Videos show verbal and physical attack on Fairy Creek old-growth activists at Walbran Camp.
TWO VIDEOS RELEASED by the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) show forestry workers harassing, threatening and physically assaulting activists on Tuesday May 4, 2021 at the Walbran Protection Camp, a watch camp (not a blockade) that is part of the action to protect old-growth forests near Port Renfrew, which includes Fairy Creek.
According to the RFS, the assault occurred around 1 pm after 10 Western Forest Products forestry workers drove into the camp in four trucks with muddied license plates: “The men walked towards the four youth in the camp, racially targeting the Indigenous youth. While all youth were threatened, the physical violence and verbal abuse was explicitly anti-Indigenous.” Viewers can hear “Go back to your fucking teepees” and other angry verbal abuse involving offensive language.
In the video, one of the workers loudly demands they go back to Victoria and collect their welfare cheques, and another threatens, “[Teal Jones] might not do anything but we fucking will. We have kids to feed.”
After numerous threats and insults levelled at the activists, heard clearly in the videos, one video ends with the assault. The RFS states, “Just before leaving, three of the workers attacked G, a young Indigenous man, and tried to force him to the ground, while a fourth man hit him. His phone, which he had been using to film, was punched out of his hand and then stolen. His instrument [a banjo] was broken.” (RFS members are not being identified by name to protect them from court action by Teal Jones.)
The RFS notes that other incidents of threatening behaviour have also occurred since Monday, May 3: “Late Monday afternoon, a group of forestry workers made threats of impending violence to three people while holding tools—axes, tire irons and crow bars—in a menacing way, saying ‘This is your only warning.’”
That same afternoon, on the same road, states the RFS, “several people in their vehicles were blocked in—by vehicles in front and behind them—and prevented from leaving by forestry vehicles for a period of time.” And the following day, “on a separate road, another incident took place. Trees were felled across the road to prevent campers and other people travelling on the roads from moving.”
The RFS says it has at no time been violent or promoted violence. “These attacks have been fuelled by industry and colonialism, encouraged by the BC NDP government’s failure to act by deferring threatened old growth forests from logging.”
Men who identified themselves as Western Forest Products workers hurled abuse at old-growth activists at Walbran Protection Camp and physically attacked a First Nations activist
The WFP workers seemed ignorant or uncaring of the fact they were on unceded Pacheedaht territory. The Pacheedaht, and nearby the Ditidaht, have lived on these territories for thousands of years. Their land was never sold or surrendered.
Elder William Jones, a member of the Pacheedaht First Nation, who worked as a logger in his youth, stated of the assault: “You can’t control a fellow who’s willing to pick up an ax. They are hired because they’re racist, and they’re told they’re right.”
Kati George-Jim, Jones’ niece, said that both the logging on unsurrendered territories, and these assaults, are racialized violence against Indigenous people.
“We are under attack,” she said. “Indigenous peoples are targeted with violence for disrupting industry,” referring to violence towards and arrests of Indigenous people defending their lands against colonial exploitation across the province.
“The loggers broke our laws, and they broke colonial law as well.” She explained, “The fundamental laws of our coastal peoples are based in reciprocity and respect for all relatives, and consensual relationships. We honour all past, present and future generations by protecting the integrity of our shared Mother Earth.”
“Premier Horgan is complicit in this crime because he has been promoting exploitation of Indigenous lands for profit, and doing it at the cost of Indigenous peoples’ lives,” she added.
Another young Indigenous member of the blockades, who is Huu-ay-aht, says, “It is deeply strategic violence to divide and erase First Nations out of existence.” She believes the clear-cut land will be built over with more homes for settlers.
“We are inspired by the courage of Elder Bill and other Indigenous people who stand up to protect the land,” states the RFS. “We see that Indigenous people are often targeted by violence or arrests when the white allies standing alongside them are not.”
Asked for comment, Western Forest Products spokesperson Babita Khunkhun stated: “Safety is Western’s number one priority. We were made aware of allegations of an incident that occurred yesterday involving a contractor working for the TFL 44 Limited Partnership (TFL 44 LP), a limited partnership between Huu-ay-aht First Nations-owned, Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership and Western. We understand that TFL 44 LP has paused operations in the area where the incident occurred while an investigation of the allegations takes place.” TFL 44 LP/Huumis Ventures LP issued a statement on May 5, stating it had notified the RCMP and Worksafe BC of the incident, paused operations, and would be engaging a “respected third party” to “review the incident, meet those involved who are willing to be interviewed, and prepare a report with recommendations as soon as practicable on how to balance continued safe forestry operations with individuals exercising their right to legal protests, all in accordance with Huu-ay-aht’s three sacred principles ʔiisaak (Utmost Respect), ʔuuʔałuk (Taking Care of), and Hišuk ma c̕awak (Everything is Connected).” It also noted that all contractors were given a special briefing on the critical importance of adhering to forestry operations safety and public protest protocols.
Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS.