February 25th Rally for Old Growth in Victoria BC

— with on the spot reporting, films and photographs from Helen Hall

In recent years, the BC government has made many promises, many representations to the public, about its intent to preserve what little is left of the Province’s old growth forests. Many BC residents, however, feel that — despite the arrival in office of more reality-based politicians such as David Eby — no real progress is being made.

Some of these residents attended a March and Rally in Victoria on February 25th, to express their concerns about deforestation and their frustration with the slowness of government response to what many describe as an ecological crisis. Helen Hall, longtime Cortes resident, traveled to Victoria to participate in this protest.

Helen was our reporter on the spot, acquiring audio, video, and photo documentation of this event. We’ll be broadcasting her documentary material on Tuesday March 7th, as Part Two of this feature. Part One (broadcast on Monday March 6th) is an interview with Helen, in which I ask her about her reasons for attending this event and what she experienced there.

Interview with Helen Hall

Photo by Helen Hall

Live Reporting from Helen Hall

Photo by Richard Hagensen, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Chapter

[Items of interest in Helen’s live report from the event (above): 01:34, interview with Deirdre Gotto; 05:36, Dr Karen Price speaks at the rally; 16:54, Chief James Hobart speaks at the rally]

The March and Rally event, entitled “United We Stand For Old Growth Forests,” was organised by Elders for Ancient Trees, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee. This group was founded during the Fairy Creek protests against old-growth logging, and has since continued its campaign to reform BC forest management policy. The group authored a Declaration which garnered the endorsement of 215 civil society organisations across many sectors; it has been signed not only by environmental NGOs, but also by a variety of groups including labour, churches, and tourism businesses.

The group organised their large rally and march to publicise the signed Declaration, choosing a date exactly 100 days into Premier David Eby’s new government. As one organiser said from the stage, “We’re all here to join together loudly to call on him and his BC NDP government to deliver on their promises [from] the old growth review two years ago. “

Some excerpts from Helen’s interview, with a short video based on footage she took at the event.

VIdeo by Helen Hall, edited by De Clarke

Helen: Before Christmas they [Elders for Ancient Trees] were asking organizations to sign a Declaration to stand united against the logging of all growth forests. So [I was] working for Friends of Cortes, we signed that declaration, and then I went away at Christmas; and I came back and in my inbox there was an email promoting the march and rally. And it was something I personally feel very strongly about. So I decided way back in January that this is something I really wanted to go to.

I was really lucky. I had a very good old friend — her name is Deirdre Gotto — to stay with, and I asked her, are you gonna go to the rally? And she said, yeah, I’m going to the rally. And so I get down there and then I find out that she’s actually part of the Elders for Ancient Trees, which is a group that started up in Victoria after the Fairy Creek protest.

Photo by Helen Hall

She wouldn’t admit to being one of the organisers, but she sends out all the newsletters for them and was very involved. So I was really lucky to be staying with her; I got to know a lot more about how they’d been planning the march and the rally, and got to join her and her husband when we went out.

What really fascinated me was, she sent me all their latest newsletters so I could read it before I went to the march. And the thing that inspired and sort of fascinated me was the huge amount of effort that had gone into preparing for the rally and the march […] People had been creating huge banners to be on the march, and making masks.

Photo by Richard Hagensen, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Chapter

It was a huge amount of thought and preparation that had gone into it; the date was chosen because it’s a hundred days since David Eby had been in power, and I think he had promised to take action on old growth.

[…] It was really hard to work out the numbers of people, but at one point when we were walking down Douglas Street, which was full of people for quite a few blocks, I figured that there was definitely over 3000, possibly 5000 people there at that point. And yeah, you got the real sense, you know, that people were really, really concerned about this issue and really want to push him to do something about it.

And you know, we are talking about the last 2.7% of old growth forest remaining. And I learned the shocking fact that three quarters of that is slated for logging. So, you know, to me I guess the thing I felt like, going on the march [was]: can’t you just stop, stop logging, just stop. You need to stop.

Photo by Richard Hagensen, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Chapter

And I know there’s 14 recommendations that have come out of the old growth panel, that the government say they’re going to implement. But from what I understood from talking to people there, that they haven’t actually implemented any of those 14 recommendations. So it feels like a crisis that’s not being taken seriously enough, or being treated urgently enough.

And we’re in one of the few countries in the world with large, extensive forests left, and British Columbia is the most biodiverse province in Canada.

Photo by Helen Hall

So, these forests are now so rare. We’re talking about something globally rare as far as I’m concerned, we need to stop today. It is like saving the last white rhino, but it happens to be trees. There should be no more old growth logging. So I think that was probably the feeling of a lot of people there. I see the intention behind the 14 recommendations, but the simple message really is we need to stop.

It’s already gone. It’s irreplaceable.

In the full interview (podcast above), Helen describes the march route, the colourful signs and costumes, the mood of the crowd, and the rally in front of the Legislature. A surprise guest at the rally caused quite a stir: Neil Young, who said a few words in support of the campaign to save ancient forests, and sang his perennial hit “Heart of Gold.”

In Part 2 of the radio feature, Helen offers us an interview with Deirdre Gotto, as well a couple of presentations from the stage at the rally.

If readers would like to see all almost the entire rally, a video recording is available online. Many thanks to Helen for her audio, video, and photo documentation of the event, and to Richard Hagensen who contributed his photographs.

[Feature Image: Photo by Richard Hagensen, Council of Canadians, Campbell River Chapter, at the Feb 25th event]

[The theme music for De Clarke’s Cortes Currents radio segments is from Burnett Thompson’s solo piano album Uncertain Times.]

[Erratum: Elders for Ancient Trees is incorrectly referred to in the video subtitles as “Elders for Ancient Forests.”]

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