the McClure Forest Service Road, where the restricted-access area begins.
“The purpose is to prevent a further escalation of efforts to block access contrary to the Supreme Court order, and to allow the RCMP to be accountable for the safety of all persons accessing this area given the remoteness and road conditions,” reads the RCMP statement.
Glenn Reid, a tree-defender with the Rainforest Flying Squad, drove to the watershed from Cowichan Lake on Tuesday morning with a convoy of around 50 vehicles, he said.
Undeterred by RCMP presence, Reid said “we’re having a peaceful protest.”
Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones also joined the protest, but said he could not get past RCMP to access the Caycuse blockade on Tuesday morning.
“I [was] denied my rights and freedoms of access to my own territory,” he said.
Around 200 protestors were at the watershed to show their support against the court injunction, said Jones. While there, he said he saw one arrest being made.
Jones has been an outspoken ally of the blockades from the start and said it’s important for him to fight for old-growth because “it’s the last of it.”
“It will be all gone if [Teal-Jones] is given free reign,” he said.
Fairy Creek is a spiritual place, Jones recounted of his grandfather’s teachings.
“We go up there to pray and meditate,” he added. “Fairy Creek is a cleansing creek.”
In a statement signed by Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones and Elected Chief Jeff Jones, the nation said it is concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities in their territory.
“Pacheedaht has always harvested and managed our forestry resources, including old-growth cedar, for cultural, ceremonial, domestic and economic purposes,” read the statement. “All parties need to respect that it is up to Pacheedaht people to determine how our forestry resources will be used. We do not welcome or support unsolicited involvement or interference by others in our territory, including third-party activism.”
“Like all communities, there is a diversity of opinion within Pacheedaht Nation,” added Rod Bellingham, Pacheedaht’s forestry manager. “Prior to the blockades and the media attention, it was not obvious that there was a strong desire within the community to restrict harvesting in Fairy Creek.”
Bellingham said that forestry is “massively” important to Pacheedaht’s economic future.
“Forestry revenues are key to the current and future of the nation,” he said. “We are surrounded by a fabulous forest resource that will continue to provide multiple benefits for generations to come if we manage it wisely.”
But Bill Jones is worried the nation is more concerned about financial gains than being stewards of the land.
“They’re looking for cash flow and the easiest and quickest way is to cut the old-growth,” he said. “Their ploy is to say that ‘we don’t want the protestors there, we’re going to protect the old-growth’ … which to me is just to say goodbye to the old-growth.”