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Saanich councillor heads to blockade with other Island politicians, hoping to get arrested

When Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers carpooled to the Fairy Creek area Monday with other local politicians, she was hoping to get arrested.
Metchosin Coun. Andy MacKinnon and Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers at a blockade in the Fairy Creek area on Monday. VIA FACEBOOK

When Saanich Coun. Nathalie Chambers carpooled to the Fairy Creek area Monday with other local politicians, she was hoping to get arrested.

In the end, though, when police threatened Chambers with arrest for a criminal offence, rather than a civil offence — as for most arrests under the injunction against blocking logging roads — she moved outside their exclusion zone.

Chambers, who had been to the protests against old-growth logging a handful of times already, said she was standing up to protect crucial habitats for wildlife that depend on old-growth forests.

“There is so much important and endangered wildlife in old-growth forests that not protecting them now in the climate emergency is absolutely regrettable,” said Chambers, who stressed she was participating in the protest as an individual.

Chambers said she wanted to witness police enforcement of a court injunction granted to Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group to clear the way for logging. She said she set up a chair close to officers as they removed activists who had cemented themselves into the ground, and was trying to get arrested until she was threatened with being charged with a criminal offence.

Metchosin Coun. Andy MacKinnon, who was a forest ecologist for the province for two decades, was another local politician in Monday’s group, saying he wanted to get a sense of how enforcement was playing out for protesters and the police.

MacKinnon, who helped develop the province’s old-growth strategy in the early 1990s, said he is frustrated with what he called the “complete and total abdication of leadership by the provincial government” that has forced the months-long protest. “If successive provincial governments had taken any actions to implement any of the recommendations from that report … we certainly wouldn’t have been in the position we’re in today.”

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, who is in the process of becoming a lawyer, said he was in the area Monday as a legal assistant collecting information for affidavits related to the towing of cars that are not blocking the logging roads. RCMP officers have facilitated towing for vehicles blocking the road as part of their enforcement of the injunction, but Isitt said he witnessed cars being “illegally” towed.

Isitt was also there because his mother was part of a convoy of Elders for Ancient Trees, a group of seniors who have organized regular trips into the blockaded area. His mother was one of three in the group arrested Monday, he said.

Isitt said he had visited the camps several times since August, when the first blockade went up to prevent road building into the Fairy Creek watershed, and has been personally invited by Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones, who has been a vocal opponent of old-growth logging.

“I believe strongly we have to stop the liquidation of the last stands of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island,” Isitt said.

He said he hasn’t participated in protests since the injunction was issued in April, because he does not want to be arrested while he is in the process of being admitted to the Law Society of B.C.

Other Island politicians who joined the group include Comox Valley Regional District’s Daniel Arbour and Arzeena Hamir, Comox Coun. Nicole Minions and Cowichan Valley Regional District director Alison Nicholson.

As of Monday, RCMP officers had arrested 185 people since they began enforcing the court injunction three weeks ago.

Enforcement continued Tuesday, despite a declaration by the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations that they’re calling for a deferral of old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas while they prepare stewardship plans. The nations are not providing information to define the boundaries of the areas where they want to defer old-growth logging until the province responds.

A deferral requires approval from the B.C. government, and Premier John Horgan has promised a “prompt response.”

The RCMP said in a statement that they have not been advised of any changes to the current harvest and are still required by the court injunction, which lasts until Sept. 26, to continue enforcement.

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