Old growth logging protesters take to Vancouver Art Gallery as island arrests mount

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Protesters occupy a road near the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday June 5, 2021 in support of the old growth logging blockades on Vancouver Island. (Photo courtesy of the Greenpeace Vancouver Local Group Facebook page - image credit)
Protesters occupy a road near the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday June 5, 2021 in support of the old growth logging blockades on Vancouver Island. (Photo courtesy of the Greenpeace Vancouver Local Group Facebook page - image credit)

Dozens of demonstrators gathered at the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery Saturday afternoon to show support for the old growth logging protests currently happening on south Vancouver Island.

"We think it's really important that John Horgan keep his commitment to protect forests in B.C., and we're not seeing that right now," demonstrator Inez Hillel told the CBC News.

Hillel described the 170 arrests made so far by RCMP in the conflict as "really disgusting."

"We've always seen this happen in Canada, where the RCMP comes in to protect profits over people," said Hillel. "We've seen it with pipelines, we've seen it with Wet'suwet'en and now we're seeing it with Fairy Creek."

Sarah Roset, a Greenpeace coordinator in Vancouver, said she doesn't want the government to "use our taxes to take these trees away from our future generations, [and] the Indigenous populations that count on them for sustaining life."

She said that ecological value of trees in the area were worth more to the province's biodiversity than logging them for commerical gain.

"Trees are life. We need to leave the planet better than when we found it," she urged.

Earlier this week, the B.C. government announced plans to update its forestry policy to redistribute forest tenures to Indigenous Nations and small operators.

At the time the forestry minister Katrine Conroy acknowledged the tension playing out in the forests between Cowichan Lake and Port Renfrew.

"People across B.C. are passionate about how we manage this incredible resource," she said.

Premier John Horgan was questioned this week why the province wasn't immediate logging deferrals in place in the area.

He responded by saying the title holders, First Nations, needed to be consulted with first.

"If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops," he said.

172 arrested at logging blockades

RCMP said officers on Vancouver Island have arrested 172 people since the enforcement of the court injunction began to allow logging activities to continue in the Fairy Creek watershed.

Sgt. Chris Manseau of the Lake Cowichan RCMP said in a release that on Friday two people were arrested for breaking the injunction and one was arrested for obstruction.

Two others were arrested for breaking the injunction on Saturday.

At least nine people have been arrested more than once according to Manseau.

The release detailed measures police are taking to safely arrest protesters, many of whom have made devices locking themselves to the ground. Manseau says police inspect the devices before removing them to ensure neither protesters or police are injured.

"To date there have been no complaints or reports of any injuries for any of the arrests that have taken place," said the release.

Manseau said all of the arrests are documented and that police are wearing body cameras.