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More than 100 people blockade B.C. legislature in ‘sit-in’ against old-growth logging

Click to play video: 'Protesters greet first day of fall sitting of B.C. legislature'
Protesters greet first day of fall sitting of B.C. legislature
Small groups of protesters blocked some of the entrances to the B.C. legislature on Monday as the fall sitting began. As Kylie Stanton reports, their biggest beef is what they call the broken environmental promises of the NDP government – Oct 4, 2021

More than 100 environmental advocates have encircled the B.C. legislature, blocking doors in an effort to pressure politicians to stop giving the green light to logging in old-growth forest.

The sit-in began around 8:30 a.m. Monday as MLAs reconvened in Victoria for the first day of the fall session.

“We are here today to call on the B.C. NDP government to enact a total ban on old-growth logging, stop their ‘talk and log’ tradition, listen to their own scientists, and release their most recent technical panel report of independent foresters,” said Rhia, a protester who declined to give her last name.

“We want to remind the government of their promises and to listen to the will of the people and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, which has also called for a moratorium on old-growth logging.”

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READ MORE: B.C. logging injunction at Fairy Creek extension denied by judge

The advocates published a list of demands for elected officials, including government accountability for mass arrests at the Fairy Creek blockade and the disproportionate violence suffered by Indigenous, Black and People of Colour who attended.

Last week, a B.C. court judge denied an application to extend an injunction against blockades at the southern Vancouver Island logging site, citing “substantial infringements of civil liberties,” and the need to protect the court from “further depreciation of its reputation.”

“This isn’t just about Fairy Creek, that’s just a place to take a stand,” said Rhia. “This is about all old-growth logging in B.C.”

Click to play video: 'Fairy Creek injunction extension quashed by judge claimed as a victory by protestors'
Fairy Creek injunction extension quashed by judge claimed as a victory by protestors

Advocates dressed in tree-like costumes, placed signs and a large tree stump in front of the legislature, calling attention to Indigenous rights, the climate crisis and sustainability.

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They asked the government to quit “trampling” the rights of sovereign First Nations who have declared logging deferrals on their own territories while providing investments and alternatives to First Nations whose livelihood remains tied to old-growth logging.

Cabinet ministers must also introduce a transition strategy for workers and communities “based on sustainable and restorative second-growth forests,” retool local mills and ban raw log exports, says a Monday news release.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain worker knocked out by fallen tree branch; tree-sit camps dismantled

“We’re not against logging, it’s the old-growth logging that has to stop Mr. Horgan,” said protester Mel McLachlan. “Cut it out, and get onside with the people.”

The group has committed to a sit-in outside the legislature of at least 10 hours.

In an interview with Global News, B.C. Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Katrine Conroy said, “our agenda is to ensure that we are protecting old-growth, and we are going to do that.

Conroy said the government will implement all 14 recommendations from the independent strategic review of old-growth forest management, and that work is underway now.

Click to play video: 'Protesters claim underhanded tactics by police and forest company at Fairy Creek logging blockade'
Protesters claim underhanded tactics by police and forest company at Fairy Creek logging blockade

The minister said more deferrals are coming, in partnership with First Nations, and in careful consideration of the economic impact they’ll have on communities.

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“I respect and understand their frustrations, I respect the right to peaceful protest,” she said.

Demonstrators said old-growth logging is not the only threat to the province’s forests, which also face destruction from climate change, wildfires and more.

“I believe our ecology is inextricably linked with our future and if we don’t have a biodiverse ecology, we don’t have a future,” protester Shoshanah Waxman added.

“Economics will never solve the problem, only intact ecosystems will.”

More to come.

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