The Haida Nation has set up a number of blockades around the Queen Charlotte Islands to protest the transfer of Weyerhaeuser’s tree-farm licence to Brascan, complaining it wasn’t properly consulted by British Columbia (B.C.) provincial government. Protesters have blocked roads to logging camps and began a convoy Wednesday that was joined by people as it passed through the communities from Old Massett to Queen Charlotte City. The protesters, who have virtually stopped forestry operations, have also tied up barge traffic this week and forced the shutdown of the Ministry of Forests office in Queen Charlotte City.
Brascan announced last month that it would acquire private coastal forest land and Crown timber rights from U.S.-based Weyerhaeuser in a $1.2-billion deal scheduled to be completed in June.
Haida spokesperson Gilbert Parnell says they want to stop logging in environmentally sensitive areas. And he says they want to stop the sale of Weyerhaeuser’s operations to Brascan until those concerns are dealt with.
Last November, the Supreme of Canada ruled that the B.C. government must consult more meaningfully with First Nations on land-use issues. Council of the Haida Nations President Guujaaw says the logging company and the province are not just ignoring the Supreme Court ruling, but also community concerns. “There is an opportunity now to…create a sustainable economy on this island, but if it keeps on going the way it is now, we are going to lose that,” he says.
Guujaw asked Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson to personally intervene in the dispute earlier this week. She has yet to respond to the request.
If the government doesn’t budge, Port Clement Mayor Dale Lore says there is widespread support amongst the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities for a complete shutdown of all logging on the islands by the weekend. “I’ve been going to my MLA, Bill Belsey, and saying, ‘Please talk to, please consult with the Haida – if you don’t at least talk, you are defying a Supreme Court order and my town is going to get caught in the middle.'” He added. “Every day the government doesn’t act, it will expand. There’s very little left until they’ve shut everything down here.”
Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Sarah Goodman says it’s not the company’s responsibility to consult with the Haida about the timber license sale to Brascan.
B.C. Forests Minister Mike de Jong says the province doesn’t have to consult over the Weyerhaeuser deal, because it involves the transfer of an existing forest license.
B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant says the B.C. government has little interest in talking to people who block roads.
The Council of the Haida Nations Forest Guardians sums up the struggle this way, “The old forests of Haida Gwaii have sustained and continue to sustain our way of life. In the past fifty years, industrial logging has transformed the landscape of Haida Gwaii from diverse old forest to young, even-aged stands of one or two species. The major river systems that once provided Haida villages with salmon; large cedars for longhouses and monumental art; and, plants for food, medicines, fiber and animal habitat have been eradicated by logging without consideration for these values.”
”The Haida Nation is not against logging per se, but believes that logging can be done in a more responsible manner. Our position is that some places must be left intact and that logging be practiced in a way that does not spoil the land or waterways. This applies to every one who is logging. Nobody, including ourselves, has the right to wreck the land.” Sources: Council of the Haida Nations Forest Guardians, Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, CBC, Peace, Earth and Justice News