A logging company on Haida Gwaii now has the green light to cut down trees in a forest of cultural importance for the Haida Nation.
O’Brien and Fuerst Logging won an injunction in court against Haida Gwaii protesters who had been trying to halt cutting activity in the Tlaga Gaawtlaas Blue Jackets area near Masset.
The decision came down at B.C. Supreme Court Thursday morning under the direction of Justice Ronald A. Skolrood, and is seen as a blow to activists, who had set up a blockade to prevent access to the site.
“The logging of the Bluejacket area would be a blatant act of disrespect and disregard of Haida title, sovereignty and jurisdiction, as well as a violation of provincial legislation,” Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, president of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN), said.
The area contains a large supply of cedar trees, an invaluable resource for Haida carvers who use the wood for carvings and other art work.
Haida artist Robert Davidson, who carved the first totem pole to be raised in more than 100 years in 1969 from a tree found in the area, had filed an affidavit — a written statement confirmed by oath which is used for evidence — in B.C. Supreme Court hoping to stop the cutting.
The Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) had also applied for a Stop Work Order with the Archaeology Branch of B.C., on the grounds that there are recognized heritage and archaeological sites in the vicinity.
The request was denied however.
The logging contract for the Blue Jackets area was award by B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS), a provincial government agency that controls approximately 20 per cent of the province’s yearly allowable cut of Crown timber.
“This is completely disrespectful of our decision made in 2016,” Ginn wadluu un uula isdaa ayaagang Trevor Russ, vice-president of the CHN, stated.
Ginn wadluu un uula isdaa ayaagang is referencing a decision made by the province to allow logging at Blue Jackets despite the CHN not giving their approval.
“Now we’re in equal disbelief that they’ll support the logging of a rich archaeological site in the middle of this block, neglecting their own rules despite the data we’ve brought forward,” he stated.
BCTS’ mandate states that they “support government’s commitment to true, lasting reconciliation with First Nations in B.C.,” however the current dispute has them at odds with the local First Nations government.
“There is valuable archaeological history within this cut block that was ignored by BCTS,” Gaagwiis stated. “This, along with other oversights that we have discovered really call into question the competency and necessity of BCTS operating on Haida Gwaii.”
In addition to the concerns over the loss of culturally significant forest area, the logging site is also slated to be established only a few hundred metres from the New Town reserve. This was addressed by Old Massett’s village chief councilor Donald “Duffy” Edgars.
“Our people have made it very clear: they do not want logging activity this close to our community,” Edgars stated. “This logging will have so many impacts and risks for community members and the CHN has not approved of logging activity in this area. I stand with my people who are looking out for the best interest of our community.”
Alex Kurial | Journalist
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