Port Clements is calling for help.
Recent logging protests at Nadu Road, Lawn Hill, New Town / Tlaa Gaa Aawtlaas, and now Collison Point / St’al.la Kun have led to layoffs and work stoppages at Infinity West, O’Brien & Fuerst, and Husby Forest Products that are hitting the small mid-island village especially hard.
With fewer than 300 residents, most jobs in Port Clements rely on forestry.
“There are people out there who really depend on that income, they maybe don’t have big savings,” says Mayor Urs Thomas.
“It’s really a hardship for them.”
Writing on the village’s behalf, Thomas sent a letter last week to B.C. Premier John Horgan and Haida Nation President kil tlaats’gaa, Peter Lantin.
It calls on the B.C. government and Haida Nation to make an immediate, interim agreement that will stop Port Clements from losing more forestry workers.
“We see the need for respectful sustainable logging here and have shown our support as signers of the Protocol Agreement,” says the letter, which notes that for the last eight years, the Haida Nation and B.C. government have co-managed Haida Gwaii forests to a higher standard than most places in Canada thanks to the Haida Gwaii Land-use Objectives Order.
While acknowledging that sustainable forestry is still a work in progress, as is the relationship between the Haida Nation and B.C. government regarding logging and land control, the letter says Port Clements is running out of time.
“We respect these islands, our unique environment and the Haida people,” it concludes.
“We want our community to be valued and our residents given the support they need to continue to live here.”
Speaking over the weekend, Thomas said he has explained Port Clements’ position to MLA Jennifer Rice and sought a meeting with the premier, but he knows recent stand-offs over Haida Gwaii forestry are mainly for others to resolve.
“It’s a government-to-government talk that has to happen between the province and the Haida to solve those problems,” Thomas said.
“We can only point out that we signed the protocol agreement. It promised stability for the communities and all that — working together. So we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Before the protest at Collison Point started on March 13, Port Clements council had called for an all-islands protocol meeting regarding the impasse over logging contracts that BC Timber Sales put up for bid in areas that may become part of a future Haida Gwaii Community Forest.
Thomas said that meeting did not take place mainly because it dealt with the community forest and local leaders have just sent in their reply to the B.C. government’s offer to apply for one.
On March 23, the Old Massett Village Council and the Council of the Haida Nation held a special meeting on Collison Point for Haida citizens. A public meeting may follow soon.