As the Wilson Creek forest falls to logging, I am reminded of the simple message: “Never give up.” Otherwise, a person loses heart, a community crumbles, dreams disappear. When it seems like no one is listening and no one cares, don’t despair. There will always be people who care. And those who truly care take action.
About 130 such people showed up last Wednesday in front of the District of Sechelt office. Environmentalist George Smith, who was instrumental in protecting the Tetrahedron region and transforming it into a provincial park, said: “It [Sunshine Coast Community Forest] is not a community forest. It’s never been a community forest. The good old boys are running this [community forest].”
Smith noted that the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF), in its current form, was structured over the objections of the local community, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, and most community associations in the area. The B.C. Liberal government put it in place because they wanted to log our watershed, he added. “Get out of our watersheds and make sure that eco-forestry is practiced.”
George Smith addresses the group
Smith urged all those present to write to provincial New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix—presumably B.C.’s next premier in May 2013—to have him revisit the structure and role of community forests. “B.C. Timber Sales should be giving their land a real community forest,” Smith said. “We should have an appropriate ecosystem and a decent forest in which we can recreate.” Listeners applauded.
Starwalker: “Let’s stay positive”
Starwalker, one of the protesters recently arrested in the Wilson Creek forest peace camp, told the group: “Let’s stay positive.” Last Friday, he appeared in a Vancouver courthouse with three other protesters. On Dec. 12, he filed a small claims court lawsuit against the RCMP and B.C. solicitor-general for not returning his food and possessions, which were confiscated when he and others received a 10-minute notice to pack up the camp or face arrest.
Barb Higgins: “It’s the same old story”
Another of the arrestees, sishalh elder Barb Higgins (Xwu’p'a’lich), told the crowd: “It’s so long since we’ve seen justice. It’s the same old story except more people are becoming aware that they are being manipulated by politicians.” She will face a judge Jan. 14 in Vernon, BC.
Within about 10 minutes, during two pass-the-hat sessions, the group donated a total of $1,000 to help with expenses related to the arrestees’ court appearances.
Event organizer Pat Ridgway addresses the group, with Barb Higgins to her right.
“We want the community put back into the community forest,” said event organizer Pat Ridgway, who asked the assembled group to direct positive energy towards the District of Sechelt building and its decision-makers. Many of the group’s placards read: “Who cut you and me out of the community forest?”
Local activist Scott Avery stood on a rock and directed his voice at the building, as if speaking directly to Sechelt Mayor John Henderson. “We are all members of community,” he said. “Community, to me, involves everyone.” The crowd repeated his sentences in call-and-response style, a format popular with the Occupy movement.
David Quinn (Popois)
David Quinn or Popois of the sishalt nation, a nephew of elder Theresa Jeffries and another arrestee, said: “No corporation, no society, has a right to occupy Indian and without a purchase.” (The Wilson Creek Forest is part of the sishalh’s traditional territory.) “Thank you for standing behind our elders.”
So far, neither Henderson nor SCCF chair Glen Bonderud has responded publicly to the protesters, nor to their letters. Not surprisingly, those seeking a more inclusive community forest board have said that Henderson and the SCCF are not listening to them. Last week’s Coast Reporter quoted the mayor as saying that “We’re not listening” truly means “We’re not agreeing.”
Last Thursday, CBC-TV made the Wilson Creek forest logging and arrests their top story for the 11 p.m. news. They acknowledged that the current ordeal on the Sunshine Coast is but a microcosm of what is occurring across the province. As part of this newscast, Bonderud, contacted by phone, said that our region needs jobs. In his view, logging underway in Wilson Creek provides jobs.
In response, Avery points out on Facebook: “Ninety-five percent of logs get shipped offshore whole this year. That means three loggers; an operational manager plus secretary; perhaps four truckers and their truck owners; perhaps four scalers and their management; perhaps four longshoremen and their management; ship crew if it is Canadian.” That leaves only log brokers and the financial markets as the “inflated beneficiaries,” he says. Avery said that overall, local forestry is operating at an excruciatingly long-term loss, especially when factoring in 60 years of non-timber forestry losses plus the social losses.
At a recent public meeting at Sechelt City Hall, local resident Rolef Ohlrogge stood up and asked Henderson: “Could you tell me your definition of a tree farm and a forest?” Someone at the event said that the mayor looked away, paused for a few seconds, then said, “Well, you know, things grow.”
Last week, I was feeling discouraged by the lack of respect and response that Henderson, Bonderud, and others have shown towards those who want to preserve our local forest and have a say in how it is managed.
Then, last night, I watched Anne Wheeler’s CTV movie The Horses of McBride. Based on a true story, it addressed how one caring young woman didn’t want to see two starved, abandoned horses, marooned in deep snow high in the mountains in northern B.C., die. While others, including a veterinarian, urged her to forget the animals and have them put to sleep, she refused.
The horse enthusiast soon won over her father to her cause. In minus-30-degree-Celsius weather, he helped her start to dig a two-metre trench in the snow, to create a pathway to lead the horses out to a road. Soon, local snowmobilers and those from neighbouring provinces appeared to provide their support. Within four days, a trench more than a kilometre long was completed, and the horses were led to warmth and safety.
This show reinforced to me what one person’s determination and the positive spirit of a community can do. It all starts with caring, then action. Never give up.
As Shannon Woode, a concerned mother who helped organize an educational walk in the Wilson Creek forest, says within a poem:
“May the Wilson Creek Forest become a legacy that moves us to a new beginning. May our leaders follow with open heart. May this be the last forest of awe to be slashed from history.”
Never give up.