Forestry workers and supporters from across Vancouver Island rally to denounce Fairy Creek blockades
'We’re trying to defend our livelihood,’ says Ron Tucker, one of 50,000 workers directly employed by industry
Forestry workers and their families gathered along a road leading into the Fairy Creek watershed on Saturday in a bid to protect their right to make a living in the forestry sector, which they say is under threat.
The gathering was a counter rally to the blockades and arrests that are ongoing near Port Renfrew. B.C, about a two-hour drive west from Victoria.
Protesters there say they are willing to defy a court injunction allowing logging activities in the area by Surrey-based company Teal-Jones in order to protect ecologically valuable old growth trees.
Since enforcement began on May 17, 137 people have been arrested for breaching the injunction or obstruction.
Forestry sector workers and their families who gathered near Mesachie Lake on Saturday tried to speak with people in vehicles heading toward the blockades and handed out information leaflets explaining the importance of the forestry sector to the province and how it supports families.
"It's extremely emotional," said Tamara Meggitt, who helped organize the rally. "Forestry is an essential service and people don't understand that."
Meggitt is upset with activists at the blockades and says many don't understand that forestry supports the people who live in nearby communities.
"They're going to come in and tell us how forestry should be in British Columbia?" she said. "You're not from here. Go home."
Tensions rose at times between the gathering of forestry workers and people travelling along Highway 14 toward Port Renfrew.
RCMP intervened to ask people at the rally not to block the road.
'We farm trees'
Ron Tucker, a logger from Royston, near Courtenay, has worked in the industry full-time since he graduated from high school, around 40 years ago.
He said it's understandable why forestry workers are upset about loggers not being able to get into Fairy Creek.
"We're trying to defend our livelihood," said Tucker. "The one thing I don't think a lot of people realize is that loggers are probably more environmentally aware of our surroundings than anybody else that doesn't work in that area. We respect where we work."
Tucker described an area he once logged when he first began in the industry, which is now ready to be logged again.
"We live in the best area in the world for timber and trees and this is what we do. We're farmers and we farm trees."
He said the blockades are an example of the pressure resource industries in Canada are facing from detractors.
"I think there's another agenda here. I think Canadian resources are basically trying to be shut down as a whole. Doesn't matter if it's forest industry, oil and gas."
According to the province, forestry-related activities directly support over 6,700 businesses and employ almost 50,000 people.
Meggitt said that loggers have been threatened by protesters at the blockades and that the authorities should do more to remove them before tensions escalate further.
"It's going to get worse and how far can you push a family man or a family woman, how far can you push a mom?" she said.
RCMP did not announce any new arrests associated with the blockades on Saturday.
With files from CHEK News and Skye Ryan