Forestry workers and supporters in Port Alberni want the provincial government to put a pause on its old-growth logging deferrals.
More than 100 forestry workers, family members and supporters gathered at Williamson Park in Port Alberni on Jan. 25, 2022, carrying signs and waving at passing cars along Highway 4.
This is the third forestry rally that has taken place in the last three months in Port Alberni, and with each one the number of supporters has grown.
“We have a fabulous community here that supports us immensely,” said Mary Ann Cheetham, one of the organizers of the rallies. “Our rallies here have gotten bigger and you can hear the cars—they’re honking tremendously as they go by.”
Tuesday’s rally also drew several members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations, including elected Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr.
“I want to support forestry workers—that’s why I came out here today,” said Dennis as he waved a “Forestry feeds my family” sign from the side of Highway 4.
Huu-ay-aht employs “quite a few people” in the forestry industry, Dennis explained.
“We’d hate to see those jobs lost,” he said. “Our hope is that the people in Victoria hear our message.”
Back in November, the province announced a deferral of logging on up to 2.6 million hectares of forest identified as rare, ancient or sustaining big trees, based on recommendations from a five-person independent panel.
Cheetham said she wants to see more consultation with communities and First Nations before sawmills, pulp mills and manufacturing facilities across the province are forced to shutter.
“They have not consulted with any one of us who is going to be impacted by it,” she said. “They haven’t given us any answer on how they’re going to support us. We’re still searching for those answers.”
She drew comparisons to the United Steel Workers Local 1-1937 strike that took place in late 2019 and early 2020.
“This town’s been through this before, and we don’t want to go through it again,” she said.
Cheetham said she and other organizers still have plans to travel down to Victoria as part of a convoy to rally in front of the legislature, although a date for this has not been set.
BC Liberal Party leadership candidate Ellis Ross attended the rally on Tuesday, accompanied by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad. Rustad described forestry as a “foundational industry” for British Columbia in his speech to the crowd gathered at Williamson Park.
“Forestry is the answer to many of the issues we have today,” he said. “It’s sustainable, it is renewable. Whether it’s reducing carbon in our atmosphere, whether it’s meeting the needs that we have as a society. We need to make sure we have balance, but forestry is a solution.”