“Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb, across my head...”
Day in the Life– Lennon/McCartney
I SLEEP IN MY CAR when I’m in Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek, wedged into a slot between boxes of supplies, so falling out of bed isn’t an option. I greet the dawn by wiggling the door latch with my toes, and sliding out onto the dusty road like a sardine out of a tin.
“The things we do...” a woman smiled, walking by.
A few nights ago, an angry mob of loggers stoned three cars parked at the side of the road, showering their sleeping occupants with broken glass. I was so upset, I wrote Diary 5 at 3 am. By 8 am I had filed it by satellite, and began to round up a small herd of biologists documenting endangered species like Marbled Murrelets and Western Screech-Owls in Tree Farm Licence 46 (TFL 46), as well as the Juggernaut Pictures film crew.
Streaming their work on The Green Channel, Juggernaut makes investigative films like The Pristine Coast, which revealed for the first time that disease from open pen fish farming, and not commercial fishing, likely caused the East Coast cod collapse.
Scientist/sleuth/director Scott Renyard has chosen deforestation and forest mismanagement for his next project. He’s sure in the right province for that! Fairy Creek has drawn him in with irresistible images.
Scene 1: Unlawful Police Action. Location: A Public Road
“A band of bird-watching biologists are barred entry from an eco-reserve by an RCMP squad enforcing a bogus ‘Provincial Emergency’ declared by John Horgan on behalf of a billionaire corporation.”
Jim Cuthbert is the leader of this dangerous gang. They’ll stop at nothing to listen to birds. The RCMP told them they couldn’t enter their “exclusion zone” around TFL 46 without a physical copy of their diplomas and a letter of accreditation from the organizations they belong to.
Biologist Jim Cuthbert (top left in the truck) and his dangerous gang (YC photo)
By doing so, RCMP officers broke several Canadian laws.
An exclusion zone is a discretionary privilege police use to create room to work and protect citizens at disaster sites. Justice Verhoeven and the Pacheedaht Council welcomed us to peacefully exercise our Charter Rights of free assembly and protest anywhere outside 50 metres from active logging. A reasonable exclusion zone would be 10 metres beyond that 50 metres.
The RCMP exclusion zones here stretch up to 10 kilometres from active logging.
The RCMP have set these illegal roadblocks up all over TFL 46 to keep media and lawyers from witnessing abusive RCMP tactics: like shining klieg lights on defenders all night to rob them of sleep, dropping excavator blades three inches from defenders’ faces while they are fastened to roads, and inflicting beatings on First Nations youth.
The roadblocks also stop the 85 percent of BC’s population that wants to protect old growth from participating. If 10,000 citizens came out to block the loggers, what would the police do? Put us all in jail?
Biologist Loys Maingon MA, PhD, MSc (RPBio) drove from Courtenay to research an article for the Bulletin of the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists. The RCMP sent him back, telling him he would, quote: “need a court order to access Crown Land in TFL 46.” On hearing that, Jim and his merry band of scientists clad themselves in Lincoln green and melted through the illegal RCMP blockade into the woods.
Scene 2: Our Intrepid Journalist Finds His Heart’s Desire. Location: Secret
To interview the biologists, as well as forest defenders “Screech” and “Owl,” cinematographer Athan Merrick felt the best location would be at the feet of Titania, a 2,000-year-old yellow cedar.
Titania was Queen of the Fairies in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Our 7-year-old guide showed us to the trail head, but I asked a man up ahead if he knew the trail. He said he had made the trail, under the guidance of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones. What are the odds?
“Ask and ye shall receive” is the way things happen in Fairy Creek. You ask the forest for a guide, and you get the guide.
We’ve been suspecting the trees are orchestrating the defence of our shared ecosystem. I was about to find out just how.
I’ve spent my whole life dancing with trees—I’ve planted 300,000, from clearcuts to cities. I’ve horse-logged them with love, sawn them into timber, crafted them into furniture, and carved them into public sculpture. Of all my favourite tree species, my Holy of Holies is yellow cedar.
I turned a corner, and there she was, Titania.
Titania, a 2,000-year old yellow cedar (YC photo)
As I came into her presence, my heart trembling with joy, I suddenly knew that the Queen of the Fairies was not going anywhere. She looks great, for 2,000. Yellow cedars have a special, soft, fluffy beauty at the edges. I told her so.
I walked up to reassure her that she was not coming down, but when my hands touched her bark, I was flooded with her voice, telling me that she was glad I also knew she is not going anywhere.
I had found the Mother Tree.
As Bill Jones says: “You do not go up to the forest to cut it down, you go to ask the Great Mother what she would like you to do.”
Steady as you go seemed to be the instructions.
As we filmed a biologist talking about how serious a crime cutting Old Growth is, RCMP choppers circled overhead: $2,500 an hour spent to bully citizens, kilometres from active logging. The audio intrusion will remain in the soundtrack. Very Apocalypse Now.
Scene 3: A Moment of Reconciliation. Location: Ada-Itsx
The days are long and sweet in Fairy Creek, with many chance meetings, and moments of sorrow and joy. On the way back, we attended a Red Dress ceremony led by Granny Rose to honour the 1,000+ indigenous women missing in Canada, many along BC’s Highway of Tears. Then, with true reconciliation in our hearts, we staggered back into camp at sunset to plan the next day’s shoot—a hard blockade.
Red Dress Ceremony (YC photo)
Scene 4: Hard Times at a Hard Blockade. Location: Road to 2,000 Camp and Waterfall Camp
A hard blockade is where defenders dig holes in an access road, and glue their legs in with concrete. They are used because the exclusion zones prevent bussing in thousands of citizens. While our government spews out weekly “talk and log” announcements, and NGOs gather signatures for petitions no one will read, the hard blockaders are saving trees.
At 4 in the morning the arrestee group and film crew gathered to begin the 9-kilometre bushwhack through dark forest to evade the exclusion zone. But something snapped inside each of us. We decided to stop playing their game, and start taking back our Charter rights of free assembly. We snatched a few hours of sleep, and drove to the police road block around 9:00 am.
Script Change: “We decide to break the illegal exclusion line instead.”
Led by Indigenous defenders Rainbow Eyes and Lady Chainsaw, 20 citizens advanced on the RCMP’s “thin blue line,” like a lapping tide, in waves. The officers looked at each other, in growing doubt. The RCMP line broke like a bad dream.
Mist, in red, with Lady Chainsaw (RFS photo)
Pushing Lady Chainsaw’s wheelchair around the police vehicles, we hiked five kilometres in to the next zone, where a group of reinforcements stood lined up like tin soldiers.
Undeterred, Christoph, whom you met in Diary 4, stepped forward. In all, 13 were carted off into paddy wagons, held for four hours, and released without charge. We call this “Catch and Release.”
Catch and release is another unreasonable abuse of discretionary police privilege; in this case to apprehend a suspect, and release them if charges will not stick. Deliberate catch and release takes away our Charter right to talk to a judge and go to jail for our beliefs.
None of us got charged, but Scott got footage for his film, and best of all, later on, a hard blockader from nearby Waterfall Camp told me: “They were slamming us, dropping out of choppers with quads, using diamond grinders on our wrist chains, and all of a sudden half of them disappeared. We knew something was up. Thanks.”
Title Suggestion: The Death and Rebirth of Civil Liberties in Canada
We’re losing this War to Save the Woods because false arrest and illegal exclusion zones have made traditional civil disobedience obsolete. The RCMP tactics are clever, but they are totally illegal. Forest defenders describe TFL 46 as a police state. In a few short weeks, our purpose has changed from saving trees, to saving democracy.
The mainstream media are just recycling Orwellian press releases. The plan to stop cutting old growth is to cut it all down, so there’s none left to cut. No wonder the public are confused.
Rainforest Flying Squad (R4FS), and an ecosystem of citizen’s groups including Elders For Ancient Trees, are launching multiple legal actions to challenge false arrest and the illegal exclusion zones. Please keep giving to the R4FS Go Fund Me page, because class action civil liberties suits are expensive.
We’re taking our Premier to court, so he will give us back our Charter rights to go to jail.
When civil disobedience is restored, hopefully there will still be some old growth trees left to save, and we’ll be able to go in front of Justice Verhoeven again. I’m suggesting we use the following defence:
“Please sentence me to 100 hours of community service, like they got at Clayoquot. I’d like to do my community service with an organization that is actively working to reduce the 65 million tonnes a year of CO2 emissions caused by clearcutting! They’re protecting biodiversity and democracy! They’re called The Rainforest Flying Squad.”
People ask me where I get these ideas. Credit where due. It came to me standing in a rainforest, with a chopper idling in the background. Titania, the Mother Tree, whispered it in my ear.
Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer.