A Chilliwack man is back from the Fairy Creek logging blockades and reflecting on the experience.
Josue Anderson, 31, returned home at the end of September “filled with gratitude” that the injunction granted by the courts in April to private logging company Teal Jones, was not extended.
Anderson, who describes himself as “a semi-retired business owner,” spent a week at the Fairy Creek blockades, near Port Renfrew, actively defending what has been called the last intact stand of the old-growth forest on Vancouver Island.
“Through the brutal rain, we had four straight days of successful defiance with zero trees felled,” he recounted upon his return in a Facebook post.
“The RCMP brutalized us but the loggers were worse.”
When he arrived at the Heli camp on Wednesday, Sept. 22 he was already exhausted from climbing, and his knee was throbbing. Those at the camp already clearly had an even worse day.
“The camp was entirely destroyed and seized by RCMP, not a single tarp was left standing and all supplies, including food, were stolen as a means to deter us,” Anderson said.
Four were arrested that day. The five left were not only exhausted, they were battered and running on fumes.
“With the supplies my group brought up, we were able to set up a new camp hidden in the bush and have a warm meal.”
By morning, there were only seven left. It was the courage of the “defenders” that drew him to Fairy Creek.
“As a Mexican immigrant who’s benefited tremendously from this settler government, I’m not the voice to prescribe solutions to the complex Indigenous politics of Aditit’s, so called Fairy Creek, but I can tell you about the people I’ve served alongside.
“The ones who scarcely leave the front, the ones most consistently putting their bodies between the will of industry and our ancient forests are disproportionately Indigenous, female, neurodivergent, queer, elderly and/or housing insecure. The lack of people on the front lines with immense privileges such as myself keeps the burden of the movement on those most likely to be systematically targeted and brutalized.”
It took Anderson more than 11 hours to hike into Heli-camp from the roadside.
Anderson said he kept thinking about Pathfinder, a 17-year-old Métis woman, who he last saw getting into 12-foot tripod, just days after getting a concussion from being dropped on her head out of a locking device.
“She’s been on the front lines for four months, leading with more courage than any current politician. I walked up the hill to give Pathfinder, and the dozens of defenders like her, what little respite I could.”
Anderson said a chopper arrived one morning a few days later and quickly dropped off loggers.
“I popped out in a rush to greet them, not even bothering to stash my backpack. Everyone else was hidden in the cut block.”
The loggers put on their ear protection.
“I walked towards them with my arms flailing, screaming as loud as I could that we had bodies in the cut-block again.
“If they heard me, they pretended not to. ‘Not our problem!’ the older logger screamed back.
“I hobbled over to stand directly in the path of the trees and began screaming again. Eventually the older logger turned around and told me to move otherwise he’d drop the tree on my head and it’d be my own damn fault.”
The logger went back to cutting the trees.
”I stood there for a few moments. I thought about my pregnant wife back home in Chilliwack, I thought about the world my child would inherit, and I thought about the two ancient trees that were looming over me, being attacked by chainsaws. What stories they could tell, if only we were capable of hearing them.”
By the last day at the camp, they were down to four. Late that afternoon, the news that the injunction extension had not being granted came over the radio.
“I allowed myself to collapse from exhaustion at that point,” Anderson recounted. “We were able to drive straight to the top of Heli camp. The next day, I got a ride down to roadside, leaving an abundance of fresh defenders at camp.
In the days since his return there’s been lots to unpack, Anderson said, and lots to reflect on.
“I’m filled with a deep joy that comes from gratitude for the life I get to continue to live now,” Anderson said.
The original injunction was granted in April of this year, and since then RCMP made more than 1,000 arrests.
Teal Jones Group, which holds tree farm licence 46 in Fairy Creek, sought to extend the injunction by another 12 months.
Protesters accused the RCMP of heavy-handed arrest tactics and the Canadian Association of Journalists took the RCMP to court over their use of exclusion zones to keep media away from areas where protesters were being arrested.
Teal Jones Group said in a release Sept. 29 they were “disappointed” by the Sept. 28 Supreme Court decision.
“We have already notified the activists’ legal team we will be appealing. To do otherwise would be to allow anarchy to reign over civil society, and for misinformation campaigns to win over fact,” Teal Jones stated.
“The blockaders have been flouting both the stated wishes of the local First Nations and the well-reasoned court injunction, while engaging in dangerous and illegal activity and spreading misinformation through sophisticated and well-financed campaigns.”
The company underlined it will be pursuing forestry activities “peacefully,” addressing accusations that workers engaged in violence.
“We expect all individuals will maintain the peace, and allow legal activities to continue,” the release said. “We condemn all acts of unlawful violence and aggression, and call upon protest organizers to do the same. We will report all illegal activity to RCMP.”
—With files from Cole Schisler
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