by Alex Rinfret-MLA Bill Belsey spent the day on the islands yesterday, visiting the protesters who have barricaded the logging road near Juskatla and talking to small business people in Port Clements about how they are being affected by the protest.
Mr. Belsey said he came away with a somewhat better understanding of the issues leading to the protest, which has halted most logging activity in TFL 39.
“The big issue of course… is the export of logs from the islands with little obvious return to the islands,” Mr. Belsey said Wednesday morning (March 30). “That is a concern I share.”
Although he spent time with the 10 or so protesters at the Juskatla barricade, Mr. Belsey said they had been instructed not to talk to him about the issues and he respected that. Instead, they chatted about other things.
“I felt it was a really great opportunity,” he said. “They were very, very respectful and very friendly… I was thrilled I had the time to go over there, I really enjoyed it.”
Mr. Belsey said the small business owners and residents he spoke to in Port were concerned about the impact of the protest if it goes on for several more weeks. Everyone would like to see an early resolution, he said, but it is unclear how this could be accomplished since the provincial government does not usually speak to people who are involved in civil disobedience.
Mr. Belsey said he will be talking to the Minister of Forests and the Attorney-General later this week about the situation on the islands.
Although he shares some of the protesters’ concerns, he is adamant that Weyerhaeuser has the right to sell its operations to Brascan, with no input from the province or the Haida Nation.
“The companies have the right to carry through with this sale,” he said. The province does not have to consult with the Haida Nation about it, he said, because it changed its own legislation two years ago so that it has no involvement in a sale like this one. (Last year’s Supreme Court of Canada decision said the province does have a duty to consult the Haida Nation.)
In any case, he said, the provincial government has been trying to consult and accommodate the Haida Nation, for example through offers of money, land and timber rights.
Mr. Belsey said the province is taking a wait and see approach to the situation, but is definitely not ignoring it.
“Nobody can ignore this, that’s for sure,” he said. “The solution for all of this is sitting down and talking about it.”
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