Court to rule on Husby injunction against protest at Collison Point

A B.C. Supreme Court judge will soon decide whether to grant an injunction against the protest at Collison Point / St’alaa Kun.

Husby Forest Products filed for the injunction on April 11, noting that its work at Collison is legal, and that the now five-week blockade has caused layoffs, costs, and could soon lead to spoiled seedlings if its treeplanting contractor is unable to work.

Husby also told the court some of the protestors have brandished guns and hunting knives, and intimidated and engaged in threatening behaviour towards Husby staff and contractors.

“Attempts at negotiating a resolution to the blockade, some of which have involved Husby, the Council of the Haida Nation and the provincial government have not been successful,” the company said in its notice of civil claim.

Husby’s application for an injunction is being heard this week in a Vancouver courtroom.

Haida Gwaii Land Protectors remain optimistic

Before boating out from Masset on Wednesday morning for a land-healing ceremony at Collison, organizers of the blockade said they remain hopeful for a good outcome.

“We don’t want any more logging there — we don’t think this land can handle it,” said Lisa White, speaking at a Monday-night meeting in Old Massett hosted by the Haida Gwaii Land Protectors, a grassroots group that launched the protest on March 13.

“We can’t just cut down these old-growth forests and replant,” White said, adding that such trees should be seen not as cubic metres of timber, but as pillars of a healthy and complex ecosystem.

White called for an environmental audit of the area, another community forum on Haida Gwaii forestry, and more jobs in forest and stream restoration.

“We want to create meaningful employment for our people that does not mean degrading our land,” she said, adding that seven streamkeeping jobs in Old Massett had over 90 applications.

Two of the protestors, who asked not to be named for fear of legal risk, said they take responsibility for a deer-hunting rifle and a fish knife at the blockade, but said their intentions were never anything but peaceful.

“I think anytime we stand up and say, ‘This is our land and we’re going to uphold our laws,’ that’s going to be a threat to people,’” said one.

“We don’t need any weapons for that.”

CHN to speak at injunction hearing

The Haida Gwaii Land Protectors say they are not a uniform group, though all agree they are making a stand for Haida law on Haida land.

The blockade at Collison was started independently of the Council of the Haida Nation, and organizers said Monday that they will continue with or without its support.

Still, the CHN sought and was granted leave to intervene in Husby’s application for injunction against the protest, and will argue that negotiation is a better way to resolve the impasse.

At the Land Protectors’ meeting Monday, Haida Nation President Peter Lantin, kil tlaats’gaa, spoke about the CHN’s two-year effort to deal with what it sees as the key problem at Collison Point — overharvesting of cedar.

“From the get-go, we have the same problem that the land protectors and I think everybody here has — what’s happening at Collison Point is wrong and we we need to do something about it,” he said.

But Lantin said that under provincial law, including the Haida Gwaii Land-Use Objectives Order, Husby’s work at Collison appears fine. That was the finding of a 2016 audit by the B.C. Forest Practices Board.

“That’s the law that we created in 2009, saying this is the new standard of how you have to log in Haida Gwaii,” Lantin said.

“According to those laws, Husby’s doing nothing wrong out there.”

Cedar harvest is key, says Lantin

However, in 2012, the Haida Gwaii Management Council recognized that cedar was still being overharvested on Haida Gwaii, and recommended a more sustainable limit — that no company should log more than 38 per cent cedar.

At the time, B.C.’s Chief Forester agreed but left the 38-per-cent cap as a “soft” limit, meaning it wasn’t legally enforceable.

According to the CHN, Husby continued to harvest well above that recommended limit.

“For anybody who knows logging, that’s where the money is. And for the Haida Nation that’s where the culture is,” Lantin said.

“It’s a big clash of value.”

Over the last two years at the B.C. / CHN Solutions Table, the CHN has refused to sign 18 of Husby’s cutting permits at Collison Point because it objects to the rate of cedar harvest there — records the CHN will present at the injunction hearing.

In October, B.C.’s Chief Forester implemented a cedar partition, but the provincial government is still considering whether it should be a legally enforceable or “hard” limit.

“That hard partition is now in process and is now siting on a minister’s desk,” Lantin said.

“But it’s been sitting on his desk since December.”

Talks include potential moratorium at Collison

Regarding the negotiations with Husby before the injunction hearing, Lantin said the talks have included a potential moratorium on any more logging at Collison.

The treeplanting contract was one of the short-term issues on the table — the CHN wants the treeplanting done by a Haida crew — as is the roughly 43,000 m3 of felled and bucked timber that Husby has been waiting to barge from the area.

Despite the protest on land, Husby was able to remove a barge-load of timber that was waiting in the water, vulnerable to teredo worms.

“Nobody wants wood to just spoil, or seedlings to go bad — we’re looking at this as practical people, saying if these things get ruined, then nobody wins,” Lantin said.

Haida leaders look to the big picture

Several Haida elders and hereditary leaders also spoke at the meeting Monday night, including Chief Gidansda, Guujaaw, who spoke of the many stands the Haida Nation has taken in the last 40 years. He spoke about a one-day protest against a gold mine and protecting Duu Guusd to the renowned protest at Lyell Island, the organization of the watchmen in Gwaii Haanas, and the Islands’ Spirit Rising protest in 2005.

“Our people, over the years, were pretty clear — we’re not against logging, it’s how it’s done,” he said.

Over half of Haida Gwaii is now protected from logging, he added, and the overall cut is down to a third of what it was.

Forestry practices have also improved — 30 years ago, logging Collison Point would have meant a single, unbroken clearcut — and there are new protections for creeks, bird nests, and other environmental features as well as better access to cedar for Haida carvers and builders.

Still, Guujaaw said that despite the Haida Nation owning the largest forestry company on island, it’s clear that not enough benefits have reached Old Massett and Skidegate yet. And even now, walking the new, more “progressive” cutblocks, logging looks bad.

“That’s the nature of this thing, the nature of economies,” he said.

“It seems that these economies are all run on spoiling the Earth, whether it’s the oil in the pipelines and the tankers, or whether it’s the minerals.”

“It’s world-wide, we’re not the only ones having this trouble here.”

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