On February 25, thousands of people from all walks of life marched in the streets of Victoria, British Columbia, to demand that B.C. NDP Premier David Eby takes immediate action to save old-growth forests. In the lead-up to this important “United for Old Growth” action, over 200 organizations across the province signed on to a common declaration. This declaration calls out the BC NDP government for failing to act on the recommendations of the 2020 Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) panel, reading in part:
“While we are in a Code Red global climate crisis, this is a dangerous failure. Healthy forests are essential to maintaining safe, sustainable communities, critical water ecosystems, biodiversity, salmon habitat, and so much more. With more extreme weather, wildfires and flooding, the failure to protect vital forest ecosystems is already life-threatening and has decimated some communities in B.C.”
Since 1990, over four billion cubic metres of wood volume have been logged in Canada (Natural Resources Canada). Because the forests in Canada are so vast, it is difficult for most people to grasp just how much logging has occurred – and how little of the forests have been regrown – but the wood lost and not replaced would be enough to build four homes for each person in Canada, as explained by Barry Saxifrage in a recent article in the National Observer.
As the United for Old Growth Declaration outlines, this destruction has a significant impact on vital coastal and interior forest ecosystems in British Columbia. The BC government knows this, yet they have continued with a business-as-usual approach to logging, taking only small steps to preserve some new areas or putting a temporary moratorium on specific sections of old growth. The government has many excuses for why they have not taken the steps necessary to protect old growth, but the provincial budget released in 2023 is clear – the necessary funding is not there to implement the steps outlined in the Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) – and logging of old growth will be allowed to continue.
The CBC’s Fifth Estate has reported on the green-washing of aspects of this climate-destroying industry, stating, in reference to the wood pellet mills in BC, “Drax [a UK-based power utility] catapulted a small industry it says is green into an investor-driven, international operation dependent on logging in areas that include B.C.'s old growth and primary forests…Activists, scientists and environmentalists argue that far from being green, wood pellet production generates few jobs and actually makes the climate crisis worse. And they say it's all happening with the support of B.C. Premier John Horgan's NDP government, long criticized for being too close to the forestry industry.” This same support has continued under Premier David Eby.
Commercial logging for profit, for biomass pellets and other products alike, is not only bad for the planet, but it is also bad for workers and their families. This extraction industry operates just the same as the oil and gas industries, putting workers through a horrible cycle of “boom and bust” that leaves big corporations with billions in profits and workers with no jobs when the industry crashes. In B.C., the impacts of this cycle can be seen in towns across the province suffering from recent pulp and paper mill closures.
All of this climate destruction and hardship, the government of BC continues to stall on taking action to simultaneously support workers, protect the old-growth forests and uphold the rights of Indigenous nations to stewardship of their territories.
Stand Up, Fight Back for People and Planet!
The united action held in Victoria on February 25 was an important step forward in the struggle to pressure Premier Eby and the BC NDP government into taking action to protect old growth. Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver organized car-pooling from Vancouver and joined the action, in addition to being one of the over 200 organizations that signed on to the United for Old Growth Declaration.
At the rally, Climate Convergence signs and banners stating, “United for People and Planet,” “Defend Indigenous Rights,” and “People and Planet Before Profit – Protect Old Growth!” joined with hundreds of other signs, banners and beautiful works of art dedicated to BC’s biodiversity. We handed out hundreds of TMX Out Now! buttons and brochures about our work that day as well, making the important connection between the environmental destruction brought on by different sections of Canada’s resource extraction industry.
Although this rally didn’t bring out Premier Eby, who choose to be on the mainland of BC that day to make other announcements, it did bring out world-famous musician Neil Young, who joined the call to protect old growth by singing two songs to the surprised crowd.
Actions Continue Demanding Drop All Charges Against Land Defenders and Water Protectors!
On February 21, Climate Convergence supported Secwépemc Solidarity Rally action in defense of land defenders. This time, eight people were due to be sentenced in Kamloops for holding the Indigenous ceremony and peacefully protesting the TMX pipeline in October 2020. The lively rally outside of the Vancouver Law Courts in Downtown Vancouver was held simultaneously with a rally in Kamloops, where Hereditary Chief Saw Ses, Secwepemc Matriarchs Miranda Dick and April Thomas, Nlaka'pamux land protector Billie Pierre and four allies; Romilly Cavanaugh, Heather Lamoureux, Susan Bibbings and Laura Zadorozny were due to be sentenced. Following two days of hearings, six of the eight water protectors were sentenced to one month in jail, and two, Billie Pierre and April Thomas, await their sentencing at a later date.
This unjust sentencing followed the sentencing, and subsequent jailing, of two other land defenders in January. Maya Laframboise and Emily Kelsall, both young women activists, spent two and three weeks in jail, respectively, for protesting the TMX pipeline. Outrageously, they were also ordered to pay a total of $1,240 in restitution to Trans Mountain, the crown corporation that is building the pipeline using the money of tax-payers in Canada.
These land defenders and water protectors should never spend even one minute in jail for peacefully protesting to stop the TMX pipeline and defending Mother Earth. The government of Canada and their billionaire bosses are real criminals! We demand, Drop All Charges Against Land Defenders!
Continued Protest Actions on the Streets
The first two months of 2023 were an important time for taking action on the streets against the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline (TMX) and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline. On January 25, Climate Convergence held a successful banner drop against the dirty-tar sands pipeline in New Westminster/Coquitlam. Participants at the action joined together to drop banners over the Highway 1 overpass and a busy intersection near the Braid Skytrain station. There was a lot of support and honks from people passing by, and we were able to draw attention to the destruction from TMX pipeline construction that is happening in the area, as well as a nearby “Land Back” protest camp.
Throughout January and February, Decolonial Solidarity protests to demand that RBC Bank divest from CGL held across the Lower Mainland also continued. These actions bring people together to take a stand against the CGL pipeline and in solidarity with Wet'suwet'en land defenders, whose territory is being crossed by the destructive project in Northern BC.
Then, on February 10, Climate Convergence joined with others to organize a "Show Your Love for the Climate" action at Vancouver City Hall to let the Vancouver City Council and Mayor know that there is support for a strong Climate Emergency Action Plan. The action was organized by For Our Kids Vancouver, Fridays for Future Vancouver, Force of Nature Vancouver, Climate Convergence Metro Vancouver, Babies for Climate Action - Vancouver, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment - BC, and Shake up the Establishment. Climate Convergence central organizer Alison Bodine was an emcee of the rally alongside Neelam Chadha from Fridays for Future Vancouver. There was a dynamic program of speakers and interactive performances from the Solidarity Notes Choir, the Acapella Laboratory and the Choral Conspiracy. Altogether, it was a spirited and colourful action that also attracted a lot of support from the commuters passing by.
Join the Struggle for Climate Justice!
In the face of continued climate destruction in BC, Canada and around the world, we have no choice but to stand up and fight back. We must work to build a mass movement for climate justice and Indigenous rights that recognizes that to reverse the terrible impacts of climate chaos, we have to get rid of this rotten capitalist system that puts the interests of profits before people and the planet. There are many ways to get involved. Visit www.climateconvergence.ca and find out about upcoming online organizing meetings and public actions.
Follow Alison on Twitter: @Alisoncolette
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