A group of approximately 60 people concerned about old-growth forest protection took part in an event in Cumberland on Wednesday (June 2) to show support for the Fairy Creek protestors.
The Ancient Forest Walk took participants along Dunsmuir Avenue, from First Street to the Village Park.
“Here in Cumberland, we are surrounded by forest and everyone here is aware of the impact that it has on our community of people, on our ecosystem, and on our planet,” said Heather Thomson, one of the organizers of the walk. “Cumberland is already forest-focused, so we just needed to have a show of solidarity with everything that’s happening in Fairy Creek.”
The issue has been a contentious one on both sides, as forestry is among the largest economic industries on Vancouver Island. A group of forestry workers held a counter-rally along the Ancient Forest Walk route, with both sides respectful of each other.
Thomson said the division is not as stark as it’s made out to be.
“I don’t think there is a division, really,” she said. “At the end of the day, we all want to feed our families and have an opportunity to have a healthy life. We just need to provide more opportunity for work in forestry that’s renewable… not only for the families now, but for generations going forward. I think we’re really not as divided as it might look, from the outset.”
The Ancient Forest Walk was advertised as a “pro-old-growth AND pro forestry (logging) event,” but the forestry families feel their voices are not being heard.
“We just wanted to get our voices heard too,” said Tamara Meggitt, on behalf of the forestry families present. “Their (protestors) voices have been loud and loggers have started to stand up, forestry families have started to stand up and say ‘you know what? We matter too, and we are no longer going to sit quietly while lies are being spread about us and the industry.’
“Take Fairy Creek, for example. Fairy Creek has 1,200 hectares. Teal Jones has access to log 200 hectares. Of that, only 20 hectares is set to be logged this year. Even out of that 20 hectares, when we look at all the regulations that will come into play on what can and cannot be taken…
“There’s a lot of old-growth left in B.C. There is a transition happening, but they don’t want to see that transition. They don’t want to look at what ending old-growth logging would do to the province of British Columbia, and to Canada.”
As for Premier Horgan’s plan for an update of the forest policy, which he announced Tuesday, the two sides held different views of the announcement.
“I personally am super excited about it,” said Meggitt. “We have known that First Nations are going to take a stronger role in forestry. It’s welcomed by the forestry sector. These partnerships have been in the works for years and I think it’s about time. I am very excited about what it will bring.”
“I haven’t had a chance to read it yet … but my general understanding is that it’s not a lot of actions, it’s just a lot of (words),” said Thomson. “It’s like ‘we’d like to do these things,’ but no clear policies going forward. I think we are all here to provide some ideas about how to go forward. Although at this walk, we are just celebrating what we have, and how much we hold it dear.”