Islanders rally to protect old growth

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About 120 people lined the road in front of the Salt Spring RCMP station on Saturday to demand the halt to logging of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island. 

They also rallied to express support for the Rainforest Flying Squad, the name adopted by people who started making camps and blockades last summer in the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew, where some of the last three per cent of old-growth forest in B.C. is located. 

A number of Salt Spring Islanders have been participating in blockades, including Kim Murray, who updated Saturday’s crowd on what is happening at six sites. Because media have recently been denied access by the RCMP, she said, it’s impossible to get clear and unbiased information, but Murray described a “militarized” police presence and arrests of protesters taking place “as we speak.”

“There’s no legal support allowed in, so no lawyers, no police liaison. Nobody except a militarized police force, with helicopters — I don’t know how much we are spending on this as taxpayers — every camp is getting dive-bombed by helicopters. Right now there are people in tree platforms getting trees felled right beside them with no industry supervision, no RCMP supervision, and we are not allowed in to provide any support.”

On May 17, police began enforcing an April 1 B.C. Supreme Court injunction granted to Teal-Jones Group of Surrey, which has a provincial government licence to log in the area. 

Tom Mitchell has been to the blockade camps seven times in the past several months, camping on four occasions and doing day trips for the other three. He estimates about 60 Salt Spring individuals have participated in blockades at various times, with small camping pods created to minimize interactions due to COVID.  

“The Salt Springers are very well regarded as being creative and engaged,” Mitchell said.

Since the rally, carpooling is being arranged to make it easier for people to make the trip. 

Organizers also ask people to write letters to and phone the offices of Premier John Horgan, forests minister Katrine Conroy, environment minister George Heyman and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

For more on this story, see the May 26, 2021 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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