Fairy Creek online fundraiser frozen; group moves to new platform

A group fundraising to ­support efforts to stop logging of old-growth trees on southwest Vancouver Island has moved to a new platform after having its funds frozen for a second time.

The fundraiser on GoFundMe, called “Direct action for the last ancient rainforests,” has raised about $710,000 since it was started last September. Comments on the page show donations were still coming in as recently as three days ago, but a note now says the organizer has disabled new donations to the fundraiser.

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Kathy Code, a spokeswoman for Rainforest Flying Squad, which is associated with a series of blockades on logging roads near Port Renfrew to prevent old-growth logging, said around $1,000 of the money raised has been temporarily frozen by GoFundMe and is inaccessible to the group, but the rest of the funds have already been withdrawn.

The group has decided to shift to a fundraising platform called Fundrazer, with headquarters in Vancouver, to avoid further issues, she said. The new fundraiser has already collected nearly $150,000.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe did not answer questions about why the funds were frozen, but said in a statement: “We are in touch with the organizers of the fundraiser. Funds are being safely held with our payment processor while we gather more information.”

Donations to the group are used to maintain camps where people have gathered to protest old-growth logging, providing accommodations to stay warm and dry, supplies to communicate in the remote area where there is no cellphone service, transportation and other initiatives, such as promotional materials, according to the web page.

The funds also go toward legal defence for the more than 400 people who have been arrested in an injunction zone, Code said.

A court injunction granted to forestry company Teal-Jones Group in April prohibits ­people from blocking access to the large injunction zone. The injunction does not prohibit peaceful protest, as long as the terms of the order are followed.

While many camped out in the area are not actively blocking Teal-Jones crews, others are chaining themselves to objects to prevent logging.

Code said the money raised is only being used for legal protest activities.

“The public understands the reason why they’re donating, and they’re prepared to donate multiple times, and then, you know, significant sums of money,” she said. “We’re into our eleventh month and people still have faith in us. And obviously they wouldn’t donate if they thought that there was any abuse of the funds.”

The GoFundMe was also frozen in early June when the platform wanted assurances the money was being used for the purposes stated, Code said.

The group was able to satisfy GoFundMe staff then that the funds are being used appropriately, she said.

“I don’t know why they have decided the second time that perhaps we’re not following that.”

The group suspects GoFundMe was pressured to freeze the page.

Forestry company Teal-Jones did not respond to questions about whether it contacted GoFundMe about the fundraiser.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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