Huu-ay-aht First Nations will be implementing access restrictions and safety measures within their territory following a couple of incidents on Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry land.
Logging in TFL 44 was halted on May 5 after an encounter took place between protesters and a contractor in the Carmanah Walbran region. A video released to the media shows workers 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 Thursday, May 6, another incident took place in a Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. Eye-witness accounts confirm a forestry protester drove through safety barriers into an active logging area, putting the safety of the driver and the forestry workers at risk.
“Any protest activity that puts human life at risk is completely unacceptable,” said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. “While we support the right to peaceful and legal protest, it must not disrupt safe forestry operations. Equally, Huu-ay-aht First Nations strongly condemns the use of racist language, intimidation, or other acts of violence directed at protesters who are peacefully and legally protesting.”
On Monday, May 10, members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations were conducting check points, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. They also handed out notices that shared a map of the territory.
TFL 44 LP has hired Dan Johnston, a conflict prevention and resolution specialist, to prepare a report and recommendations on how to ensure continued safe forestry operations, while also ensuring individuals are able to exercise their right to peaceful and legal protest.
Dennis stressed that Huu-ay-aht is doing its part to maintain a respectful and safe community and workplace while Johnston conducts this work.
“We ask everyone – forest companies, forest workers, environmental groups, Indigenous and non-Indigenous protesters, the RCMP, the BC government, the USW, Worksafe BC, First Nations and their citizens and members – to do your part as well,” Dennis said.