14 arrested, 1 person taken to hospital after old-growth logging protests block rush-hour traffic
Protesters say 'disruptions will continue' unless legislation is passed to save old-growth forests
Fourteen people were arrested Monday after protesters fighting to save old-growth forests in B.C. shut down rush hour traffic in several high volume areas.
On Vancouver Island, near the Swartz Bay ferry terminal that connects the Island to the mainland, about a dozen protesters set up on the highway, preventing people from making their sailings.
Video circulating on social media shows some drivers getting out of their vehicles and approaching the protesters, demanding they move.
Police say one person, who was perched on top of a ladder that came down, was taken to hospital by ambulance. RCMP Cpl. Alex Bérubé said police are investigating the circumstances that caused the ladder to fall.
Bérubé said five protesters were arrested, three of whom were held in custody pending a bail hearing, and two of whom were released with court documents to appear in court at a later date.
He said it's too early to comment on what charges they might be facing.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to block or obstruct a highway.
Bérubé said police are investigating both the protesters and commuters.
"The RCMP will not condone any illegal actions taken to bypass blockades," he said.
Lower Mainland protests
In Vancouver, police say commuters travelling over the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge Monday morning were delayed about 15 minutes as police worked quickly to remove protesters who had blocked the bridge using a car and were in the process of locking themselves to the steering wheel.
Five people were arrested as part of that protest.
- 1 arrested as old growth protesters claim traffic in Vancouver disrupted for the 11th time this month
Sgt. Steve Addison said the Vancouver Police Department was aware that protesters were planning to be out on Monday and scheduled extra officers to respond.
"Having seen so many protests in Vancouver, like hundreds alone last year … we're pretty familiar with how these groups work," he said.
Another blockade was set up in Richmond, B.C., outside the Massey Tunnel, a major artery for people commuting into the city. Four people were arrested, and Richmond RCMP say they are pursuing criminal charges for all four.
'Disruptions will continue'
Save Old Growth has made headlines since August 2020 when protesters moved in near the Fairy Creek watershed to protect dense old-growth forest from being logged.
Sophia Papp, a coordinator with Save Old Growth, said that while the efforts at Fairy Creek got attention, it didn't force the issue on all British Columbians the way blocking major roadways does.
"Bringing actions into an urban sphere or on the road ... has been a very divisive tactic," she said.
"But people are talking about us in a way that I think Fairy Creek, for better or for worse, has not had."
The goal, Papp said, is for the government to enact legislation to prevent logging companies from cutting down old-growth forests altogether.
"Disruptions will continue until we get this," she said.
B.C. Forestry Minister Katrine Conroy said in a statement her government has taken action to protect those forests, and claimed they've prevented logging in nearly 17,000 square kilometres of old-growth forest in B.C. She said about 80 per cent of the most at-risk old growth in B.C. has been protected, deferred or is considered uneconomic to harvest.
Conroy said that while the province respects the right to peacefully protest, what protesters did Monday was the "wrong approach."
But Papp said this is the only way to get attention.
"We tried other tactics," she said.
"We've done marches, petitions, we've done hunger strikes … not once did it generate media attention like this. I'm actually scared most of the time that I'm on the road. But I don't know what else to do."
With files from Jon Hernandez and All Points West