Editor’s Note: One of the indicators of the success of any movement is the level of oppression by the powerful. The protests against logging at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, Canada, are an illustration of this. Fairy Creek is home to old-growth forests and has been targeted by forest product industries. Two years ago, activists joined hands with indigenous people to protest the logging. Now renewed efforts to protect the old-growth forests have been met with force by the RCMP. We thank Brenda Norrell for permission to repost this piece.
By Brenda Norrell/Censored News
Background to Fairy Creek
The last time the world was watching Fairy Creek, we witnessed the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Well over 1,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous forest defenders were arrested by the RCMP over months of tense standoffs in 2021 as activists sought to halt the logging of rare ancient trees.
The courts hammered that movement, with charges and bail conditions keeping many away, and the tussle in the trees went dormant for most of the last two years.
A new blockade, led by Indigenous youth and supported by non-Indigenous allies, has just been erected on a key bridge crossing an arterial logging road. The RCMP’s specialized tactical team that responds to land defense actions is present and surveilling the camp. A raid could come any day, and having media on the ground is of crucial importance to keep tabs on police and document the latest developments as land defenders seek to protect their unceded territories from old-growth logging.
Brandi Morin, an Indigenous journalist and author who has won a number of major awards, including a Canadian Digital Publishing Award and an Edward R. Murrow award in the U.S., is getting there to bring you the story from Fairy Creek’s new front lines.
She’ll be joined by World Press Photo of the Year-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken, reuniting a dream team that last joined forces to tell the story of First Nations communities fleeing wildfires in Alberta.
Latest crackdowns by RCMP
RCMP CIRG unit raided & dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch & two settler supporters. WATCH FULL 12 MIN COVERAGE ON MY INSTA @bmorinstories
— Brandi Morin (@Songstress28) August 15, 2023
Three forest protectors were arrested on Tuesday [August 15] protecting the old-growth forests west of Victoria, as Canada continues to target Native people with police operatives protecting the interest of destructive industries. The police ops are British Columbia’s C-IRG, the Community Industry Response Group.
Mourning the invasion of the militarized police squad who arrested the forest defenders, who were his guests, Pacheedaht First Nation Elder Bill Jones said,
“We are at the end times of our great forests.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin, and photojournalist Amber Bracken, were there.
“The militarized RCMP of the C-IRG unit was also at the Savage Patch raid yesterday. At 6: am Amber and I saw some of them loading their gear to Lake Cowichan and then we raced out to the blockade, cause the raid was on its way.
“Turns out these guys hiked in behind the bridge where the old growth area is, tore the owl structure down and threw the wood in the river below. And then were guarding the bridge.”
Calling on the international community, Peace Brigades International Canada said,
“We draw the attention of the international community to the RCMP C-IRG raid against land defenders and allies protecting old-growth forest on Pacheedaht territory in Canada.”
Cree journalist Brandi Morin said,
“RCMP C-IRG unit raided and dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old-growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders were arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch, and two settler supporters.”
Morin described the Canadian police raid on Tuesday,
“RCMP Sgt. Charney grabbed me after he and others threatened me with arrest when I refused to follow their media exclusion zones during the C-IRG Unit raid of the Savage Patch blockade against old growth logging. I did, however, inform them that I knew of my rights as a journalist and their exclusion zones are illegal.”
The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in 2021 in its Fairy Creek decision:
“Exclusion zones, checkpoints, searches, and restrictions on media members clearly interfere with important liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression (including freedom of the press), and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
RCMP’s federal watchdog agency opened a probe into the operations of the C-IRG, a special unit that polices protests against resource extraction in British Columbia, CBC reports.
Abolish C-IRG said,
“Due to the increasing amount of indigenous-led anti-resource extraction movements in British Columbia, the Community-Industry Response Group was born. C-IRG is unique to British Columbia. They are militarized, have no budget limit, and the officers get paid handsomely to force pipelines, mines, dams, and logging through unceded indigenous territories, without consent. This is just another extension of the RCMP’s original task – to remove and separate people from the land and enforce colonial rule. They do not keep us safe, they protect capital.”
Statement from Elder Bill Jones on August 15, 2023
Today, we mourn once again as the militarized police squad raided our peaceful and Indigenous-led camp near Fairy Creek on Trunk Road 11. Again, these brave people were there on my unceded land as my guests, guests who had come to protect what’s left of the old growth forests. Once again, they put themselves on teh line after hearing that the NDP government had approved several cutblocks up that forestry road. Some of those cutblocks include old-growth forests.
We cannot keep cutting our great Mother Earth like this. Once these great forests are gone, they are gone forever. We set up these camps as a last resort. The government refused to change their forestry polices and Tal Cedar has stated in their forest “stewardship” plan that they will harvest every last old-growth tree available to them. The loss of every tree is an affront to my Indigenous rights, sovereignty and title, as it is to every Indigenous person. It is also a loss to all peoples as we are as once and we must learn to stand together as one.
I say again, the forest is my cathedral and my place of spiritual meditation. Government and industry cannot come to my lands and destroy my cathedral and expect us to do nothing.
I say thank you to all those forest defenders who built the amazing screech owl sculpture on the bridge and held the camp.
Thank you to all those who donated and supported the camp.
And I applaud the three brave forest defenders who were arrested and released today. I admire your courage in facing the relentless force of the dozens of CIRG officers who showed up to destroy your camp and arrest you.
I also remind government and industry that it is laughable to charge us with offenses and call us conspirators when we are at the end times of our great forests.
We will continue to do what we can to protect out great Mother Earth.
You can also listen to our latest Green Flame episode on Fairy Creek blockade with Joshua Wright: