First Nation's council and chief ask '3rd-party' activists to stand down in B.C. logging dispute

·2 min read
Protesters sit at a blockade in the Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC - image credit)
Protesters sit at a blockade in the Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC - image credit)

The chief and council of a Vancouver Island First Nation at the centre of a protest over old-growth logging are asking outside activists to stand down and leave the community to decide how to use local forestry resources.

In a statement issued on Monday, Pacheedaht Hereditary Chief Frank Queesto Jones and Chief Coun. Jeff Jones addressed the blockade in the nation's traditional territory in the Fairy Creek area of the southern island.

"All parties need to respect that it is up to Pacheedaht people to determine how our forestry resources will be used," reads the statement.

"We do not welcome or support unsolicited involvement or interference by others in our territory, including third-party activism. Pacheedaht needs to be left in peace to engage in our community-led stewardship planning process, so that we can determine our own way forward as a strong and independent Nation."

Since August, dozens of people have blocked access to logging activities in Fairy Creek to prevent Teal Cedar, a division of the Teal-Jones Group, from logging certain areas of its 595-square-kilometre tenure.

The logging company has signed agreements with the Pacheedaht, and the nation signed a revenue-sharing agreement with the province in 2017 for all timber cut on its land.

In early April, the B.C. Supreme Court granted Teal-Jones an injunction against the protesters. In his written decision, Justice Frits Verhoeven said police enforcement terms would be required since "there appears to be little or no likelihood that the injunction order will be respected otherwise."

Monday's statement from Pacheedaht chief and council expresses concern about the "increasing polarization" over forestry within the First Nation's territory.

It says the nation is currently developing a plan for stewardship of its resources, which will guide future logging. While that plan is being developed, the Pacheedaht leaders say they have secured agreements from tenure holders and the B.C. government to suspend third-party forestry activities in certain areas.

"Pacheedaht has always harvested and managed our forestry resources, including old-growth cedar, for cultural, ceremonial, domestic and economic purposes. Our constitutional right to make decisions about forestry resources in our territory, as governing authority in our territory, must be respected," the statement says.