Logging in TFL 44 on Vancouver Island has halted following an incident between forestry contractors and environmental activists. The incident comes one day after Huu-ay-aht First Nations announced they have purchased more interest in the tree farm licence through a partnership with Western Forest Products.
John Jack, a director with Huumiis Ventures. Ltd., (part of the TFL 44 limited partnership), said the encounter took place “somewhere in the Carmanah Walbran region” between protesters and a contractor.
“It wasn’t Western employees,” he said.
The Rainforest Flying Squad, which has been vocal in its protests against logging in Fairy Creek, posted on Instagram about “multiple acts of violence towards Indigenous people” at blockades in Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations territories.
Western Forest Products posted a brief statement on social media stating that “safety is Western’s number one priority.” The company acknowledged that an incident took place involving a contractor working for the TFL 44 limited partnership between Western and Huumiis Ventures Ltd., and confirmed TFL 44 LP had “paused” operations while an investigation takes place.
Jack said TFL 44 LP is calling for an independent investigation into the incident, which was caught on video. Workers can be seen swearing at activists, telling them to go back to Victoria and take their tents back to the city. One worker threatened a person recording the exchange, knocking a smartphone out of the person’s hand and onto the ground. Audio of a brief scuffle can be heard with someone saying “grab that phone.”
On May 6, Western Forest Products CEO Don Demens released a statement condemning the actions in the video.
“Safety is our highest priority at Western and that includes ensuring an environment free of violence and racism,” said the statement. “What I viewed in the video footage involving contractors on May 4, 2021 does not reflect who we are as a company. Any form of racism or violence is not tolerated at Western, including within the TFL 44 Limited Partnership.”
He added, “Western has a long and proud history of working to build strong relationships with First Nations and communities. The attitudes and actions of those involved in this incident contradicts our core values of safety, integrity and building mutually beneficial relationships, and will not be condoned.”
Jack has asked for a third party to investigate the incident. Harvesting in the area has been halted to show all parties that Huumiis Ventures is taking this incident seriously, he added.
“We have heard the possibility of there being violence there and that’s part of the reason why we wanted things to be halted.”
He said the RCMP and WorksafeBC have both been notified of the incident and the contractor has been instructed to conduct its own investigation of the incident.