PREMIER JOHN HORGAN recently claimed he couldn’t resolve the tense and expensive standoff on Pacheedaht traditional territories between old-growth forest defenders and the RCMP. Why? Horgan told reporters, “The critical recommendation that’s in play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops.”
Actually, Horgan’s government had already signed an agreement (download at end of story) with the Pacheedaht in late February in which the economically impoverished First Nation agreed to accept a small annual payment “to accommodate any potential adverse impacts on the Pacheedaht First Nation’s Aboriginal Interests resulting from Operational Plans or Administrative and/or Operational Decisions.” In other words, logging.
How small? The Pacheedaht accepted the equivalent of glass beads: $242,388 for the first year of the agreement, with no clear indication of what, if any, subsequent payments would be over the agreement’s 3-year term.
What did the Pacheedaht have to do for that princely sum? For one thing, the band had to continue “consultation” with the Province, and to help the Pacheedaht do that the Province will provide an additional $35,000 per year to build the “capacity” within the community for consultation.
Perhaps more significantly, the agreement requires the Pacheedaht to provide “assistance.” Such assistance would take two forms.
First, the band agreed “it will not support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities.”
Secondly, it agreed it “will promptly and fully cooperate with and provide its support to British Columbia in seeking to resolve any action that might be taken by a member of First Nation that is inconsistent with this Agreement.”
The first part of the “assistance” portion of the agreement was aimed squarely at the defence of old-growth forest in TFL 46. The second was intended to stifle any expression of support for that defence from within the Pacheedaht, such as that given by Elder Bill Jones, Victor Peter, Katie George-Jim and Patrick Victor-Jones, all of whom have publicly supported the old-growth defenders.
Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones speaking out at the Caycuse blockade (Photo by Michael Lo)
The agreement was signed on February 21, just before Teal Cedar Products Ltd filed an application for injunctive relief with the BC Supreme Court on March 4. On April 1, that application was granted by Justice Frits E. Verhoeven. Enforcement of the injunction has led to over 170 people being arrested during weeks of standoffs between police and old-forest defenders. The cost of that enforcement is unknown but likely in the millions.
Horgan has claimed that “consultations” with the Pacheedaht are ongoing and so ending the confrontation by removing Teal’s controversial permit to log in the Fairy Creek watershed would amount to a “return to colonialism.”
Let’s compare dollars with glass beads.
Over the past three years, according to the ministry of forests, Teal Cedar has removed 976,000 cubic metres of logs from TFL 46, which is mainly on unceded Pacheedaht territories. At an average value of $135 per cubic metre over those years, the logs Teal removed, before they were turned into lumber and other products at Teals’ Surrey mills, had a market value of about $132 million.
That’s over a three-year period. What will the Pacheedaht—the legal owners of the land from which those forests were removed—get for three years of being quiet?
The Pacheedaht will receive $277,388 in 2021 and $35,000 each year in 2022 and 2023 as long as they keep “consulting.” There’s nothing in the agreement that says they will get any more than a total of $347,388.
Compare that with the estimated $132 million worth of logs Teal will tow away to feed its mills in Surrey. The Pacheedat will get the equivalent of three-tenths of one-percent of the “fibre” value of the forest Teal removes from their property. Anyone who has visited the Pacheedaht reserve will understand why they had to sign this agreement.
Here’s the definition of colonialism: “The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.”
Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, in a widely-circulated opinion piece, wrote: “The agreement with Pacheedaht was signed in February 2021. So instead of negotiating an agreement that provides economic alternatives to logging, provides real choice to the nation, and enables the conservation of the endangered old growth in Pacheedaht traditional territory, the Provincial government negotiated an agreement that almost assured that those ancient trees would be cut. This situation illustrates how deeply disingenuous the government has been as the tension in our forests continues to grow. Rather than offer conservation solutions, the BC NDP are effectively using BC Liberal policy to put Indigenous Nations in the centre of conflicts and use the language of reconciliation to cover for their inaction. Clearly, colonialism is alive and well in Premier Horgan’s government.”
David Broadland is grateful to the Pacheedaht for allowing public access to the extraordinary forests, beaches and trails on their unceded territories.