We have learned about a temporary reprieve with deferrals of old growth logging in Fairy Creek and the Central Walbran.
This was achieved in the most difficult way possible: injunctions, protests and arrests.
For months my colleague Sonia Furstenau and I have been raising these issues in Question Period and the BC NDP have deflected responsibility and put their head down.
Minister of Forests, Hon. Katrine Conroy has a responsibility to ensure the situation on Southern Vancouver Island over the past few months is not repeated.
I asked her what steps she is taking to defer logging with endangered ecosystems of high productivity old growth across British Columbia.
This morning, there is some good news in Fairy Creek.
Pacheedaht, Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht requested a two-year deferral for logging in the Fairy Creek watershed, as well as in the central Walbran. However, today I won’t be celebrating. Too many questions left to be answered. Questions that we’ll be watching very closely over the coming weeks, to see how this turns out.
Fairy Creek has become a flashpoint in this province. It’s a symbol. A symbol of this government’s desire to continue to raze our ancient forests. The announcement today was an announcement made by First Nations, but we all know, in this province, that it was a result of this B.C.’s government’s failed forestry policy to protect these ecosystems across the province. What we’ve seen in Fairy Creek in recent weeks and months simply cannot be the pathway to protecting these sacred places.
To the Minster of Forests: will the minister commit to extensive deferrals across British Columbia, in line with the government’s own panel’s criteria and the mapping done by independent scientists, to prevent what we’ve seen in Fairy Creek from happening again?
Hon. K. Conroy:
Thank you to the member for the question.
The member knows that we all care about old growth. We all care about it — all of us in the House, those across the province. The member also knows that our government is working hard to ensure that we are protecting old growth. We are fulfilling the recommendations on the old-growth report. But I have to remind the member that the number one recommendation — the number one recommendation — was those critically important government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations. That’s exactly what’s happened.
The government has been having those confidential government-to-government discussions with the Nations and we are…. The member has spoken of the results. We’ve received the request from the Chiefs of the Pacheedaht, the Ditidaht and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, and we honour their declaration and are pleased to continue those respectful discussions with the Nations because we are committed.
We are committed to reconciliation, and true reconciliation means meaningful partnerships. So we are moving forward with deferrals. We will have more news in the coming days and we will have more deferrals this summer.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
This member knows that that government wants to cut the old growth. That’s what they’ve demonstrated over the last number of months and years that we’ve been asking this question.
This member knows that this government’s also been using the UNDRIP as a shield, putting Indigenous Nations out in front in between the protests and failed forestry policy. This member knows that this government has been signing agreements over the last two years, three years — most recently, a whole bunch that have been signed in 2021, further making this situation of protecting old growth more difficult.
Anybody who has been paying attention to forestry in this province is able to see it. I’m glad that there is temporary reprieve in Fairy Creek, but it’s a painful way to achieve it. An exceptionally painful way. That we’ve been feeling, day in and day out, as Indigenous people have been put in the middle of this.
Logging corporations and British Columbia in government are logging these at-risk forests in our province. I hear there are cut blocks available going up for auction. Kwakiutl Hereditary Chief David Knox — and the minister is in her message box, talking about hereditary and doing the work…. Kwakiutl Hereditary Chief David Knox, saying that they’ve been wanting this Premier to meet with them. Silence. Hereditary Chiefs in the Gitxsan are trying to restrict access to their territory.
Those measures have been removed.
This government, like the provincial governments of the past, are using Indigenous people as a scapegoat. I can say it because I know how it feels. I know how it smells. I know how it tastes. This is the life that I’ve lived.
To the Minister of Forests. The co-chair of her own strategic review panel said that if this continues, we are going to see “Fairy Creeks happen all the time.” My question is to the Minister of Forests. What is she doing today to defer logging on old-growth stands across British Columbia to ensure that the situation that we’ve seen in Fairy Creek doesn’t happen again in our forests?
Hon. K. Conroy:
I understand the member’s passion, but we are working and we are doing the work to ensure that we are protecting ancient forests.
Our government has received several requests from First Nations to implement further deferrals. We have responded to all of the incoming requests, and we are committed to working with the Nations. Some of those conversations are already underway. Engaging with First Nations on old-growth was the number one recommendation, and we will continue to ensure that that happens, because that’s what we’re doing. We are having those discussions with the rights and title holders.
And I will remind the member that there is something else that the coauthor of the report also said. He said: “I know that the government is working on all of the priority recommendations. It won’t happen overnight.” He goes on to say: “I’ve said this before. We’ve lived in this paradigm for almost 200 years in this province, now, and our whole culture is centred around this. It’s going to change. It’s just a matter of how fast we can make the change and how we can manage the transition.”
We are doing just that. We are ensuring that we do this properly. The worst thing we could do is rush these critical decisions, rush these discussions, without ensuring that we’re doing it properly, listening, working and having those discussions with the Indigenous Nations, but also bringing in other people who this is critically important to: the communities that are affected, the workers who are affected and, of course, the companies that are affected.
We need to ensure that we have those discussions. We know that we are also reaching out to environmentalists, because we have to bring everyone to the table. Because that is the way that we are going to ensure that we protect these ancient forests.