Not long past the break of dawn, along a remote road deep in the unceded, forested mountains of southern Vancouver Island, the steady blaring of a conch shell sends a warning through the trees. A raid is coming. In the Savage Patch camp, a new front in a years-long struggle over the fate of some of the country’s oldest trees, a small group of forest defenders scurry to pack sleeping bags and douse the fire that kept them warm through the night. Uncle Rico, a Cree land defender, streaks her face with red warpaint. A young, broad-shouldered settler land defender, known as Sandstorm, beats a drum gifted to him by a Native ally.
The RCMP’s “Community-Industry Response Group” (C-IRG) could also be described as a resource extraction protection unit. It’s militarized responses to land defenders at Fairy Creek, Wet’suwet’en, or, most recently, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, have demonstrated which side of “community” versus “industry” the group is on. Here’s what we know: According to the RCMP: “The Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) was created in 2017 to provide strategic oversight addressing energy industry incidents and related public order, national security and crime issues.” The RCMP adds: “The C-IRG uses a measured approach in facilitating the peaceful resolution of public disorder issues. They proactively engage all stakeholders through open communication and meaningful dialogue.” This would not describe the experiences of Indigenous land and environmental rights defenders on their territories in Canada.
Jamie Hunter has just returned from defying a court injunction to protect old-growth forest in Fairy Creek and is going to Glasgow next month to push for a major change to international law that would provide another tool against environmental degradation. The 21-year-old from Nelson, B.C., sees the actions as two fronts of the same battle to confront forces otherwise damaging the planet and imperiling its inhabitants. “To me, Stop Ecocide is a really tangible solution,” said the co-founder of its Canadian chapter. “Obviously, it’s not the only solution, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle because it really says that causing this damage to the environment is not OK.” Stop Ecocide is a global movement involving international criminal lawyers, Indigenous advisers, researchers, and diplomats working to add ecocide as a crime considered by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has refused to extend an injunction that was granted to prevent protesters from impeding logging operations at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island. Justice Douglas Thompson ruled the reputation of the court outweighed the economic interests of the logging company, Teal Jones. Thompson pointed to the RCMP’s enforcement of the court injunction as the main reason for the court’s tarnished reputation. “The methods of enforcement of the court’s order have led to serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties, including impairment of the freedom of the press to a marked degree,” wrote the judge. One of the lawyers who argued against extending the injunction, Patrick Canning, said the ruling puts pressure on the province to resolve the ongoing dispute at Fairy Creek.
On Aug. 9, the one-year anniversary of the Fairy Creek protection efforts, the RCMP raided Fairy Creek's headquarter camp. Twenty-five police vehicles, a helicopter and an emergency tactical unit were deployed against peaceful ancient forest protectors that day, and almost every day since. What is the emergency that the police are responding to with such a massively expensive show of force? Since the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a code red warning on Aug. 9, is it the climate emergency that is so clear to us this summer with deadly heat waves and extreme forest fires? No, the science tells us that RCMP are actually making this climate emergency worse by enforcing the clear cutting of some of the last remaining old-growth forests on the West Coast.
When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau touched down in the Vancouver area on Tuesday as part of his election campaign, a group of protesters against old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek watershed were waiting to greet him at his downtown hotel. A mix of Liberal supporters and protesters, numbering about 150 people in total, stood outside the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel where the leader was expected to spend the night. Many of the protesters carried drums and chanted "Justin Trudeau commits genocide; the Liberal Party commits genocide," as Vancouver Centre Liberal incumbent Dr. Hedy Fry watched in silence. The Liberal Party later told reporters that Trudeau had gone out for dinner rather than heading straight to the hotel as planned because of security concerns from the RCMP.
The cops are the army, are the industry, are the government, are the predator, are the enemy, and this is nothing if not a war for our very survival… BC’s perennial “war in the woods” is not just a catchy, metaphorical brand. We hold the enemy accountable by defending ourselves, and fighting back. We are accountable to ourselves when we realize that there is no such thing as justice, only liberation, and do whatever is necessary to make it happen.
In a major advancement of police activity in the old growth blockades around Fairy Creek on Southern Vancouver Island, RCMP raided the gate to the blockaders’ headquarters on Monday. It was the first time police had carried out arrests at the site identified as a communal hub for the movement. It also signals the likelihood of more confrontation ahead in the biggest direct action fight to protect B.C.’s old growth forests in decades. “The frontline has been brought to us,” Willow, a forest defender who is stationed at blockade headquarters, told The Tyee. The escalation occurred as blockaders were preparing to mark their one-year anniversary occupying the forests in Pacheedaht Territories surrounding Port Renfrew.
Over 320 arrests have been made at the Fairy Creek blockades since police began removing forest defenders in mid-May. As enforcement of an injunction obtained by logging company Teal-Jones enters its seventh week, aggression from police and logging industry workers has been ramping up. Each day the RCMP try to clear logging roads, encountering blockaders in what are known as “dragons” — a device that secures a person’s arm in a tube buried in the ground — or surreal-looking wooden tripods dangling up to 30 feet in the air. Land defenders have adopted these tactics in an effort to halt the logging of old-growth forests in Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territories. Evidently frustrated with the slow pace of removals, the RCMP have begun using heavy machinery like chainsaws, excavators and jackhammers in close proximity to the bodies of blockaders.
British Columbia - Hundreds of activists are digging in at logging road blockades across a swath of southern Vancouver Island, vowing to stay as long as it takes to pressure the provincial government to immediately halt cutting of what they say is the last 3 per cent of giant old-growth trees left in the province. The situation echoes the 1993 “war in the woods” in nearby Clayoquot Sound, which saw nearly 1,000 people arrested at similar logging blockades in the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Tensions are rising. Just this weekend, the activists stopped a team of old-growth tree cutters — called fallers — from entering a logging area in the Caycuse watershed.
Port Renfrew - “Activist headquarters” is an encampment just outside of Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island. That is where the fight to prevent 200 hectares of ancient old-growth forest from being cut down continues. “We haven’t been served (with an injunction), no,” said Molly Murphy, one of the many people calling the encampment home on Monday. The injunction was granted by the B.C. Supreme Court on April 1. It orders the demonstrators to take down the blockades that they had set up to prevent forestry company Teal-Jones from accessing its logging operation in the area. “We’re waiting for Teal-Jones to serve the injunction and then the police need to enforce it,” said Murphy. “That’s kind of what we are waiting for.”
The blockade has been in place since August 2020, organized in part by members of the Rainforest Flying Squad, to stop the logging company Teal-Jones from building a road into the Fairy Creek area and prevent old-growth logging. Demonstrators say they are extremely disappointed with the decision, and that now is the last chance to save the area. “This is the last stand, literally last stand of old-growth. Ninety-seven per cent of the forests of British Columbia are tree farms,” said Shambu. “The last time trees were saved, it took how many arrests to make that happen [in the Clayoquot protests]?” Protesters say due to the Easter weekend, they expect a big boost in numbers of around 150 people showing up by early next week.