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Loggers confront Haida blockade

It's a battle over the land and its resources. The fight has taken place on the land, in the courts and in the media. When government and native groups signed treaty agreements over a century ago, neither side imagined the repercussions. Canada's native people say treaties have been ignored and their rights — from logging trees to fishing eels — have been limited. In the 1980s, frustration grew and failed negotiations turned into roadblocks and deadly confrontation.

media clip
"You're breaking the law, and you're stopping us from going to work," says Frank Beban, a logging contractor on British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands. After 12 years of failed negotiations, members of the Haida nation blockade the road leading to old-growth forests that Beban and his team have a permit from the provincial ministry to log.

As seen in this television clip, the Queen Charlotte Islands are the pristine home to some of the world's best remaining stands of cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce.

The Haida say irresponsible logging will not only deplete the old-growth forests but will also alter surrounding ecosystems. This includes the salmon fishery upon which the band's lifestyle is based.

But the Haida are not against all forms of logging in the area. As chief Tom Green explains, "We never ever said we would stop logging, we never once said that. We just want to control logging." 
• In 1989, four years after this clip, CBC news did a documentary about the increasing number of native protests in Canada. It argued that protests, including the Haida blockade, were responsible for bringing about treaty recognition for Canada's First Nations.

• The 1985 Haida blockade was responsible for ending what turned into 13 years of failed negotiations, and for saving an old-growth forest. The company was prevented from logging an ancient growth of cedars, hemlocks and Sitkas on Lyell Island.

• MacMillan Bloedel was one of the logging companies obstructed in the Haida blockade. One of their foresters, Janna Kumi, said there tended to be a knee-jerk response to the logging issue: "There is always the reaction that everything will be destroyed, nothing will grow and everything will wash into the sea. That is just not the reality."

• In 1988, MacMillan Bloedel engineers stumbled upon a 93-metre tall Sitka spruce now known as the Carmanah Giant.

• The Giant was hundreds of years old and believed to be the tallest tree in Canada.

• In 1988, responding to lobbying by environmentalists, MacMillan Bloedel said they would put the tree off-limits, along with any tree over 72 metres high, and 532 hectares containing 239 tall spruces.
Medium: Television
Program: Saturday Report
Broadcast Date: Nov. 2, 1985
Guest(s): Betty Carey, Tom Green, Harvey Hurd, Miles Richardson
Host: George McLean
Reporter: Georges Tremel
Duration: 3:21

Last updated: June 12, 2013

Page consulted on July 22, 2014

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