Logging operations have stopped on a section of southern Vancouver Island after an altercation broke out Tuesday between forestry workers and blockaders, a flashpoint in a months-long dispute over an unlogged watershed in the region.
Video of the incident, which took place near the Walbran Valley, northeast of Port Renfrew, B.C., was shared by the activist group Rainforest Flying Squad, which has maintained blockades for months to prevent old-growth trees in the area from being logged.
The footage shows forestry workers acting aggressively, using racist language and making explicit threats against the activists.
At one point, one of the forestry workers knocks a phone from a protestor’s hand.
A scuffle is heard off camera, which the activist group alleges was a worker tackling an Indigenous youth to the ground. A person with clothes that matches the attacker’s is seen picking up the phone at the end.
| Forestry workers confront anti-logging activists
The workers were contractors working for Tree Farm License 44 LP, a partnership between the Huu-ay-aht First Nation-owned Huumis Ventures and Western Forest Products, a Vancouver-based lumber company.
John Jack, director of Huumis Ventures and a councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, said it has stopped all harvesting in the area and will bring on an independent, third-party advisor to investigate the incident.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” Jack said.
‘We’ve had enough’
Protesters have set up blockades at the Fairy Creek watershed since last summer to block Teal-Jones, a Surrey-based forestry company, from logging the old-growth forest within the company’s 595-square-kilometre tenure.
Activists say the site is the last unlogged watershed on southern Vancouver Island outside of protected parks. The group is appealing an injunction granted to Teal-Jones last month to remove the blockades.
The workers in the video appeared irate that protesters had expanded their activities beyond the Fairy Creek watershed.
“You and your f—ing teepees,” a worker yelled.
“We have kids to feed,” another said.
In a release, the Rainforest Flying Squad said ten forestry workers drove into the Walbran watch camp, which the group said is not a blockade, at about 1 p.m. PT Tuesday.
The group alleged the workers threatened the activists and their families prior to the recorded altercation.
Kati George-Jim, who’s part of the blockade, said the day prior to the altercation, several protesters had been stopped and harassed on backroads by forestry workers brandishing axes, tire irons and crowbars.
“The people on the front lines, the people supporting them and me personally will not be intimidated by this kind of violence,” George-Jim said.
Cpl. Chris Manseau with Cowichan Lake RCMP said they received a complaint about forestry workers harassing people travelling on logging roads.
Manseau said RCMP have watched the video and are looking to speak with the protesters who were harassed.