Fairy Creek in British Columbia (BC) is a place where people find their power and become warriors of the earth. It is a place where good meets evil and we don’t know which will win.
Heroes of Fairy Creek
Fairy Creek is full of holy people, titans, and heroes. I have been awed and educated by Rose Henry, a First Nation elder who has survived residential school. She eloquently and powerfully stands up and speaks loud and strong all over the island and BC.
Then there is Rainbow Eyes, so slender she could be blown away in a puff of wind, and so mighty, it takes a battalion of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) greens and blacks to take her out, over and over again. She is there constantly for the survival of the forests, protecting her land.
I have been honoured to share fires with Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder, and for me perhaps the closest I have come to knowing a truly holy man. I have watched the blacks and greens block him yet again from going onto his land. The injustice is so great I have a physical pain knowing they do this to such a beautiful person and after a lifetime of residential school and cultural loss.
I feel responsible because I myself am a settler in the First Nations’ lands and must share the blame. I feel my duty now is to resist and support, however I can. Bill’s spirit always rises above the actions of the RCMP and so our spirits rise to meet his in peaceful resistance and support.
Another hero is Bushpig (Shawna) who has been a forest defender at Fairy Creek from its inception. She does everything from tree sitting to mission planning and building blocks. Bushpig is unstoppable and she will give her life for the forest. I saw the RCMP officers use their power illegally against the senior groups challenging the illegal exclusion zones. People were held in the burning hot sun until some lost consciousness from the heat. But the seniors fight on and will never back down from fundraising, taking on the court battles and holding the RCMP accountable.
A recent visit to Fairy Creek: inspiration, tears and gratitude
Last time I went to Fairy Creek was autumn and pouring with rain. I trudged through puddles that were more like lakes and walked up mud banks around the towering blocks of rubble and wood that defenders have put up. I tow along Fin, my reluctant four-legged blockader, under surveillance to prevent him taking on the massive RCMP vehicles.
I have to check to make sure he doesn’t cut his paws on bits of wire and concrete that have been drilled out. These are leftover parts of a story of some extraordinarily brave soul who has laid down with heavy equipment all around. The ‘sleeping dragon’ hard block strategy involves protesters lying on the ground with their arm in a hole that’s been reinforced with concrete and metal, with a lock at the bottom. Cutting them out safely can take many hours, and no observers or media are allowed, as they are drilled or dug out with heavy loaders.
Some of the logs in the soaring road barriers are from tripods – metal or wooden tripods built 30 feet high, to suspend a tree protection activist in place alone to prevent loggers progress – that someone will have sat in for hours, through panic attacks, in their own waste, eventually getting knocked down. They endure this to save our last forests, to save our children. Who are the criminals here? What will we say when we look back, if we can look back?
I arrived at multiple tents clustered together covered by tarps filled with smoke. I watched Bill Jones speak to these amazing forest soldiers of peace and I listened as the rain poured down. I put out the now somewhat mangled baked treats I had brought. At the end of his speech, there was a brief chance for me to speak and I wanted to tell these incredible people how amazing they are but all that came out were tears and two words: ‘thank you’.
Fin was far better at gratitude than I. In the pouring rain, he stared for a long time into the eyes of an indigenous woman who had come out of a hard block and she held his gaze. I think Fin gets greatness and powerful souls.
Fairy Creek: a civil war
If the voices of these great people are not listened to, if trees are torn down, waters polluted, resources plundered and consumed, what will become of us?
Our government pays lip service to conservation and climate change and yet at Fairy Creek the number of arrests of courageous peaceful resistors stands at over 1,200, rising weekly. A blockade that has gone on for over a year has led to individuals being tear-gassed, beaten, and suffering broken bones and trauma. A peaceful resistance has been met by the full force of the RCMP wearing black and green fatigues and carrying weapons.
What I see at Fairy Creek is a civil war, with young people supported by older citizens fighting for their future on one side, and a government that supports corporations making millions in profits by destroying the very last of the great forests of British Columbia on the other.
Somewhere in the mix are the indigenous groups, whom the government has cynically divided using money and manipulation, in order to claim that in cutting down the last ancient forest of Canada they are respecting the First Nations’ wishes. But it is not the wish of Pacheedaht and Ditidaht children, or indeed any of the young people on this planet, to see their futures disappear with the forests.
Unexpected support from a Supreme Court ruling
Support for the rights of Fairy Creek protesters came in September from BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson, who refused to extend a Teal logging company injunction enabling them to block protests. This was, he said, because methods of enforcing the existing injunction were bringing the court into disrepute.
He described the “serious and substantial infringement of civil liberties” by the RCMP, including restrictions on press freedom, and the fact that police were disguising their identities from protestors. He also said that RCMP officers had largely been respectful in their interactions with forest defenders, but some videos showed “disquieting lapses in reasonable crowd control”.
Other video evidence showed the protestors to be “disciplined and patient adherents to standards of non-violent disobedience”. They were described by the judge as “good citizens in the important sense that they care intensely about the common good”.
As one report put it, this important judgement was a refusal to allow court orders “to be used as a cudgel to enforce controversial government policy”.
The acknowledgement of what protestors have been experiencing and support for their rights has been hailed as a “major victory” that will allow protests to continue.
But logging will still happen in areas where Teal Jones has permission to fell trees. It also remains to be seen how the BC provincial government handles the situation they will now have to take responsibility for. At present the logging has been deferred, but to date, action on the ground to halt old growth logging still has not been heard or taken.
First growth, First Nations, the future of life on earth
The world needs the forests for the carbon sequestering and for the carbon sinks they provide and perhaps more important for the ancient forests’ sacredness – beyond that of any cathedral or temple in the world. Some replanting is ongoing and yet the time it takes decades for trees to reduce carbon emissions is decades with increasing risk of drought, fire and spruce bark beetle infestation. First growth trees are doing a crucial huge job of carbon sequestration now, today.
The world also needs First Nations to have their land back so they can show the world how to live with the land as they did for thousands of years. The world needs their spirit and strength and knowledge if we are all to survive into the future.
In a nation with one of the largest landmasses in the world, the government of BC and Canada must accept their responsibility to take care of this magnificent land for the survival of the human race. And other world nations must be part of the process, exerting pressure and playing their own role elsewhere.
Fairy Creek is about changing the world, saving the world and, from the example of its wise and steadfast heroes, inspiring us to save our own human species.