Headed along Humboldt Street towards the harbour, Patty Pan and several other people hold on to a log acting as a brace at the rear of a makeshift trolley as it carries a 1,300-pound slice from a felled Douglas fir tree.
“I feel a little overwhelmed to be honest with you,” he said. “It was over a thousand years old, it’s hard to wrap our human minds around that.”
Pan was among more than 100 old-growth forest proponents who made their way from Victoria’s downtown library to the legislature, disrupting traffic at multiple spots along the way on Wednesday.
The procession was promoted as a protest against the “rampant loss of irreplaceable and globally-important ancient temperate rainforests in British Columbia.” The march also aimed to bring attention to interrelated struggles for Indigenous rights and call for a safe climate future, an immediate moratorium on all old-growth logging and a just transition strategy for impacted workers and communities.
“We are here to protect and care for our great mother’s gift to us, the old growth,” said Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones, outside the library before the march began.
“We are here to help our governments actually establish some values, and to us, our leading value is the old-growth forest – standing.”
While the march was stopped at the intersection of Douglas and Humboldt streets, a participant who went by the name Cedar said the focus needs to be on looking for solutions.
“Once you lose a 3,000-year-old tree, it’s gone forever,” the protester said. “I think we should make (all old-growth forest areas) a national park and I think we should compensate loggers, and I think we have to do all of that together.”
“I want to be on the right side of history, it’s as simple as that.”
John Lugsdin said the ecological variety of coastal forests is unique and needs to be preserved.
“It’s a richness that if we choose to eliminate it, we’ll never see it again,” the Salt Spring Island resident said. “If we don’t preserve it now, it’ll be lost forever. It’s just not replaceable.”
In early November, the B.C. government deferred logging in an area that represents about half of the identified old-growth forest in the province that is not yet protected. Affected Indigenous communities were given 30 days to indicate whether they support the deferrals, wish to change them or needed more time, but the process caused concern from several community leaders.
As he helped direct the eight-foot-diameter log section, Pan said the slice of what was a 1,200-year-old tree was a symbol for how the protesters felt.
“We’re here to show the government that we’re not going to put up with business as usual.”
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