Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 16, 2023

Forest Protectors Arrested at Fairy Creek

Forest defenders were arrested on Tuesday at Fairy Creek Watershed on Vancouver Island, Canada, northwest of Seattle. They are protecting the old-growth forest from logging by Teal Cedar Products. Still from Twitter video

Forest Protectors Arrested at Fairy Creek

By Brenda Norrell, 
Censored News, August 16, 2023

VANCOUVER ISLAND, Canada -- Three forest protectors were arrested on Tuesday protecting the old-growth forests west of Victoria, as Canada continues to target Native people with police operatives protecting the interest of destructive industries. The police ops are British Columbia's C-IRG, the Community Industry Response Group.

Mourning the invasion of the militarized police squad who arrested the forest defenders, who were his guests, Pacheedaht First Nation Elder Bill Jones said, "We are at the end times of our great forests."

Twitter photos Brandi Morin/Amber Bracken/Ricohet and Indiginews

Cree journalist Brandi Morin, and photojournalist Amber Bracken, were there.

Morin said, "The militarized RCMP of the C-IRG unit was also at the Savage Patch raid yesterday. At 6:30 am Amber and I saw some of them loading their gear in Lake Cowichan and then we raced out to the blockade cause the raid was on its way."

"Turns out these guys hiked in behind the bridge where the old growth area is, tore the owl structure down and threw the wood in the river below. And then were guarding the bridge," Morin said.

Calling on the international community, Peace Brigades International Canada said, "We draw the attention of the international community to the RCMP C-IRG raid against land defenders and allies protecting old-growth forest on Pacheedaht territory in Canada."

Photo by Amber Bracken @photobracken @ricochet_en @indiginews

Cree journalist Brandi Morin said, "RCMP C-IRG unit raided and dismantled the Savage Patch blockade to protect old-growth forests from being logged this morning. Three land defenders were arrested including Uncle Ricco, Cree Matriarch, and two settler supporters." 

Morin described the Canadian police raid on Tuesday. "RCMP Sgt. Charney grabbed me after he and others threatened me with arrest when I refused to follow their media exclusion zones during the C-IRG Unit raid of the Savage Patch blockade against old growth logging. I did, however, inform them that I knew of my rights as a journalist and their exclusion zones are illegal." Watch Morin's 12-minute video on Instagram @bmorinstories 

The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in 2021 in its Fairy Creek decision"Exclusion zones, checkpoints, searches, and restrictions on media members clearly interfere with important liberties, including freedom of movement, freedom of expression (including freedom of the press), and freedom of peaceful assembly."

RCMP's federal watchdog agency opened a probe into the operations of the C-IRG, a special unit that polices protests against resource extraction in British Columbia, CBC reports.

Abolish C-IRG said, "Due to the increasing amount of indigenous-led anti-resource extraction movements in British Columbia, the Community-Industry Response Group was born. C-IRG is unique to British Columbia. They are militarized, have no budget limit, and the officers get paid handsomely to force pipelines, mines, dams, and logging through unceded indigenous territories, without consent. This is just another extension of the RCMP’s original task- to remove and separate people from the land and enforce colonial rule. They do not keep us safe, they protect capital."

The last time the world was watching Fairy Creek, we witnessed the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Well over 1,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous forest defenders were arrested by the RCMP over months of tense standoffs in 2021 as activists sought to halt the logging of rare ancient trees.

The courts hammered that movement, with charges and bail conditions keeping many away, and the tussle in the trees went dormant for most of the last two years.

Until now.

A new blockade, led by Indigenous youth and supported by non-Indigenous allies, has just been erected on a key bridge crossing an arterial logging road. The RCMP's specialized tactical team that responds to land defence actions is present and surveilling the camp. A raid could come any day, and having media on the ground is of crucial importance to keep tabs on police and document the latest developments as land defenders seek to protect their unceded territories from old-growth logging.

Brandi Morin, an Indigenous journalist and author who has won a number of major awards, including a Canadian Digital Publishing Award and an Edward R. Murrow award in the U.S., is getting on a plane this morning to bring you the story from Fairy Creek's new front lines.

She'll be joined by World Press Photo of the Year-winning photojournalist Amber Bracken, reuniting a dream team that last joined forces to tell the story of First Nations communities fleeing wildfires in Alberta.

This trip is the result of a partnership between Ricochet Media and Indiginews, and Brandi and Amber's reporting and photos will be published by both outlets.

It shouldn't be up to you to pay for some of this country's most accomplished journalists to cover such an important story. But it is.

Our industry is broken. But with just a small donation you can help us do the essential on-the-ground reporting that so often slips through the cracks these days.

At least six times in the last 18 months we've asked for your support to fund one of Brandi's reporting trips to places like Wet'suwet'en and Fairy Creek. Every single time, you've come through in record time.

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