• Vigilance

It’s All About the Numbers: In Canada, it’s still possible to help save the planet.

Updated: Oct 16



Text and Photos by Karen Moe aka Tanager





Glossary of terms:


The Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS): a volunteer driven, grassroots, non-violent direct action movement that is committed to protecting the last stands of globally significant ancient temperate rainforest on Vancouver Island.

Soft blocks: barricades made of rocks, logs, piles of dirt or trenches.

Hard blocks: barricades that Forest Defenders lock themselves into.

A Sleeping Dragon: a hard block where a Forest Defender puts their arm in a hole, locks themselves in and lies on the logging road to block industry.

The Sleeping Dragon Trench: Forest Defenders lie down at the bottom of a deep trench dug across a logging road and lock themselves into sleeping dragons.

Exclusion Zones: illegal blockades set up by the RCMP far from the sites where they extract the Forest Defenders from their hard blocks so that neither the media nor the public can witness their increasingly violent behaviour. Exclusion Zones have been proclaimed illegal by the BC Supreme Court, but the RCMP are not obeying these orders.

The Green Guys: RCMP paramilitary who lead RCMP attacks on the Forest Defenders and their camps.

The RCMP: mercenaries for industry.

Premier John Horgan and the NDP: servants to industry and the exploitation of the land for short-term profit.

Teal-Jones: the logging corporation that the BC government granted a 25 year license to clear cut 60,000 hectares of Southern Vancouver Island, including 2061 hectares of Old Growth.

Settlers: Canadians, like myself, whose ancestors immigrated from other countries (primarily Europe) and who have benefited from the colonization of the Indigenous people and the exploitation of their unceded territory. I feel that, as a settler, it’s my responsibility to support Indigenous people and help to end the exploitation of their unceded territory for the benefit of all, including other species and the earth.



I arrived heart-broken; I left elated. What happened? A Victory at Fairy Creek.


As is always the case in a world that is ruled by corporate greed, you don’t really know what’s happening at a place where people are fighting for justice until you go there. And this is especially true of Fairy Creek BC, the site of the Old Growth logging blockade organized by the Rainforest Flying Squad that has been entrenched in the mountains of unceded Pacheedaht territory and the neighbouring territory of the Ditidaht First Nation since August 2020.


On April 12th, 2021, all the mainstream news outlets blasted the same story: "The Pacheedaht [Indian Band Council] asked protesters to leave their territory, saying: “We do not welcome or support ­unsolicited involvement or interference by others in our territory, including third-party activism.” They all left out the part that the Indian Band Council does not represent the wishes of all of the Pacheedaht people and that Elder Bill Jones and Kati George-Jim have invited—even implored—the Forest Defenders to stay and help protect their sacred lands.[1] Pacheedaht Nation wants Fairy Creek blockade to leave, called out the National Observer; 'We do not welcome interference': When First Nations break with environmentalists, proclaimed the National Post; B.C. First Nation at odds with anti-logging protesters, boomed the Globe & Mail. And so forth.


Mainstream media also leaves out the part that the Indian Band Councils were set up at the same time as the Indian residential schools and the RCMP; they are all continuations of the Canadian colonial state. When the BC and Canadian governments proclaim that they have consulted the First Nations, they have only consulted the colonized: the coerced. [2]


On June 7th 2021, all the big news outlets reported that the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht, and Pacheedaht First Nations had formally given notice to the province of their decision to defer Old Growth logging for two years in the Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran areas. "All current logging will be put on hold," Chief Coun. Robert J. Dennis Sr. of the Huu-ay-aht Indian Band Council was quoted by the CBC.[3] They do not tell us that ‘all current logging’ has not stopped. This repetition in the media of “all” is only 884 of the 2061 hectares of Old Growth at Fairy Creek and there is also an adjacent 1117 hectares that remains at risk. [4] The chainsaws have still been raging (whenever they can get past the Forest Defenders, that is); the RCMP have been serving Teal-Jones to try and keep the logging roads open; all the Old Growth at Road 2000 and Caycuse Valley where Western Screech Owls were nesting was clear cut after the two-year deferral of ‘all’ Old Growth logging; with the losing of Landback Bridge to the RCMP on August 26th, the pristine forest between what was once Heli-Ridge and Ridge Camp is at high risk of being clearcut in the near future regardless of the two-year deferral (see a photo of this magical forest below); Teal-Jones has been grabbing as many of the sometimes over 1000-year-old trees as fast as they can from the 1117 hectares that is not protected. When not all the Indigenous peoples of the territory are consulted, all the Old Growth under threat is not included in the moratorium and not accounted for by the government.


Unprotected Old Growth Forest between Heli-Ridge and Ridge Camp.


Until Saturday the 14th of August, I hadn’t visited the blockades since June 24th. As in any war, Canada’s most recent war in the woods changes rapidly. [5]


The Fairy Creek Blockade and Rainforest Flying Squad’s social media is the pulse of the frontline reportage that comes out of this conflict between corporations and environmentalists, a battle that can be described as guerilla warfare with (some) human rights. Since the two-year deferral and the corresponding manipulation of public opinion, the RCMP have increased their aggression against the Forest Defenders in order to open the roads to what, paradoxically, the citizens of BC have been told isn’t being logged. No one seems to be asking the question: why would the Forest Defenders still be there if they have gotten what they wanted?


Prior to the announcement of the deferral, the RCMP removed the soft blocks by hand; after the announcement, bulldozers were brought in and excavators and jackhammers started to be used to extract the Forest Defenders from the hard blocks. These images are rarely shown on mainstream media.


Before my last visit, I had been watching the daily updates directly from the frontlines of the Forest Defenders. I had been witnessing the extractions from the hard blocks becoming increasingly dangerous. One day, when Forest Defenders were approaching an illegal RCMP exclusion zone, they didn’t even have to cross the line to be arrested. As soon as they arrived, the RCMP reached underneath the tape, grabbed them, forced them across the line, threw them onto the ground and arrested them. Another day, I watched an excavator digging less than five feet from a woman lying on the road in her sleeping dragon. In another, I read about two Indigenous Forest Defenders in a sleeping dragon trench at risk of being buried alive as the excavator drove around the edges and the sides of the trench started to cave in. All that is missing from the RCMP tactics to keep the roads open for industry are assault rifles.



On August 9th, 2021, the one-year anniversary of the Fairy Creek Blockades, the RCMP revved up its aggression and took Head Quarters. I heard on the news the usual: protesters are still there even though there has been a two-year deferral on all logging in the area. First Nations don’t want them there.


Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones welcomes all Forest Defenders


When I arrived at Fairy Creek on Saturday the 14th, I was filled with sadness and anger. I thought it was all over. I thought we had lost. But you never know what is going to happen when you visit Fairy Creek.


We gathered in front of what was once HQ. I met Bill Jones for the first time and heard him speak. He welcomed all of the people there, the majority settlers, [6] and told us that even though we are descendants of the colonizing culture, we were all once Indigenous. We have as much of a right to be there fighting to save what is left of the Old Growth as the Indigenous peoples on whose territory we stood, on whose territory our colonial ancestors exploited, on whose territory many of us have lived all of our lives and also have a deep, emotional connection with. I have never felt so welcome in this fight that is also a part of me.


As opposed to the term of our need to be decolonized, Bill spoke positively, without accusation, of ‘re-indigenizing’ and said that we all contain the same spirit that connects us to what we are fighting for: the ancient trees, the intact ecosystem, the survival of our earth and the future. He encouraged us to be vigilant and continue to recruit our friends and even our enemies into the movement so that we can let the world realize that we are in the peaceful pursuit of regenerating our world economy to be sustainable for all people, what he calls a spiritual economy. He then gave us his blessing for our march: “we will show the world that we are going in peace and happiness knowing that we are the winners.”


Haida Gwaii Matriarchs


As we waited for more people, we were led in song by two Haida Gwaii matriarchs. They shared their traditional ‘Happy Song’ and a birth song. Rat-tail, a Forest Defender who had come all the way from Quesnel BC, revved us up with his passionate protest calls:

“I say earth you say: Mother! I say planet you say: Crisis! I say corporate you say: Greed! I say trees you say: Life!”



Everyone was invited to share their gratitude: “For being invited here to help save the Old Growth; for the Old Growth; for all of us here today fighting together.”

Settler women led us in song:

“We are surrounded by mighty ones, their roots grow deep, into the loving ground.”

“Save the Old Growth, for our kids’ future. Standing together, united together, stop the cutting forever!”

“And we will rise higher and higher on the wings of compassion, justice and love.”



Fortified with compassion and fight, we began the 7 km walk, approximately 250 people of all ages, led by the Haida Gwaii matriarchs in song. We walked through the decimated HQ and up towards River Camp, to confront the RCMP, support the Forest Defenders on the frontlines and find out what is really happening at Fairy Creek, so that we can spread the truth, and recruit more Forest Defenders.




I spied an RCMP scout watching us through binoculars from high up on a distant ridge. I wonder what the RCMP thought, what they strategized, as he reported back about how many of us there were marching with determination and joy.



We came upon that day’s exclusion zone—as usual set up kilometers away from where the RCMP had been extracting and arresting the Forest Defenders. This barricade wasn’t made of the usual line of RCMP officers and a piece of police tape, though. This one was composed of two police trucks, parked at angles, with only about a foot between them. But there were only seven police officers. And over 250 of us. Even though they had the trucks and the guns, we had the power. They couldn’t arrest all of us. “The only thing the RCMP are afraid of is numbers,” stated an RFS Instagram post.



“We have prisoners,” an officer announced.


“Prisoners?” I asked, shocked by the brutal candor of this term. “Don’t you mean the Forest Defenders, the ones who are sacrificing everything to save the planet for you and your children?” No response. Dead stare.



“We need one hour to get them out,” he continued. “The prisoners have been in the van for a long time. They are very hot. They need fresh air.” This was the strategy they had planned: use our own people, the prisoners in the paddy wagon, to discourage us by making us wait in the climate-change heat, ideally coerce at least some of us to head back. It would never take an hour to drive a van around us. He feigned the usual looking-out-for-the-well-being-of-those-they-have just-captured, those whom they call prisoners, those whom they could have given fresh air to if they really cared or, better yet, not arrest people sacrificing everything to save the planet at all. [7]


“Careful. There’s broken glass,” another officer offered a piece of paternal protection as I passed—even though I was wearing hiking boots that have scaled mountain peaks. I laughed.


“If you want to look out for my well-being, and for all of the others, you will stop breaking the hearts of 85% of British Columbians [8] who are concerned about Old Growth logging, what you are supporting, and killing the future by assisting corporations to continue to rape the earth.”


No response.



RCMP paramilitary aka "Green Guy"



I asked an officer, “Did you take River Camp today?”


“Yes,” he replied. My heart fell deeper. If they take River Camp, the logging road will be open for Teal-Jones to continue to log a pristine Old Growth forest, the one that I hiked through for the writing of my first article [9], the most magical place I have ever been—one of the tracts of Old Growth that is not temporarily protected by the two-year moratorium on ‘all’ Old Growth logging in Fairy Creek. Joyfully, I found out soon after, that he had blatantly lied to me.



Unprotected Old Growth Forest at Fairy Creek


A Forest Defender from River Camp had bushwhacked down to give us a message from the frontlines. He stood on the cliff above us and called down: “We are all so excited to see you!” His smile emanated justice and revolution. “We’ll see you all soon!!”


It’s always difficult to know what is the best decision, the best strategy, when confronting the RCMP, when confronting those who have the authority to abuse and arrest, those who, themselves, often should be arrested.[10] The officer said if we let the paddy wagon through, we could pass freely.


We prepared to rush the blockade, to somehow get around and over the RCMP trucks, to not let them take the Forest Defenders. But, in the end, we were led by the wish for a peaceful protest as desired by Bill Jones and the Indigenous peoples; it was decided to let the paddy wagon through and continue towards River Camp. It ended up that we made the right decision. We continued walking and singing up towards the frontlines.



We came upon an excavator. An officer leaned proudly against it. Two others were stationed at the rear. The driver was still up in his cage.

“Is this what you used to extract the Forest Defenders today?”

“Yes.”

“Isn’t it dangerous using an excavator a few feet from a person’s body?”

“We do it with utmost care. It’s very safe. No one was injured.”

“How can removing people with heavy duty equipment be safe?” I always ask.



Then we saw them. The frontline Forest Defenders were sitting in a line where the RCMP had been forced to retreat. A barricade of emotion and gratitude. Because of us. Our power in numbers stopped the siege of River Camp that day. The exhausted, sleep deprived Forest Defenders greeted us with cheers, tears, drumming and song. Symbolically, the colonial force of the RCMP had been stopped just before the Sacred Red Dress Site where dozens of red dresses are hung in the clear cut, crying in unison with the raped land. A system that rapes the land for its resources and profit is also responsible for the rapes and murders of Indigenous women, violence against all women and all those who are exploited in the colonial, patriarchal, capitalist hierarchy. Like all life in the environment being interdependent upon one another, so too is the fact that all exploitation and violence comes from the same place. Everything is connected.






We danced. Indigenous Land Defender, Kati George-Jim, stood on top of a blockade car and called out joy and welcome:


“It is because of you that we can stay here and ensure these lands get the attention and the love and the care that is needed to carry forth this fight that isn’t just on these territories, but is across the world in territories that have been invaded by industries like Teal-Jones that are forcing their way in to forcibly remove Indigenous people from their sovereign territories. You made history today. And we are going to continue to make history tomorrow and tonight and every day afterwards because we know, when you show up, when you’re able to link arms, when you’re able to say I love you, when you’re able to make that hike in, not knowing what to expect other than to be welcomed and to be loved, that takes bravery and that takes your heart, so I am so humbly grateful to each and every one of you.”


Kati George-Jim



I talked with Jay, one of the long-time Forest Defenders about what really happened with the extractions that day. In absolute contrast to the statement by the police of ‘safe’ extractions, I learned that Forest Defenders were lying in a trench locked into their sleeping dragons. The RCMP drove around the trench, a few feet from the edges, the boom and bucket swinging overhead. The Forest Defenders stayed. The RCMP then threatened to put boards across the trench and drive the excavator over them. Intimidated and terrified, the Forest Defenders unclipped themselves from the hard block. The RCMP’s strategy that day was to literally threaten the lives of the Forest Defenders with an excavator—what has been happening every day since the announcement of the two-year moratorium and the manipulation of public opinion.


I spoke with Nemo on a ridge overlooking the festivities where I learned that not only hadn’t River Camp fallen, Waterfall Camp and Ridge still stand. I also learned that because of our numbers, more Forest Defenders had been able to join the frontlines to work all night and re-fortify the blockade. We had fulfilled Bill Jones’ prophecy: “we will show the world that we are going in peace and happiness knowing that we are the winners.” And we did. And we especially showed the RCMP.



The next morning, Forest Defender Goat returned to the camp. He had been at River Camp when we arrived at the Red Dress Sacred Site. He told me how, because of us, because of the 250 people who had showed up, the Forest Defenders were able to build hard and soft blocks and reclaim the 7 km of logging road from River Camp to the highway. Including HQ.


“Spread the word. Recruit more people to our movement,” Bill Jones asks. “Even your enemies.”


Thank you to all of the Forest Defenders, people who act on the fact that hope is in the doing. I arrived heartbroken; I left elated. But Saturday the 14th of August was only one day. This was only one emergency call from Fairy Creek where hundreds showed up; every day is an emergency when everything is at stake. [11]



On April 1st, 2021 when Teal-Jones was granted their Injunction against the Forest Defenders so that no one can peacefully protest the logging of Old Growth, BC Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven’s attitude towards the Forest Defenders verged on accusations of terrorism when he ruled in favour of the industry. He declared that: "The RCMP have indicated a preference for police enforcement terms in circumstances such as these, where the blockades are numerous and persistent," the judge wrote, calling the protesters "a very militant group" who "claim to have hundreds of active participants." [12]


However, by July 20th 2021, based on the reports and complaints of the use of RCMP exclusion zones to keep out the public and the media from witnessing the increasingly violent extractions and arrests of the Forest Defenders, Judge Douglas Thompson ruled: “My assessment is that the degree of interference with liberties of members of the public and members of the media is substantial and serious … The RCMP has not established that the police actions under examination are reasonably necessary for either of the duties they assert," wrote Thompson. "It follows that the RCMP do not have legal authority for these actions … The actions are unlawful." It is possible that the court is starting to rule in favour of justice and not in the favour of greed, exploitation and profit for the few. [12] However, the RCMP are not following the orders of the Supreme Court of BC. Happily, though, like the BC Supreme Judge beginning to side with the Forest Defenders, the mainstream media is slowly starting to report on the brutality of the RCMP and tell more of the story so that the public can have access to what is really happening at Fairy Creek.



In 2012, Teal-Jones was granted a twenty-five year license to clear cut approximately 60,000 hectares (which contains some of the last remaining Old Growth forest in the world). They are now in the midst of a ten year review (that has been postponed from May 2021 to October 2021). Kathleen Code, of the RFS legal defense team, told me that there is very little information available from the government.


Teal-Jones’ injunction against the Forest Defenders ends on September 26th, 2021. The Rainforest Flying Squad legal team are working on having it overturned. If we and the Forest Defenders can continue to block the logging roads until the injunction is overturned, we will be free to continue to stop the clear-cutting until the Old Growth within the 60,000 hectares is declared protected forever. But the key word is: WE.



PostScript:


One of my messages of gratitude was: “I am grateful that in Canada we can still peacefully protest without being shot.” My friend Sylvia Fernández, a Forest Defender in Peru, has been watching the story of the Fairy Creek Blockade and cheering us on. She sends heart and applause emojis whenever I post a story and is in awe of the fact that, unlike in the Amazon Rainforest where the fight is non-stop and the paramilitary in service of international logging, oil and mining corporations are killing the Amazon defenders, we can still protest, we can still fight for change, without being shot. We can still succeed. As was shown on Saturday the 14th of August 2021 at the Fairy Creek Blockades, it’s all about the numbers. We can out-number the oppressors, the exploiters. We can all be one of those numbers. And it works. In Canada, it’s still possible to help save the planet—all we have to do is show up.





Other Articles in Honour of the Forest Defenders and the Ecosystem:


https://www.vigilancemagazine.com/post/fairy-creek-far-beyond-politics


https://www.vigilancemagazine.com/post/the-doing-is-the-hope-the-forest-defenders-of-fairy-creek


https://www.vigilancemagazine.com/post/fairy-creek-resistance-art-says-it-best



*



Notes:

[1] At the end of a media statement by Bill Jones (a must read if you want the whole story), he says: “I implore people to continue to stand with me to protect our forests from destruction and colonialism because we need allies on the ground to stop old growth logging in my home territory, and for my future generations and relatives.” https://laststandforforests.com/news-media/elder-bill-jones-kati-george-jim-respond-to-pacheedaht-request-third-parties-leave-pacheedaht-territory/ [2] The Pacheedaht will receive $277, 388 in 2021 and $35,000 each year in 2022 and 2023 as long as they keep “consulting.” There’s nothing in the agreement that says they will get any more than a total of $347,388. Compare that with the estimated $132 million worth of logs Teal will tow away to feed its mills in Surrey. The Pacheedat will get the equivalent of three-tenths of one-percent of the “fibre” value of the forest Teal removes from their property. Anyone who has visited the Pacheedaht reserve will understand why they had to sign this agreement. https://www.focusonvictoria.ca/forests/72/?fbclid=IwAR2r1vrdjUfCIKMyIZcZig7kJGxD4vWrmrnJoiZhz0P08jOGVvAtaIwawcU

[3] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/old-growth-deferral-1.6056278

[4] These statistics were calculated by Joshua Wright, Universal Wildlands Executive Director. universalwildlands.com [5] The first two wars in the woods were the Upper Carmanah and Clayoquot Sound. Both struggles succeeded in permanently saving significant tracts of Old-Growth forest. [6] In a Zoom press conference with Bill Jones on July 2nd, 2021, Bill was asked: “What about the citizens of your nation? Why aren’t more of them joining you in your protest?” He then proceeded to explain the colonized psychology of his people. “I think that is because of the Indian Act and the reservation system whereby we were isolated since 1920 or so and alienated from society and not allowed to integrate and not allowed to learn communication skills [that were] adequate for a lot of us to survive and make a good living in town … and then of course our thinking abilities. We were systematically alienated from this world and given only the hopes of the Band Council to save us and the government of Canada provided funds to keep our people isolated even from our own thoughts. When you go to my village, you’ll see that everybody is sitting in their house watching TV.” [7] Back in camp later that evening, I spoke with a Forest Defender name Jesus. He had been one of the ‘prisoners’ in the paddy wagon that we let through. His leg was injured and he was going to take a rest from the frontlines for a couple of days. He told me how once he and twelve other defenders had been held in the back of a paddy-wagon in the extreme heat for twelve hours with no fresh air. Some of them were vomiting. [8] Last year during the election campaign, BC’s Premier John Horgan and the NDP government made a series of promises around protecting Old-Growth forests, and it appears that a large majority of British Columbians would like to see these promises kept. 85% of British Columbians feel that it is important that the BC NDP keep these promises https://www.insightswest.com/news/june-forestry-2021/ [9] https://www.vigilancemagazine.com/post/the-doing-is-the-hope-the-forest-defenders-of-fairy-creek [10] For horrifying footage of RCMP brutality against the frontline Forest Defenders, see the Rainforest Flying Squad social media. This footage is taken by defenders and their supporters with cell phones. Recently, the RCMP have been confistcating (stealing) people's phones.

[11] Tragically, by August 18th, the Forest Defenders had been pushed back to the edge of the Site of the Sacred Red Dresses and River Camp is in very serious threat of being lost if more people don't go and support the frontlines. [12] https://vancouverisland.ctvnews.ca/b-c-supreme-court-grants-injunction-to-remove-fairy-creek-logging-blockades-1.5371620 [13] https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/rcmp-fairy-creek-court-case-1.6139351; see Justice Douglas Thompson’s reasons for ruling the illegality of the RCMP zones here: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/sc/21/15/2021BCSC1554.htm



About the Writer and Photographer:


Karen Moe is a writer, visual and performance artist and a feminist activist. She has been published in such magazines as Border Crossings, ArtSpace, WhiteHot and Revista 192. She is the editor and founder of the magazine Vigilance: Fierce Feminisms. Karen has exhibited and performed across Canada, in the US and in Mexico. Her first book, Victim: a feminist manifesto from a fierce survivor, is being published in Spring 2022. Karen lives in British Columbia, Canada and in Mexico City.




As we entered the old HQ that has been violently dismantled by the RCMP, we came upon a lone red dress. We stopped and grieved with the Haida Gwaii matriarchs.



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