Capital Daily

Everything That Has Happened With The Fairy Creek Blockades Since The Injunction

Episode Summary

We break down everything that has happened since the injunction was granted to the Teal Jones Group, including an appeal, charges laid, and an aggressive confrontation by loggers. We also speak with a council member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation about the events and their relationships with all the involved parties.

Episode Notes

We break down everything that has happened since the injunction was granted to the Teal Jones Group, including an appeal, charges laid, and an aggressive confrontation by loggers. We also speak with a council member of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation about the events and their relationships with all the involved parties.  

Get more stories like this in your inbox every morning by subscribing to our daily newsletter at CapitalDaily.ca 

And subscribe to us on our socials! 

Twitter @CapitalDailyVic  

Instagram @CapitalDaily  

Facebook @CapitalDailyVic

 

Episode Transcription

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Jackie: My name is Jackie Lamport. Today is Thursday, May 14th. Welcome to the Capital Daily podcast. Today on the show, we give you a rundown of everything that has happened with the Fairy Creek Blockade since the injunction was granted to the Teal-Jones Group. Then we speak to a representative from the Huu-ay-aht First Nation about the relationships between all of the parties involved in this ongoing fight. Following the passing of the injunction on April 1st. Since then, much has changed and very quickly. So we’re going to break it down, starting April 1st.

The first few days following the injunction were relatively quiet. Protestors from all over the island began heading down to the camps to show support, but RCMP did not show up to enforce the injunction as many thought may happen. It wasn’t until April 6th that the injunction was officially read to protestors at the camps. The injunction was served by a representative from Teal Jones Group at a campsite. The injunction was read aloud to the present protestors on the site.

On April 7th, the next day, the BC Council of Forest Industries released a study that claims the provincial forest industry supported 100,000 jobs, $13B in GDP, and $8.5B in wages, salaries and benefits. They claimed this meant the industry provided a better quality of life for British Columbians.

On April 8th, 600 forestry leaders, government officials, and first nation leaders attended a BC Council of Forest Industries convention. Among the speakers were Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia. There was also a reconciliation through partnerships panel with  Robert J. Dennis Sr., Chief Councillor, Huu-ay-aht First Nations, Brian Butler, President, United Steelworkers 1-1937 and, Don Demens, President & CEO, Western Forest Products.

At this convention, the Premier announced that the government’s plan to break up large forest harvest licences and share the resource with secondary manufacturers and Indigenous communities was not working. Therefore Crown timber rights will be redistributed by the government. 

At this point, not much had changed at the blockades. But on April 12th, the Pacheedaht First Nation broke their silence on the matter and announced their position that old-growth forest is their unceded territory and interference from 3rd party activists are not welcome. This came from hereditary Chiefs Jeff Jones and Frank Queesto Jones. The statement brought controversy, not only over the right the protestors had to be on the land and their claims that they were protecting the land on behalf of the Pacheedaht Nation, but it also brought up the long-contested hereditary chieftainship within the nation.

The movement has largely been supported by Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder. He put out a statement in response to the chiefs the following day. Jones alleges that Frank is falsely claiming hereditary chieftainship. About Frank, Bill said, “he is not eligible to make the claim for the Jones family line and is not informed by the hereditary system amongst our peoples.”

In his response to the statement from the hereditary chiefs, Bill Jones also criticized the ties between the band councils and the federal and provincial governments. He said, “Federally instituted Indian Band Nations are by design meant to obliterate relationships to land and families, consent and matriarchal decision-making, and international agreements between other Indigenous Peoples. Pacheedaht First Nation is no exception to this condition of colonialism.”

The Pacheedaht First Nation’s band council consists of Chief Jeff Jones, councillor Tracy Charlie, and councillor Roxy-Merl Jones. Roxy-Merl Jones has attended protests and has supported Bill Jones, who is her uncle. After this controversy, the Rainforest Flying Squad stood behind Elder Bill Jones and expressed their commitment to their position. 

Torrance Coste is the national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.  He told Capital Daily in a recent article on the topic that while he ultimately believes the protests should only continue as Indigenous-led operations, it is the government’s approach that has created this controversy. He also noted that it will happen again if it does not change. He argued that though the government has revenue-sharing agreements with bands, it has largely failed to act on old-growth protection or engage in nation-to-nation dialogue with Indigenous communities.

For just over two weeks following these events, the scene was relatively quiet. But on April 28th, new and serious developments were made.

The Rainforest Flying Squad filed an appeal to the injunction that requested it be set aside and re-heard in court. The appeal had eight main points. Among them was that “the Court erred in failing to properly balance the public interest.” The group said “the public interest in this case far outweighs the profit-making ability of a single entity and government.”

The group also argues that “The Court erred in its determination that the Respondent would suffer irreparable harm had the injunction not been granted.”

That same day came the first charge against a protestor. Will O’Connell has been active in the protest since last summer. He was charged with violating the injunction after refusing to let Teal-Jones representatives pass through the blockade and carry on with their work. Four other protestors were also charged. The RCMP was not present for this.

The charges were a slight surprise for the Rainforest Flying Squad. The group provides a civil disobedience handbook, but the handbook has no mention on the risk of being charged without arrest. With video evidence being so attainable, RCMP do not need to witness defiance of an injunction for charges to be filed. 

The handbook also states that violation of an injunction is often penalized with community service; however, sentencing is up to the discretion of the court. The Rainforest Flying Squad has so far been silent on the charges.

On May 4th, a video of a group of 10 loggers confronting the protesters is released by the Rainforest Flying Squad. A protestor filmed as loggers are shown to arrive at a site occupied by the group and yell obscenities at them. At the end of the video, a logger points at the protester filming and approaches them. A struggle is heard but not seen.

As a warning, there is crude language in this video. We have made the decision not to edit anything out.

Audio excerpt from video of loggers confronting protestors (some dialogue omitted due to a lack of clarity) 

Logger: Put the fucking camera down; what the fuck are you doing? What’s the point? 

Protester: You’re going somewhere? 

Logger: Yeah, we’re going to fucking work. 

Protester: Cool. 

Logger: Yeah, maybe you should go home and collect your welfare check, for fuck’s sake. Looks like fucking shit, looks like garbage everywhere. 

Logger: You look like fucking Hastings Street, for God’s sake. 

Protester: Just move on, man. 

Logger: No, you move on, you cocksucker, you move on.

Protester: Just move on. 

Logger: You fucking move on. 

Jackie: And here's another video from the same interaction.

Audio excerpt from video of loggers confronting protestors (some dialogue omitted due to a lack of clarity) 

Logger: You stay the fuck out, every single one of you guys. You pass it along to every cocksucker around here, anyone involved. The same stupid fucking idea. You should get back to fucking Victoria, you fucking scummy bitch, if you’re smart. 

Logger: We’ve had enough of you and your fucking teepees. You don’t fuck around with us, you fuck. 

Logger: Those guys (Teal-Jones) might not do anything, but we fucking will. 

Logger: Yeah, we see you folks out there again; there’s gonna be trouble to pay. 

Protester: Okay, see you soon. 

Logger: Fucking right, you will. 

The phone used to record was then allegedly stolen by loggers. It is unclear how the video made it back into the hands of the Rainforest Flying Squad for posting, but it can likely be assumed that it was accessed via a cloud backup once the phone was in a serviceable range. The altercation took place at the Walbran Watch camp. This location is not a blockade.

Also, on May 4th, the Rainforest Flying Squad added the province as a third party to their appeal of the injunction. The defendants claim that the fight includes the government, and therefore they should be involved.

Two days later, Carl Sweet, director of the BC Forestry Alliance, an industry advocacy group, told media that he believed “environmentalists are deliberately and strategically provoking forestry workers at their place of employment.” He said, “I think the media is enabling the misinformation about what is happening in the BC forest industry.” And even went on to claim, “This is exactly what these environmentalists want to see because they want to make a martyr out of hard-working, honest forestry workers."

John Hack, a Huu-ay-aht councillor and chairperson of the Huu-ay-aht company, spoke out against the actions the video captured. He also announced that an investigation is ongoing, charges possible. We’ll talk to him more in a few minutes.

This same day, reports were made that an individual drove their vehicle onto an active cut-block which put the driver’s and workers’  safety at risk.

The incident from the May 6th video took place on a Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cut-block. In response, on Monday, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints at entry points into their territory. 

Travellers are stopped and offered updates on the access restrictions and safety measures within the territory. The checkpoint will also remind people of the three sacred principles that guide Huu-ay-aht First Nations. To learn more about the checkpoints and the relationship the Huu-ay-aht have with the parties in the debate, we’re joined by John Hack, a Huu-ay-aht councillor and chairperson of Huumiis Ventures, the forestry company owned in partnership by the Huu-ay-aht nation and Western Forest Products. 

Jackie: John, thank you so much for your time today. 

John: Thank you for having me. 

Jackie: What can you tell me about the checkpoints that you want people to know.

John: So this is only tangentially related to what happened near (inaudible). It happened because it was partially sparked off by activists doing something about it. And we can respect that. But someone in Huu-ay-aht territory, which is far away from where the original incident happened with the video, and the violence, that language. Somebody actually drove through into an act of cut-block. And when I say drove through there, we actually have signs and barriers saying you're entering an active cut-block; you’re supposed to stop here on Radio Head, to figure out whether or not it's safe. And that didn't happen. So that disruption was probably not unexpected. But it's something that we were kind of disappointed in because of the safety effect that he could have had on workers or those people specifically. So what we did, I think the incident happened on the 6th, which I think was Thursday. On the 7th, the people involved, so HFN (Huu-ay-aht First Nation) and the forestry company got involved, got together, and started talking about what we would do to solve that situation. That forestry company kind of said, Well, we need to make sure that people respect the safety and safety measures in place. So the nation decided to post checkpoints but not restrictions. So they're their checkpoints for information. So what happens is, if somebody comes into our territory for one of two access points through there from Port Alberni into the South Island. That information is, what our expectations for your conduct are, is condensed into, respect the nation's sovereignty, respect our ability to make decisions, but also respect the safety measures that are in place. Because we want to strike a balance between an individual's right to express their present or their positions and their beliefs freely. But we have to measure that against the safety and legal operations that we have decided to put in place. And so we don't want people to have an issue with the legality of our decision-making because that's covered, we have that, and we've done that strong and in a good way. We want people to be able to express their opinion on whether or not logging and forestry should continue in the way that it does now and what changes may be put forward. But the more effective avenues are very likely conversations rather than theatrical. And so we understand the value in pediatrics. We’re a First Nation fighting for our rights, and we understand that as a time in place. But we do want to remind people that the power to make these decisions has been hard-fought and won over the process of probably 40 years. And so our situation is different. We need people to understand that and respect it. And understand that we can move forward in a good way. If only we communicate in a good way. And so we can do that by having those conversations and having official processes to invest in him when bad things happen. And that's what we're doing now.

Jackie: How are these spots being monitored, and what happens if you think that somebody shouldn't be entering?

John: So I think one or two individuals are kind of posted up at access points into our territory. So like, where our territory starts there, they're either there or near there. And people are just flagged to pull over. And they're given, I think, a piece of paper that kind of outlines our expectations for activities and conduct on the whole thing. And they're kind of told, you know, this is what we expect, please abide by the laws that are in effect here, our own and provincial. And then I think they're allowed to go on their way. We may make a note of people who shouldn't be travelling, but I think, for the most part, everyone who has travelled into our territory has come from Vancouver Island anyway, so there hasn't really been a concern.

Jackie: What was your first actions after the video of the loggers interacting with protesters surfaced? 

John: I had not seen the video at the time that I learned about it. However, I had been told about the incident in a secondhand matter. So first off, my reaction to the video was one of deep disappointment, verging on being disturbed by it. It's not something that I think that really should be occurring anywhere in British Columbia. And it's something that really shows that First Nations do need to be involved at all levels. In regards to coastal forestry, we stand on Vancouver Island. And it's not throughout the entire province. Secondly, on the incident itself, it did really underline our reaction was one where we needed to ensure that steps were being taken to address the root causes of those concerns. And one of them was the understanding, or rather, the lack of understanding about the relationship between First Nations people and the land, and how that relates to forestry operations on Vancouver Island. So we had asked, through our partnership with Western Forest Products, that we stopped operations in the cut block area that was affected. We wanted to bring in and have since done so a third-party investigator, someone who's trained in conflict prevention, as well as conflict resolution, someone who will provide recommendations to the entire board that we expect to be followed. Once the report is tabled, to address those concerns completely. A lot of this does come down to ensuring that all employees of Western and the contractors involved in operations in which we're involved do have a good understanding of what's expected of them in regards to any operations that are happening on the land. And we’ve seen that reflected in Western Forest Products itself, and in the kind of high level the people who run these contract companies, but we do need to see more education and put forward our values in a way that can be understood more widely. And that's the beginning of the process, to be honest. 

Jackie: Given the current situation that's going on right now and the controversy about who's speaking for whom, do you think It may be beneficial for everybody if all parties were able to step back, give it some time and gather themselves and come to the table more organized?

John: I think it depends on how they're gathering themselves. I think it really depends on the mindset and the processes by which people agree to have that conversation. Personally, and I can't speak for the nation on this, I don't think what I want is for different teams to go into their side during a timeout and then come back to be ready to fight as hard as ever. What we need to do is be prepared to try to understand one another. And we haven't always seen that coming from really any side in the forestry fight when we're working on that because we're in the boardroom because we've bought the ability to be in the boardroom to have that conversation with Western Forest Products. And so far, we've been satisfied with the responsiveness. We need to go through the same processes, in a real sense, with the groups, and especially the governments that have an actual impact on environmental concerns. And part of that consideration here is what benefit is to be gained in interacting with these individuals. If if they're also moving in the background, trying to affect the provincial government, who is it, that’ll talk to you, and in what context? Now we can have those conversations, but they need to be organized to understand and approach our governance and worldview and understand how things should work from a decision-making perspective. We do it through our own citizens. And we do hear people's thoughts. But for the most part, we're governing for who it people. And how we govern businesses, is for people, first and foremost. And so how the interests of other groups, whether it be for abstract concepts like environmental conservation, for specific ones, like this specific union, or that specific group of community members adjacent to our lands, that kind of fits in our worldview, but how we have a relationship, specifically as a, as a nation that needs to be defined. And it can't be left undefined, because we won't know where to start. I think that's the first step. 

Jackie: When the issue is so complex like it is and something that a lot of people feel affects not just the people even on Vancouver Island in general, but in the world, it's when it comes to the environment, you can kind of equate it to, like a world issue. Do you think that approach could have some criticism?

John: I think what I seem to be the most effective in having an effect are the most effective in, you're really putting forward values that I believe in, has been acting in such a way that uses the believers in apparatus of power that is closest to you. So acting locally, in terms of global decision-making matters. However, there are also instances where a local government has no real power beyond sending a letter and lobbying to affect policy on climate change. Now, there are things that local governments can do that have an incremental effect like that any single-use plastics, and that's a good idea. Individually, at the very least, that's what I think. But there are also things that we can do locally to make decisions, and how we build our houses, govern our government, our businesses that can have a positive impact. But there's always a balancing act. And I think that's always the fundamental point of friction is that what do we value more, and we're looking for solutions to problems that affect our own people that are immediate. We want to stop children and prevent children from being taken out of their homes. We want people to stop dying from substance abuse. We want to address the root causes of these things that seem to be mostly poverty, mostly homelessness, and the solutions to find those things. They're rooted more in finding the resources to build houses and create opportunities for our citizens to get in and build a life for themselves in such a way that allows them to live the life they want to live. Sometimes we get caught up outside of nuance and how our values in regards to taking care of our people, how that interacts with what's being argued for and how it's being argued for. So what are the solutions? Okay, suppose the solution to forestry is to do something in regards to, of course, logging. What are the solutions that will take up the slack and the lack of resources being generated there for citizens, because the reason we got into forestry was to have more of an impact on how that gets done, but also to benefit from the resource industry that has existed since time immemorial, just in a different way. And we feel that the higher injustice is that so much value was generated through the mismanagement and resource extraction of our land, that we want to be involved in controlling it, but also to benefit from it, that a lot of money was taken out of our lands, if you reduce it, the money, and that's what it is. But money also translates into food and housing and people's state of being. And these things are important and can't be denied. And so we can have discussions about trade-offs, but we don't need to know what the trade-offs are in order to be comfortable with making them and how we'll be able to really solve the issues of poverty, and homelessness, and substance abuse. And those are the things that our companies are contributing to, by paying stumpage by employing citizens by sending back profits, not to some foreign conglomerate that is invested in forestry, but to a nation that is local and using those funds to prevent kids from being taken away by the province literally. And that's the kind of stuff that really motivates us and what we're doing. And sometimes it translates into all you want is money. And that's not the case. But that's a harder conversation to have you in a thirty-second interaction, to really appreciate the long-form interview at this point, because that's not at the forefront here. And I think it needs to be. 

Jackie: What would you say are the biggest differences between your approach and other First Nations communities? 

John: I think there are two different elements to how we have that conversation, first of which is a good understanding of what our core values mean. Now, we use them as a shorthand for kind of a life way, because it's hard to express in thirty minutes, plus ten. Right. So with that, I think what I might do is give you a quick rundown of our three core values. So we call them (John speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth). The (term in Nuu-chah-nulth) is the first one. It's a value that essentially means greater respect or utmost respect. Respect that isn't just the word; it transcends the word. It's a way of thinking and being. It originates in how decisions and agreements between families and groups, and tribes existed within the West Coast scenario, West Coast historical example. Because we didn't have the written word, decisions were made, agreements were made in public during Potlatch or similar interactions. Because when one tribe negotiates a peace treaty, based on certain circumstances, or certain things being taken into account, or when a tribe interacts with another tribe, they agree to trade resources, especially if winter is bad, somebody needs to remember that. And sometimes those agreements may only become relevant twenty or forty from now. And it's that snot-nosed 18-year-old kid in the corner is the only one who was in the room to remember that. So a lot of our governance was conducted, kind of by the light of the big house fire. And so our people, for the most part, through their family members who were in the room, or if they themselves were intending to Potlatch, they expected to have eyes in on how those decisions were made. And that's the basis by which our culture created a sense of confidence in the whole way of making decisions or politicians or leaders have that confidence because people could, indirectly at the very least see into the reasons why and what was decided didn't exist for quite a long time. But now modern technology is allowing for that to happen once more. So we're hoping to incorporate our values in such a way that takes that into account. And we don't want to stumble as much so that's the first value. You understand You have to demonstrate publicly, actions and words that demonstrate respect and recognition when you're a visitor, and when you're a host, and those actions and behaviours and words in regards to respect, need to be reciprocated. So it's a bit of a, it's a bit of a play, in terms of like onstage and making sure people see it. But we believe that this is at the core of our cultural expectation, but also is becoming the cultural expectation of people in the world of social media. So there are parallels there that allow us to really adapt to the changing circumstances in the economy. So that's part of it. 

The second part is the idea of (term in Nuu-chah-nulth). So it's, it's a verb, that means taking care of. It has two sides to it, one of which I can't really get into. But it covers the conduct of our hereditary leaders. So how do they take care of their people, their lands, their waters, something we call our health, which is more than just the land and water and people it's actually like, the stories and histories intellectual property. The other part of (term in Nuu-chah-nulth) enshrined in our Constitution and our laws, which is how do we consider the interests of present and future generations when we make decisions politically, economically, socially, in regards to being government? How do we consider what people now need and what people will need in the future? Those are the ations that need to guide us. And so that seems like it's obvious. But it's something that should be enshrined. That's not always the case, in governance, or business practice. And then lastly, and I think, probably the most abstract is the concept of everything is one. It's the idea that all things within the human and the natural, and the spiritual, if you believe in it, worlds have an innate relationship, that that relationship is interconnected, interdependent, and the relationships are reciprocal, and that you don't necessarily need to understand or comprehend all of those relationships and all of how those things interact with one another. But you need to show that you're trying, and you need to appreciate that that exists. And so those three core values form a lot of how we approach governance, whether it be political, social, or economic. So the second part of really, how do we move forward in governing business and politics in a new and good way, is looking back to those core values and seeing how we can incorporate how those activities translate into using modern tools for doing so. So the motto or the words for the void First Nations is ancient spirits, modern mind because we came from a traditional society and one in which our economy was based on how we were back before contact and into that. However, like every living community, in the human world, we're a community that incorporates change and adapts to how things change over time, technology, social, social development, and other things that we take into account. And you can see proof in that, in the interest that new channels people had taken. After contact with Western powers, I believe, somewhere near (inaudible), a blacksmith was captured. And he was asked to make iron tools and metal tools for people so that their lives could be better. We were interested in trading what we had, again, that same advantage that other nations had at the time. Now there were repercussions, surrounding biology and pandemics that we didn't really know about back then. Those situations that to gross and balance and power and influenced us to where we are today. Things are changing now because there's more awareness. And that awareness is allowed for us to assert something that's always been true, but has sometimes been forgotten is conveniently by some that we have a say in what goes on in our territories, especially in BC because we don't have paper papers for the most part that give up the rights that exist innately within us, existing as a community, even though some don't necessarily like that; doesn't matter. 

There are cases going back to King George III that have established that we have rights to our lands and territories. And that that needs to be cleared up by all of these, all of the countries and legal entities that have taken up the cause since then. So we need to translate our core values into how we use those modern tools. And it really comes down to what our overall objectives are as stakeholders and how do we translate that into a system that largely has shareholders who only want one thing. So incorporating that at a boardroom level on the business side is something that we're trying to do. And we are actively doing and learning how to use those tools as time goes by. And so far, we've had a good uptake with that in our partnership with Western forest products. And we're learning how to do it more and what we should talk about to prevent these things in the future, as well. So the lesson we're taking from the forestry example that's occurred up and down the west coast in various ways over the past generations or so. It's how do we inform people as to what the proper conduct is. But in addition, and this is I think the thing that is most pressing for people who will be listening to this is how do we incorporate those decision-making processes when people disagree. And so that's, that's multi-layered because you have different jurisdictions acting. And I think people want to be cognizant and respectful of the relationship between First Nations, their actual and potential authority, and how that interacts with provincial, crown and local government governance. And that's convoluted, and I don't think we have time to talk about all of that. But I do think that it starts with conversations. And it starts with First Nations people being in the relevant rooms. And more importantly, it starts with not just First Nations people are representatives of the community in some official manner. And that's, that's, as we've seen, in the past ten years or so, then a difficult thing to manage, when there are issues that are contentious, like energy, like mining, like forestry. And so I think the first thing I say, or should say, is that we're creating a nation with our own self-government and our own apparatus of power. We have processes to interact with people who have different opinions; they’re strikingly similar to how it works in a local government; you can ask to be delegation to give a presentation. And we only ask that you be to the point and also civil. And that's the first step. And citizens within our community also have a right to be represented by their leaders, be heard at our people's assemblies, and really be involved in decision-making at various levels if the government agrees on how that works. And so far, what I've seen from who its government is that we're more than willing to incorporate disparate voices who may disagree. 

What we need to work on, though, I think, is finding those voices because it's very easy to get siloed into different interest groups in this modern age. And it's our government. And I think any government doesn't have the same gravity as a self-selecting group of like-minded individuals. And so we need to interact with them, but interact with them genuinely. And when our citizens are involved directly with them as citizens or members of houses, families first, not just whatever group they're a part of, that can come later, especially when trust-building is a thing. And just as much as companies can be accused of using First Nations, people and groups as mouthpieces. We have a concern that that can exist on the environmental side as well. But we can put processes in place that allow for that trust to be built in the same way that we've built trust for ourselves; it just takes time.

Jackie: Capital Daily has been following this issue closely. If you want more background, you can listen to our past podcasts that include life at the creek blockades, solutions to protecting BC’s old growth and more. You can also read more about the updates on capitaldaily.ca. Thank you so much for joining the podcast today. If you enjoyed, please leave a rating and review, and subscribe so that you don't miss any episodes going forward. My name is Jackie Lamport. This is the Capital Daily podcast. We'll talk to you tomorrow.