April 22, 2022
North of Victoria, BC, about 100km, is the town of Port Renfrew. Another logging town, which has marinas, hiking trails, campgrounds lies upon Pacheedaht traditional land. About a fifteen-minute drive out of Port Renfrew towards Lake Cowichan is where, for the past year, land defenders have staged the largest protest and act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. This is Fairy Creek. The protest mirrors the War in the Woods, in 1983, when protesters fought the approval of the Macmillan-Bloedal company to deforest Clayquot Sound. Today, the land defenders fight against the Teal-Jones Group, a lumber company which hold title to deforest the Fairy Creek watershed, amongst other tenures. This matter speaks to many issues within it: environmental concern for the remains of our old-growth forest, corporate greed, police brutality and government hypocrisy in their attempt to become “green” while granting more contracts to logging companies. One of the main issues at play is that of Indigenous rights in the area. While some in the Pacheedaht Nation welcome the logging, others oppose it. The complexities of legitimacy between the elected band council and the Hereditary Chiefs is very prevalent. It is a complex issue. What is clear is the act of corporate greed in continuing to take down massive swaths of old-growth forest at the same time as the IPCC calls for emergency environmental actions to be enacted.
I spent time in Fairy Creek as a photographer. While I went with an open mind to document what was happening, what I saw firsthand changed my mind frame from objectivity to disgust. I watched as the police disproportionately arrested and abused Indigenous youth, while leaving white protesters alone. I saw police use unnecessary force on peaceful protesters. When it was made public that the BC police pension fund was invested in BC timber companies, I began to question everything around me, and how it was connected. How could we have faith in a just legal system, when it appears to be rigged to favour corporate interests? Howard Zinn wrote that the laws favour those that are rich enough to go to court and who have the time to wait out the legal process. In that light, we see how the legal apparatus, which we assume is in place to ensure all citizens have equal access to just treatment under the law, favours those with the capital to utilize it. How many Indigenous land defenders at Fairy Creek took time out of their lives, and now face criminal charges, to fight against corporate greed and to ensure the future survival of our forests?
February 12, 2022
To date, over 1200 land defenders have been arrested, and the mass protests in Fairy Creek have all but ended. No major legislation has been passed to protect the Fairy Creek watershed, and Teal Jones continues to log the area.
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