Protesters staged logging skits using chain-less chainsaws in Centennial Square on Friday, then marched with placards to the legislature demanding that the provincial government stop cutting old-growth forests.
About 250 people took part in the Victoria march. Thousands more hit the streets in 28 communities across the province. Others bombarded social media channels with “virtual blitzes,” calling on leaders for more sustainable forest management in British Columbia.
Regine Klein, who has been part of the blockade at the Fairy Creek logging site near Port Renfrew for months, said the co-ordinated event across the province sent a strong message.
“We have been waiting decades for a government that values and prioritizes old-growth forest protection on Vancouver Island,” said Klein. She said the NDP government should see the march as “the last shot across its bow,” before protests escalate “that will make the 1990’s Clayoquot Sound war in the woods look like a quaint disagreement.”
Kathleen Code, spokeswoman for the Raincoast Flying Squad, said the march also coincided with members of the Fairy Creek blockade submitting legal paperwork for an injunction application hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.
The blockade was granted a three-week reprieve this month to prepare its defence after logging company Teal Jones brought the injunction application to remove protesters and roadblocks from entry points to its Tree Forest Licence 46.
Protesters have also set up satellite camps to prevent old-growth logging in other areas, including the Walbran Valley, Bugaboo Creek near Avatar Grove, and Edinburgh Mountain.
Teal Jones is trying to build a road to a ridge above the Fairy Creek Valley near Port Renfrew, home to some of the last old-growth stands in the area.
Protesters have been blocking that entry point since August 2020.
“I think this march shows citizens are beginning to find their voices, and that the government is going to have to listen to them,” Code said Friday.
A virtual hearing is scheduled for March 27 in B.C. Supreme Court.
In its injunction application, Teal Jones is also asking the court to authorize the RCMP to arrest and remove anyone contravening a potential order.
Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, one of defendants named in the injunction application and a speaker at Friday’s march, said the Fairy Creek Valley has spiritual significance and is endangered by clear-cutting.
A coalition of environmental groups say the provincial government’s Old Growth Strategic Review announced last September to improve management of old-growth forests and defer harvesting in nine areas represents “a small fraction” of the most at-risk forests.
The groups say there’s no work plan, dates or funding to back the review, and that logging of old-growth forests continues.
Klein said the protesters are not against logging in the province. Rather, organizers of the march said they want “equitable, nature-based, and community-first approaches to forestry management.”
March spokesperson Hania Peper said: “There is an illusion of abundance in B.C. when it comes to our forests and the jobs created by the industry. But in actuality, our wilderness — along with the jobs that have historically depended on its logging — have been corroding.”
In a statement on March 12, Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said the province is developing a new approach to how old-growth forests are managed. “We know some are calling for an immediate moratorium, but this approach risks thousands of good family-supporting jobs. We know others have called for no changes to logging practices, but this could risk damage to key ecosystems.”
— With files from Roxanne Egan-Elliott and Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative