The fight to save old-growth trees in the Fairy Creek area has reached a historic milestone.
Police have so far arrested 882 people for breaching a Supreme Court injunction in the disputed logging area near Port Renfrew, creating what organizers and the B.C. Green Party are calling “the greatest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.”
The arrest total surpasses the 856 arrested during protests against logging in Clayoquot Sound in 1993.
Protesters have been blocking logging roads and occupying camps in the Fairy Creek area for more than a year. The RCMP has been making daily arrests since Surrey-based Teal Jones Group, which holds the Tree Farm Licence in the area, secured a court injunction in May.
On Monday, B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Fursteneau blamed the provincial government for the arrest tally, accusing it of dragging its feet on implementing its own Old Growth Strategic Review report commissioned 18 months ago.
“Thirty years ago, British Columbians called for change and were heard around the world. Today, British Columbians are again calling for change. The premier has refused to hear them.”
Fursteneau urged Premier John Horgan “to step up, put solutions on the table” and work with the Pacheedaht First Nation and the federal government to protect Fairy Creek and other old-growth areas.
“Deferring logging of rare old growth is the bare minimum required, and yet the B..C NDP is refusing to meet even this commitment,” Fursteneau said. “We need to see permanent protection for these rare ecosystems, backed by economic support for affected communities and workers.”
The milestone comes as protest group the Rainforest Flying Squad warned that logging has resumed as the fire risk has decreased with cooler weather. Protesters are particularly concerned about the fate of an old cedar dubbed the Grandfather Tree, which they say could be cut soon as Teal Jones sends in crews to log.
With Teal Jones’ injunction set to expire on Sept. 26, the company has asked the Supreme Court to extend it.
On Tuesday, police arrested 16 people in the Fairy Creek area and removed obstructions from the Granite Main logging road, where protesters were secured in buried locking devices and suspended from tripods and cantilevers.
RCMP also investigated the use of a helicopter over the weekend to drop supplies to the protesters, including cement and other materials to make locking devices. Police said the helicopter may have had call signs and markings illegally obscured.
“Anyone found to be aiding or abetting those breaching the B.C. Supreme Court injunction can also be charged,” police said in a statement.
Tegan Hansen of Stand.Earth, which delivered boxes of petitions with 150,000 signatures to the legislature last month, demanded the provincial government stop all logging in remaining old-growth forests “before more people on the ground are hurt and before more old growth is lost forever.”
The group said the RCMP has been “broadly condemned for brutality” during arrests, including the use of pepper spray.
The Rainforest Flying Squad said the federal agency overseeing the RCMP has received 73 complaints about enforcement measures as of Aug. 30. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is reportedly probing 17 of those files.