Fairy Creek protest on Vancouver Island now considered largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history

·3 min read
Police prepare to arrest activists who chained themselves together to block a road into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed on Saturday May 21, 2021.  (Brad MacLeod - image credit)
Police prepare to arrest activists who chained themselves together to block a road into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed on Saturday May 21, 2021. (Brad MacLeod - image credit)

With 882 arrests so far, the old-growth logging protest at Fairy Creek has now surpassed Clayoquot Sound as the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, according to B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau.

"The civil disobedience occurring at Fairy Creek is the public taking recourse against a government that refuses to act," said Furstenau in a statement calling on the provincial government to do more to protect old-growth ecosystems.

In 1993, 856 arrests were made during months of logging protests at Clayoquot Sound, which became known as the "war in the woods."

In its latest update, RCMP say 16 individuals were arrested at Fairy Creek on Tuesday as police removed obstructions and people locked inside trenches and on tripods along a forest service road.

The RCMP said it is also investigating a helicopter which may have had its identification markings illegally obscured, after intercepting a supply drop that included cement and materials to make locking devices.

CBC
CBC

"Anyone found to be aiding or abetting those breaching the B.C. Supreme Court injunction can also be charged," said the RCMP.

A spokesman for activist group Rainforest Flying Squad said loggers are preparing to cut old-growth adjacent to an area that was granted a two-year logging deferral in June.

"We're now at the point where River Camp, which has been occupied for the better part of seven months ... has now been aggressively cleared out and there is machinery waiting at the bottom of the hill to cut down thousand-year-old trees," said Luke Wallace.

"This whole story about the deferrals and the media storm that the government received, the positive media light ... is seemingly not meaning much because these forests are literally on the opposite bank of Fairy Creek — we're talking about contiguous forest that has been left unprotected and will be logged in the coming days."

Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC
Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC

Protest actions have been taking place in the Fairy Creek watershed since August 2020 to protect what is the last stand of old-growth not located in a park on southern Vancouver Island.

On April 1, 2021, the company that owns the logging rights in the contested area, Teal-Jones Group, was granted an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court prohibiting protesters from blocking access to roads and company activity.

RCMP began enforcing the injunction and arresting people in May, with tensions escalating through the summer and protesters levelling accusations that police were using excessive force and obstructing media.

Application to extend injunction

Teal Cedar, a subsidiary of Teal-Jones, has applied to have the injunction extended beyond its Sept. 26 expiration date. The application is set to be heard over four days in Nanaimo next week.

"Our lawyers will be arguing the case that every day that the police have operated in the enforcement of this injunction, they've been there in direct violation of the law laid out in that injunction," said Wallace.

Furstenau says the provincial government is not meeting its commitment to protect old-growth.

"We need to see permanent protection for these rare ecosystems, backed by economic support for affected communities and workers," she said.

The Clayoquot Sound action ended in 1994 with the promise of a provincial government review, which wound up reducing the annual allowable cut and clearcuts in the area to a maximum of four hectares.

As of 2007, logging controlled by aboriginal-owned logging companies of some 10,000 hectares of forest is now allowed.

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