1 arrested as old growth protesters claim traffic in Vancouver disrupted for the 11th time this month

·3 min read
One protester was arrested after blockading traffic on the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge Monday morning. (Save Old Growth/submitted - image credit)
One protester was arrested after blockading traffic on the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge Monday morning. (Save Old Growth/submitted - image credit)

One person was arrested during Monday morning's rush hour in the latest blockade of the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge by a group protesting logging in B.C.'s old growth forests.

Vancouver police say a 37-year-old woman was charged with mischief and blocking the roadway.

The group Save Old Growth says it has staged 11 "direct action" blockades in the City of Vancouver in April. Since January, it has also blockaded highways in Victoria, Nanaimo and Revelstoke. The group says 85 people have been arrested so far and that they have no plans to stop the disruptions.

"We're done being afraid. We won't stop until the government passes legislation to end all old growth logging," said spokesperson Julia Torgerson.

"This is not a big demand, we've only got 2.7 per cent of the productive old growth left. Killing the last of these ancient trees is a death sentence for millions of Canadians due to ecological breakdown."

In Victoria, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy defended the province's logging policy and said the protesters were not garnering support by making people angry.

"We've already deferred over 1.7 million hectares of old growth in this province. Just to put that in perspective, it's equivalent to over 4,000 Stanley Parks," said Conroy.

But Save Old Growth supporters argue that deferring old growth logging is not the same as saving the trees.

"Deferrals mean we will cut them at the end of the deferral," said retired UBC professor Bill Winder, who has been arrested at the blockades. "It's not legislation that says we are going to protect the last three per cent of old growth."

SOG media
SOG media

Winder said the highway blockades are an act of desperation by the mostly young protesters.

"They are fighting for their future," he said. "Because the government has neglected its duty of care as far as the climate is concerned."

Save Old Growth has asked for a public meeting with Conroy.

"We're going to remain nonviolent and fight for a livable future in a manner that is proportionate to the emergency we face," Torgerson.

Two Save Old Growth protesters arrested April 20 by West Shore RCMP remain in custody.

Derek Hugh Menard, 33, of Victoria is charged with mischief and failing to comply with the conditions of an undertaking. Elizabeth Helen Stewart, 23, of Victoria is charged with intimidation and mischief.

The RCMP, which has jurisdiction in a large part of the province, says it is monitoring and preparing operationally for future protests.

"While we support individual rights to peaceful protests, blocking a highway is a criminal act and will not be tolerated," said Cpl. Alex Bérubé of the B.C. RCMP. "What we've seen in the past created not only a significant economic impact due to the highway being blocked, but also disrupted the lives of many individuals with personal commitments and obligations."

Bérubé said police can make the case to keep those arrested in custody if the person is likely to ignore police-imposed conditions and join another illegal protest.

"Then, it just becomes grounds to keep them in custody under the law," he said, "because why would you release an offender knowing that they're very likely to reoffend again? So that's why we bring them before the courts and have it decided there."

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