The House

Musician Bryan Adams calls for B.C. government's ouster over old-growth logging

Musician Bryan Adams is part of a group of prominent Canadians who have called for a halt to old-growth logging in British Columbia — and he's calling for the governing NDP to be voted out over the issue.

Provincial forestry minister says government listening to Indigenous groups

A blockade in the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island on Sunday May 30, 2021. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC News)

Canadian musician Bryan Adams is urging British Columbians to vote out the NDP government in the next election over its support for old-growth logging in the province.

"I mean, this is disgraceful. This isn't what we voted for. People don't vote for tearing down ancient trees. If people knew more about what was going on, they would seriously be outraged," Adams told host Chris Hall in an interview for CBC's The House airing Saturday.

Protests against logging in the Fairy Creek watershed area have intensified this year, with activists blocking a road to the area. On May 17, the RCMP began enforcing an injunction to clear the camps and more than 260 people have been arrested since then.

On June 7, three First Nations in the area called for a two-year deferral of the logging. The provincial government agreed to pause operations two days later.

CBC’s Kieran Oudshoorn reports from the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, where activists have been calling for an end to old-growth logging; musician Bryan Adams details his support for the protests, along with the Ancient Forest Alliance’s TJ Watt; and B.C. forestry minister Katrine Conroy discusses the steps her government has taken to respond to protesters. 24:21

Adams is one of over 100 prominent Canadians who signed an open letter calling on B.C. Premier John Horgan to end old-growth logging in the province. For Adams and activist TJ Watt, who also joined The House, the temporary deferral granted by the provincial government isn't good enough.

"People are not going to be happy when they see that old-growth trees are still falling just outside those deferral areas. And the government's not taking this seriously," Watt said.

Singer-songwriter Bryan Adams performs during the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games 2017 at Air Canada Centre on September 30, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Harry How/Getty Images)

'It's just barbaric'

Adams said he and others were not calling for the end of all logging in the province. He said they want steps taken to protect old-growth trees, instead of letting loggers "plow through and cut everything down."

"It's just barbaric," he said.

Adams said that the protests in the Fairy Creek area are no different from other anti-logging protests that have taken place in British Columbia over the years — including those at Clayoquot Sound, one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history.

"It's just the same old story over and over, over again," he said.

"This is my backyard again. It's still going on. When are people going to learn that these trees are invaluable to us? They don't come back and we've got to protect them."

Forested land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Old-growth trees typically look "snaggy," like the trees in the photo with white trunks. Second-growth trees typically look clean and green, like the trees on the right. (Jen Osborne/The Canadian Press)

Respecting role of First Nations

A key issue in the Fairy Creek situation has been the positions of First Nations, both for and against old-growth logging.

Soon after the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations requested the deferral, Huu-ay-aht Chief Coun. Robert J. Dennis Sr. told CBC Radio it was the protesters who were not being respectful of Indigenous rights.

"If you respect First Nations in what they stand for, if you respect First Nations Aboriginal title and if you respect First Nations people, period, you would honour their request not to protest," said Dennis.

Watt said Saturday it's up to governments to give First Nations additional resources so they aren't "forced to choose between logging of old-growth forests or losing the jobs and revenues that come from logging old-growth."

Provincial Forestry Minister Katrine Conroy told The House that working with Indigenous groups on developing forestry plans is the government's priority.

"I think it shows respect to ensure that we are talking to the Indigenous nations," Conroy said, urging others involved to do the same.

Activists from Ridge Camp watch the sunset from the top of the Fairy Creek watershed. Most have vowed to continue their opposition despite the recently negotiated two-year deferment of logging in the Fairy Creek and central Walbran areas. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

"I really hope that people will respect the nations and respect their voices because reconciliation is tough.

"We can't only move forward with reconciliation when it serves our needs. We have to respect reconciliation is something we're doing in this province and we're very serious about it."

She said the government is working to adopt the 14 recommendations made in a report on old-growth forests released last year. The provincial government started that work last year, with the deferral of logging in nearly 200,000 hectares of old-growth forest.

Watt argued that the government's actions this year are not in line with the report's recommendations to halt logging on old-growth forests that are at risk.

Conroy said the provincial government would not be putting an end to logging in British Columbia altogether.

Conroy said that she wants to make sure that her grandchildren could, if they so choose, work in a sustainable and successful forestry industry.

"But I also want, if they so choose, to have the opportunity to walk in an old growth forest with their kids."

With files from CBC News.