By Alex Rinfret-The Port Clements residents packed their community hall last night (March 20) to hear Council of the Haida Nation representatives tell them why they want to blockade the road to Juskatla and choke off Weyerhaeuser Co Ltd.’s supply of wood from TFL 39.
The blockade – expected to start sometime this week – will prevent many Port residents from going to work, and the mood in the community hall was tense.
Worker after worker told Haida Nation president Guujaaw that while they share the CHN’s concerns about the rate of logging, the waste left behind and the lack of consultation over the pending sale of Weyerhaeuser to Brascan, they don’t understand why they have to lose their paycheques for this protest.
“The government doesn’t give a f–k about us, the logging company doesn’t give a f–k about us, why are you stepping on us?” asked logger Marty Decock. “Because we’re the weakest?”
Others said they were willing to help the Haida blockade Weyerhaeuser’s barge full of wood set to leave Masset Inlet on Monday, an action which they said would hurt the company much more than a roadblock.
If the planned roadblock goes ahead, “I will lose my business, I will lose my house, I can barely make payments,” said Yakoun River Inn owner Ray Decock. “I will go out in a 10-foot barge in the roughest weather and blockade that barge with youÂ… I will help you, we will all help you, but don’t screw us.”
Guujaaw responded that the issues at hand are so serious the Haida Nation cannot sit by without responding. The blockade, and the attempt to wrest power from the corporations which control the TFL, could bring long-term changes which will benefit everyone on the islands including Port residents, he said.
“If we don’t act at this time, we lose,” Guujaaw said. “We can’t afford to lose any more.”
“We are not recklessly making an action for the fun of it, or to hurt the people here,” he continued. “We want to kick Weyerhaeuser in the butt on their way out the door and slam it before the other guy gets in.”
Gerry Johnson, a member of the Port village council, told the crowd that blockading the barge would have the same effect on the workers as a roadblock, because Weyerhaeuser would shut down operations.
By the end of the meeting, several residents were giving an uneasy support to the blockade. When Guujaaw asked the more than 100 people packing the hall how many wanted Weyerhaeuser to stay, only three raised their hands.
“Short-term it’s tough, but long-term it could be the solution,” said faller Cliff Bell Brown. “I think everybody sees the current system is wrong. It’s rape and pillage.”
Details on the planned blockade are sketchy at this point. Guujaaw would not say what day it is scheduled to begin, but the Haida Nation should be giving more details later today. Some have described it as the biggest action since the Lyell Island protest of 1985. Stay posted.
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