Islanders rally at sort

  • Mar. 24, 2005 4:00 p.m.

By Alex Rinfret-About 150 islanders gathered outside the dryland sort in Queen Charlotte Wednesday afternoon to listen to chiefs and leaders demand that the provincial government heed their concerns about logging on the islands.

Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis told the crowd that the united group of Haida citizens and other islanders may not have a lot of money, but they have the determination to win this fight. And he warned that the fight may go on for a while.

“We’ll win this thing one loaf of bread, one jar of fish at a time,” Mr. Bellis said. “The tough part is not here yet. Go home and talk with folks, Haida and fellow islanders. Tell them to get ready. It’s going to get tougher.”

He brought greetings from the crew at the Juskatla blockade, who continue holding the line at a camp set up Monday. A second blockade was set up Tuesday morning at the Queen Charlotte dryland sort, site of today’s rally.

The gathering began in the early afternoon, after the arrival of a large convoy of vehicles, some bearing Haida Nation flags, which had travelled down from communities further north.

The protesters are demanding that the province consult with the Haida Nation over the sale of Weyerhaeuser Co Ltd to Brascan Corp. The company controls one quarter of Graham Island through its ownership of Tree Farm Licence 39, issued by the provincial government.

More generally the protesters are concerned about the rate of logging, the way big corporations control the logging industry, and why the province is continuing to issue cutting permits in areas islanders have agreed should be protected.

“Yesterday was a big day, today even more so,” said Allan Wilson. “It’s just heartwrenching to know how they’ve been clearcutting and highgradingÂ… It’s been happening year after year for almost 100 years.”

Mr. Wilson said the amount the big corporations log in one year could keep islanders going for 10, and in a way that would allow all the communities here to prosper.

Dale Lore, the mayor of Port Clements, said loggers are not the problem.

“The people who live here, we don’t like what the multinationals have done and what they’ve forced the people to do,” he said. “I’m sure we all love our loggers. The problem is not with the poor man or woman trying to make a living on the island.”

Speakers also included Diane Brown, who spoke to the crowd in Haida while holding her baby granddaughter. She said she wants her granddaughter to be able to harvest food from the beach, and bark and medicine from the forest, but time is running out.

“There’s no trees left,” she said. “Even now we have to go way far in for pure medicine because there is so much pollution.”

Lily Bell ended the gathering with a song and a prayer. She prayed for the healing of Ethel Jones, an elder who was at the Lyell Island protests of two decades ago and is now in the Masset hospital.

“We pray God will help us and heal our land and protect what we have,” she continued. “Today we know, all our ancestors are standing here with us.”

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