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BC forestry plan is lose-lose for Indigenous nations, forestry workers and the planet

Photo CC BY-ND 2.0 savageblackout
Bradley Hughes

November 7, 2021

Before the election, the BC NDP commissioned a report on old growth logging.Back then they promised to implement the report’s recommendations to halt logging in old growth forests in BC.

Since then, they have arrested over 1,100 people who have demanded a halt to logging in old growth forest in general and in the forest at Fairy Creek in particular. You might find it odd that a progressive government found it necessary to arrest 1,100 people using the usual police violenceincluding pepper spraying, throwing to the ground, dragging and assaulting non-violent Indigenous defenders and allies. Especially if the government has the same goal as the activists: halting old growth logging in BC.

Last week, the BC government announced their “plan”which does not yet include saving a single tree, and whose long term plan allows destruction of two-thirds of the remaining old growth forest in the province.

Instead of halting logging, the government is considering deferrals in one third of old growth forests and has placed all responsibility for this onto Indigenous nations. The government’s plan gives Indigenous nations 30 days to comment on proposed logging deferrals on their land, after which the province will decide where, or if, any logging is halted. The government is not offering Indigenous nations any resources in place of lost revenue or jobs.

Indigenous leaders reject plan

Although the Premier tried to cloak his inaction with respect for Indigenous rights, Indigenous leaders quickly distanced themselves from this fiction.

“The lack of proper consultations with First Nations prior to the announcement, as well as the government’s failure to provide details on transition financing and financing for Indigenous-led conservation solutions, all point to the Province’s repeated pattern of advancing a mismanaged forestry landscape that fails to uphold Indigenous Title and Rights, jurisdiction, and decision-making,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations.

“First Nations have asserted inherent jurisdiction over their unceded forest resources for decades, yet the Province has continued to profit from harvesting trees on so-called Crown Lands. Those stolen dollars should be returned to First Nations so they can be true partners in deciding how to manage their forests including old growth.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated “Instead of the Province’s current skittish and unfinished approach to old growth, we want the Horgan government to decisively protect old growth trees as a priority issue with a concrete and fully funded plan developed in partnership with First Nations as the proper Title and Rights holders. There must be legislation created specific to protecting old growth.”

“This requires a whole-of-government approach as the logging of old growth trees is intimately connected to climate change, meaning the impacts of logging in one area are felt everywhere and by everyone. The province has confirmed that the details of the length and exact area coverage of the identified potential deferrals may not take shape for months or years.”

“This uncertainty leaves the most contentious and at-risk areas still available for logging. If BC really wants to make good on its commitment to the implement the UN Declaration and tackle climate change, it needs to provide comprehensive financing for Nations to end destructive resource extraction on their lands and waters.”

NDP ignores its own report

In the cover letter to the report commissioned by the NDP government last year,the authors encourage the government” to engage with Indigenous leaders and organizations from the outset,” and to enact the reports recommendations “as a whole.” They point out that, “had previous old forest strategies and recommendations been fully implemented, we would likely not be facing the challenges around old growth to the extent we are today, i.e., high risk to loss of biodiversity in many ecosystems, risk to potential economic benefits due to uncertainty and conflict, and widespread lack of confidence in the system of managing forests.”

Their recommendation included passing legislation declaring conservation of ecosystem health and biodiversity as priorities for all sectors, deferring old growth logging immediately, and support for workers and communities to adapt to these changes. None of that is provided for in the government’s plan. Instead, this report has only been used as talking points in the last election.

At the same time the Premier claims that saving old-growth trees will eliminate 4500 jobs. A spokesperson for the BC Council of Forest Industries quickly jumped into the jobs vs. environment opening given by the Premier to claim that in addition to workers in the forest, sawmills will also close leading to 18,000 job losses.

These are the same employers that eliminated 40,000 jobs over the last few decades. Whatever the true level of job losses is, those jobs will disappear whether or not old growth logging halts. It will only take four or five years to harvest all the remaining old-growth in the province. Neither industry nor government has a plan for transitioning workers. However those jobs are lost, workers will be on their own.

The BC NDP has crafted a non-plan that harms Indigenous nations, forestry workers and the biodiversity we all need. In addition their crude divide and conquer tactics will only aid forestry companies and the right. At the end of the 30 day consultation period, the province will announce some small amount of deferrals and blame Indigenous nations for the result.

Meanwhile, they hope to defend forestry companies’ profits by trying to pit workers against environmentalists. This pushes workers into the arms of their employers and supports claims by the right that we can’t afford to consider protecting biodiversity and the climate. When jobs are lost anyway, once old growth forests are destroyed, the government and industry will still blame environmentalists for these losses.

Solidarity can win

The climate movement must continue building bridges between environmentalists, Indigenous nations and organized labour. We all have so much to gain by taking on a government that only rules for the 1%. This government is an enemy of Indigenous sovereignty, a just transition that leaves no workers behind, and biodiversity. We must make our demands on all of those fronts entwined with each other.

A climate movement that won’t back down on Indigenous sovereignty, funding to transition workers to decent well-paying clean jobs, and defence of the ecosystems that we all need to survive, can beat back this government, or any government. 



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