Capital Daily

Why the Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht, Ditidaht First Nations Are Calling For Deferrals

Episode Summary

We speak to Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. about the decision behind the three nations’ joint call for logging deferrals on their land. We also look into what areas will be affected and how this could impact the Fairy Creek Blockades.

Episode Notes

We speak to Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. about the decision behind the three nations’ joint call for logging deferrals on their land. We also look into what areas will be affected and how this could impact the Fairy Creek Blockades.  


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Episode Transcription

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

Jackie: My name is Jackie Lamport. Today is Tuesday, June 8th. Welcome to the Capital Daily Podcast. The three First Nations councils whose land the blockades are on have released a statement demanding deferrals for certain areas. We speak to Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. to learn more. 

Jackie: Monday morning, the Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht, and Ditidaht First Nations released a joint statement that declared they would be taking back decision-making responsibilities within their traditional territories. In the statement, they announced that on Saturday, they formally gave notice to the province to defer old-growth logging for two years in the Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran areas while the Nations prepare their plans. According to a statement from Pacheedaht First Nation forestry manager Rod Bealing to The Narwhal, the deferrals include any road-building in the Fairy Creek headwaters. According to a statement from the Rainforest Flying Squad, logging will still be allowed on Edinburgh Mountain, in the Caycuse, Camper Creek, the Upper Walbran, Bugaboo Creek, and it is unclear what it means for 2000 Road, Granite Creek, and parts of the Central Walbran. The Fairy Creek Blockades are spaced out in the large area between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan, with a few blocking the logging roads into Fairy Creek, a few in the Caycuse area, one in Walbran, and another near Eden Grove. With most of these areas being excluded in the deferrals, the group has again doubled down on their invitation for protesters to join the blockades. In their statement, they said, "Any deferral on Fairy Creek must include the entire 2,080 hectares Fairy Creek Rainforest, not just the old-growth within the watershed." However, they did call this a "very small victory." BC Premier John Horgan released a statement saying they "honour the declaration" and "are pleased to enter into respectful discussions with the Nations regarding their request." Last week when announcing the NDP government's intentions for a modern forestry policy, John Horgan said it would be an act of colonialism to go against the land holder's wishes.

John Horgan (audio clip): And the critical recommendation that's at play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders, the people whose land these forests are growing on, and that in this instance, is the Pacheedaht and further into TFL (Tree Farm License) 46 and TFL 44, the Ditidaht and the Huu-ay-aht, and those consultations have to take place. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place, that would be returned to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to as a result of issues in Kamloops this week. I'm not prepared to do that. And I think most British Columbians understand that we need to preserve these forests. We need to do it in a way that's mindful of the titleholders that the traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples who have been there for millennia, and we have to build out a plan that has buy-in from everybody. 

Jackie: To get more specifics on the camps and cut blocks and what potentially will be affected, Emily Vance spent many hours today staring at cut block maps and maps of the current blockades. She's going to help us break that down. But before we get to that, we speak to Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. to learn more about why the nations came together for the statement and what they want to come with it. Hi, Robert, how are you today?

Robert: I'm doing good. It's been a very busy day. 

Jackie: I can imagine. First, can you just kind of break down what the new statement is?

Robert: Well, what the new statement is, the Pacheedaht, the Ditidaht and the Huu-ay-aht, have announced the declaration and the contents of it. And basically, the whole idea is that we want to do some work to develop an integrated resource management plan for each of the First Nations. And we need a couple of years to do that. And we want to be in a position to say what the forestry practices will be in each of our territories, and we ask the public to respect that. Also, we are addressing the issues of deferrals in Fairy Creek and Walbran, releasing a statement saying that we'd like to see those deferral requests approved, and we'll hope to hear from the province within the next day or two. 

Jackie: I know that John Horgan, last week in his press conference, where he announced the NDP's intentions for a modern forestry policy. He did say that it would be an "act of colonialism" to defer logging if it was against the wishes of the First Nations. I mean, given that he's taking the side of going with what you wish, do you expect there to be any pushback on this at all?

Robert: We'll see. We met in good faith, and we hope that he will honour our request and that they're aware of it. We set up a team I agreed to by the province and the three nations, and people got to work over the weekend. And the deferral list was established by the First Nations, and that's what we're presenting for their review and consideration either tomorrow or the next day. And hopefully, that'll result in an order in council.

Jackie: What was the discussion like among the council leaders?

Robert: It was a very, very good discussion, very respectful. And it's my view that the Premier and his government respected our approach to addressing how forestry management should happen in each of our territories.

Jackie: And what do you want from protestors now? 

Robert: Well, that from the protesters, if I keep saying this over and over, I respect their rights to protest. As a matter of fact, some of their issues and their protests are compatible with what we want to achieve in our forest management. What I don't like is how they're doing it, and we'd appreciate it if they respect the decision of our people once the plan is developed. So that's, that's my end goal and my end hope. Hopefully, they respect the decision of the First Nations because they have constantly protected constitutionally protected rights to the harvest cedar for our needs. So, again, I just hope that they respect that.

Jackie: Why now? Did all three of the nations come together because of the rising tensions? 

Robert: No, actually, it has nothing to do with that. The Huu-ay-aht First Nation has been working for years now on a plan to acquire an interest in TFL 44. And one of the reasons we are pursuing interest was that we wanted to be participating in how the forest is managed in our territory. And so this is what we came up with that puts us in the management seat. And if and when we acquire 51% interest, we will have the management authority. When we feel comfortable, we'll be able to apply the values and the principles of how a forest is managed in and each of our Chief's territories.

Jackie: When you are weighing in the decision on how to proceed with old-growth logging after the deferrals, what are the most important factors that you are taking into account?

Robert: Well, I think that's too early to answer that question. Because like I said, we want to go to our community and have input from our community. We want to be seen as leading the discussion. I have some ideas that I'd prefer that our citizens be given a chance to respond in the context that they want to, without being led or influenced by leadership. This is going to be truly a community-led process. And we'd like to keep it that way. The best way to do that is to avoid any leading statements.

Jackie: With the Fairy Creek blockades, there's been a lot of dissent within the Pacheedaht First Nation, and elder Bill Jones is at the forefront of the movement. And there's a lot of Indigenous activists organizing the protests. You said this is going to be a community-led approach going forward, and is this something that you hope to resolve internally then?

Robert: Definitely. When Chief Jones had reached out to us, he needed help to come into the community to talk to their people. This is going to be a community-led process, and Bill Jones and Pacheedaht will participate in that process.

Jackie: There's also been a lot of discussion from all sides. There's the province, Teal-Jones, and the blockaders. And then there's also been the findings in the Old Growth Strategic Review. There's a lot going on. How do you cut through the noise and focus on the needs of your nation?

Robert: Well, that's what leads back to my earlier statement that we don't want to go into an engagement with our community with all these things. We're going to ask them, "What do you want our forest management to look like?" So here's your chance to have your input and your say. I think our community is very interested in forestry management because when we moved to acquire 35% interest of TFL 44, 82% of our people said, "Go for it." So there's a definite interest in our community to pursue forest management in our territories. And one of the reasons is that it's now time for us to manage through the values and principles of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation. 

Jackie: And then, if you said you're going to be doing community engagement, if it did come down to your community not wanting to log specific old growth, is that something that would be respected?

Robert: Oh, yeah, that's the whole purpose of this.

Jackie: So the deferrals are going to be for working things out within your community. 

Robert: Yeah, they're seen as a temporary action to get us to meet with our community; we'll defer those. So further down the road, hopefully, our citizens will be able to make well-informed decisions based on the information presented to them. We'd like to present them with factual information, and our intent would be that we hire independent outside people to provide the necessary data needed to make an informed decision.

Jackie: Is there anything else that you would want people who are invested in this issue to know?

Robert: Yeah, really the most important thing for all three of us has been that, for four years, people from outside forces, colonial jurisdictions, tried to tell us how to manage our lands, and then actually took our rights to manage our land and we had poor managers. I think the results we see today were that a big huge mess is left to be cleaned up. So we feel it's our duty and our responsibility to find a way to clean up that mess, and we're going to give it our best effort. And we want to find a sustainable way to do it. That's why we're going to the community. 

Jackie: Emily, thank you for your hours of time digesting all of this information today. There's a lot of it. Let's start with the basics. How many hectares is Fairy Creek? 

Emily: So Fairy Creek lies within a massive tree farm license, that's TFL 46. That's where all of the protests have been taking place and all of the different blockades. There are many cut blocks within it. So the Fairy Creek watershed itself isn't super large. In this context, it's 1200 hectares, but it's 1199 hectares, to be exact. 

Jackie: How much of that is up for logging? 

Emily: So 200 hectares of it are available in total for logging. But Teal-Jones currently only has plans to log 20 hectares of it this year. And so the question that's still outstanding is whether or not the old-growth deferrals announced by the three First Nations are going to include the Fairy Creek watershed or the area adjacent to Fairy Creek as well. That is also quite a lot of old-growth a lot of the protesters are calling to be protected. So in reaction on Monday, you saw the Rainforest Flying Squad speak out and say they're hoping for the Fairy Creek watershed is a total of 2080 Hector's to be protected. To fully visualize that, if you were to look at the Fairy Creek watershed, if you were to lie down, this is an analogy that I am stealing from Torrance Cost of the wilderness committee. If you were to lie down with your head at the top of the watershed and your feet on the Pacific Marine Road, then the area that falls outside the watershed that is in two large cut blocks that blockaders are calling to protect that area would straddle your head, like a pair of over-ear headphones or a lion's mane would. Okay, I think it's important to note that a lot of the time, you hear people say, "Well, most of the Fairy Creek watershed is already protected." A lot of it is protected by wildlife habitat areas and old-growth management strategies. Those are two really common forest designations that protect old-growth without going through the process of designating a Provincial Park. However, there is still a cut block there, and activists are against old-growth logging or saying. "Do not build whatsoever into the watershed." 

Jackie: One of the things that we're not sure about is the road building. Can you explain that?

Emily: What's being blockaded against in the Fairy Creek watershed with Waterfall Camp and Ridge Camp is roadbuilding into the watershed by Teal-Jones. And we weren't able to get answers on that personally today. However, The Narwhal did report on Monday morning that roadbuilding would not be allowed into Fairy Creek and that all industry work would be paused in the Fairy Creek watershed. So while we didn't get independent verification, they did. They quoted Rob Bealing, the Forestry Manager of the Pacheedaht. 

Jackie: This statement doesn't just impact Fairy Creek as we know the blockades extend outside of Fairy Creek and into some other areas. What does this mean for the active blockades outside Fairy Creek?

Emily: Yeah, so it's all really hard to say right now. One thing that we do know for sure is that active logging will still go on in the Caycuse area. That's been a sign of active logging since you know these blockades began. And today's deferral doesn't touch any part of that. So if you're not familiar with that, it's directly north of Fairy Creek. Another big question from today that we couldn't get answers to is, what parts of the central Walbran area will be protected? So central Walbran has long been a target of environmentalists on the coast. That's the area that's quite close to the southeastern end of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, one of the closest blockades to that is Eden Grove. We weren't able to get answers on that either. And so Central Walbran is the area just west of Eden Grove, and that's where Big Lonely Doug stands as well. The rain forest flying squad put out their reaction yesterday. They also said that logging, as far as they understand, will still be allowed on Edinburgh Mountain in the Caycuse around Camper Creek and the upper Walbran and Bugaboo Creek. They're not entirely sure about what it means for the 2000 Road blockade, the Granite Creek area and parts of central Walbran. So everyone's reserving judgment until we figure out exactly what will be included in this deferral.

Jackie: You also reached out to the RCMP to find out if there have been any changes since this statement was put out. What did you find?

Emily: I reached out to the BC RCMP. This is what Sergeant Chris Manzo said to me. "We are aware of the joint statement made earlier today by the Huu-ay-aht, Pacheedaht, and Ditidaht First Nations, and we understand that the Premier has also issued a statement and acknowledgement. The RCMP is engaged with stakeholders and has not been advised of any changes in the current harvest." They say that they are working with stakeholders and that the current injunction order that they have started on April 1st and it lasts until midnight on September 22nd. As far as the RCMP is concerned, this order is a mandatory direction they have to follow until they hear otherwise. So we will see active enforcement in this area continue.

Jackie: You and I have both been following this for quite a while. So I want to talk a little bit more about what is to come with this. We are still unsure what the exact details are. And we'll find out when the province responds in a couple of days. We know that the nations are hesitant to respond about specifics until they hear that response. So right now, everybody's kind of in limbo. As you said, the blockaders continue, and the RCMP continues enforcement. But let's say that it does end up that the Fairy Creek is protected and the one the road building is stopped or deferred. Would you expect the blockaders to move their headquarters and redeploy to the different areas where it isn't going to be deferred?

Emily: Well, we have seen the call-outs for additional support. When people arrive at headquarters, they're told by the Rain Forest Flying Squad and their associates where they're needed. And so I think it is entirely likely, especially given the Rain Forest Flying Squad's announcement on Monday, that they will continue on with the work that they're doing with the authority of Bill Jones. And I think it is entirely likely that we'll see blockades pop up or and more active blockading going on in the Caycuse area and some of the areas that are still at risk. Basically, from what I've understood is that people want to see the end of old-growth logging in these areas in these rich, productive, biodiverse valley bottoms. And I don't think that this is going to stop them. However, I mean, it does make it a little bit more complicated. You have the three nations whose territory this tree farm license falls on, saying, "Please don't interfere." So it's really hard to say. 

Jackie: That part has been huge; going through this entire thing is the actual nations are not supporting the protests. Now you have a joint statement from all three saying, "Please respect us." So that is going to make things a lot more difficult. And then also, this is more speculative, but when you look at it, from a branding point of view, it's been very successful. I, say, Fairy Creek is the part that's saved or deferred and saved. For now, then they are going to have to go through this process of rebranding. And they have been doing that because they had the "last stand." And you're right, and this kind of transformed into a movement that's not just about saving a specific area of forest, but stopping old-growth logging. It's tough to say what the future holds. But I do think that this is a time where things are going to shift.

Emily: Yeah, I agree. And like you mentioned, we're seeing a whole new generation of forest activists springing up, and it will be interesting to see where people choose to go here. I guess we will have to wait a couple of days and see what the province responds to and how that changes things. We'll stay on this story, this ever-evolving, multifaceted story. 

Jackie: Thanks, Emily. This story goes back a long time, and it will go forward for a long time as well. And we have been following it and will continue to follow it. So if you want to get some more backstory on what's going on, then listen to any of our previous episodes on it, or visit for all the written work by our fellow journalists.