by Jack Emberly/Special to The News
I’d spent a restless night in a sleeping bag in my car.
At the camp kitchen, over coffee, I talk to two grandmothers from Quadra Island who came one day for the old-growth forests, and have returned to help prepare meals.
‘Tree’, (camp name) is an active member of the Council of Canadians. “I love the people here,” she says. “We could learn from them about working together as a community.”
“Is there a proper latrine here?” I ask.
“Yes,” she says. “It’s clean, quaint, even has a toilet seat.”
Burdock has a degree but it didn’t help him find purposeful work.
“I wanted to be part of something important,” he says. “Being here, I’m also learning that ‘work’ is what lifts me up. There’s the quiet work of doing the dishes; of making tea for someone who’s going through a hard time.”
Marmar’s family restaurant struggled through the recession of 2008.
“Now, as we are coming out of a pandemic, everyone’s liquidating assets to try to make ends meet while others are making more money on the CERB. It speaks to a structurally flawed system,” Marmar says, one she wants to change.
From R&R camp it’s minutes to the “main access point” gate.
It’s 9 a.m. Police officer Denziel was to ‘escort’ media to the protest site at 8:30. Journalists say it’s typical and hasn’t changed since the court ruling. Arrests are still being made they can’t witness.
Women’s dresses hang from trees at Red Dress Camp (in honour of lost and murdered Indigenous women). Up ahead, police with chainsaws and heavy equipment are dismantling the barricade, but we can’t see anything because Denziel drops us too far down the road.
We ask him to get us closer.
He tries, but his “commander” won’t allow it.
We argue that we aren’t obstructing police, and not in danger. We say the court says we can be closer.
Eventually, a senior liaison officer approaches, the one who told me to “have fun.”
If we don’t like the ‘temporary exclusion zone,’ he says, we can go back to the court.
“If the judge says he wants you within five metres,” he says, “we will obey the judge.”
In the meantime? It’s ‘perfectly clear’ continuous input from the courts is needed here.
Eventually, we’re allowed closer, but not before an Indigenous woman next to me is escorted downhill. She was praying – albeit loudly – to her “Creator.” An officer orders her to be quiet. When she continued, he ordered her taken down the hill, then approaches journalists behind police tape and says, “anyone else?”
Another song line: “There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I’d better beware.”
Not everyone removed is charged. Many are transported to Port Renfrew – an hour away – and released.
Denziel called this “catch and release.” Camp volunteers ensure folks get a ride back, about 50 km.
At Red Dress, I witnessed a young woman journalist removed.
She was off the road as directed, a bit up a bank just behind me. The officer who ordered the First Nation woman off the hill, ordered this young reporter down. She replied she wasn’t in the way, but was hauled off, anyway.
I’d seen enough disrespect for one day.
“That’s unreasonable,” I said, twice. “She wasn’t doing anything wrong,” then added, “I don’t want her going down alone (an hour’s walk). I’m going with her.”
Denziel offered to drive us down.
When we met a tow truck on route he stopped to consult the driver about noise under his car. The man was removing a vehicle that wasn’t blocking traffic, but would end up in a Lake Cowichan lot anyway.
“I’ve heard people pay $2,500 to get their cars back,” I said.
“Apparently that’s so,” said Denziel.
The next day, at the main access gate, I talked to ‘Karst,’ a construction worker and camp volunteer.
Earlier, at R&R Camp he’d been placing tents, clothing, and other protester possessions on the ground for owners to reclaim. Karst said police refer to it as ‘garbage.’ Real refuse, and recyclables, he said, are collected by volunteers and disposed of appropriately.
“We’re here to save the forest, not destroy it.”
Karst had a “variety” of reasons for being at Fairy Creek. “There’s a need for reform in our logging practices,” he said. “We’re exporting our highest grade wood, while in B.C. there’s a decline in the quality of building materials.” It’s “demoralizing.”
Only three per cent of B.C.’s old-growth forest remains.
A poll commissioned by the Sierra Club reports 92 per cent of Canadians want harvesting to stop now.
Buffalo Springfield sings: “… Everybody look what’s going down.” It’s big trees… and much more to think about. To me, that’s perfectly clear now.
– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist
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