Comox Valley marches to preserve Island’s remaining old growth forests

Comox Valley marches to preserve Island’s remaining old growth forests

Jay Van Oostdam photos

By Pat Carl

Ninety-one-year-old Elke Bibby, with her walker in tow, thought it important enough to come in from Cumberland to join the Day of Action to Save BC Forests.

So did Tallulah Patterson, owner of Little Salmon Child Care located in Courtenay’s Puntledge Park. Seven of her charges accompanied her to the Courtenay courthouse lawn on their bikes and scooters and then marched down Courtenay’s streets to Save BC Forests.

Along the way, cut-outs of local MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard, Minister of Forestry Doug Donaldson and Premier John Horgan made their usual statements defending the provincial government’s decision to sell lots of old growth to the highest industry bidder. In a twist on the childhood game of “Simon Says,” marchers were cued to turn their backs on the politicians’ obfuscations.

When the marchers arrived at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, speakers stood between the two unity totems installed at the gallery entrance.

Galen Armstrong, with Sierra Club BC, looked out over the crowd of more than 100 marchers and commented on its age diversity.

“We need to talk to people of all ages, we need to expand our circle” so that we can stop logging companies from harvesting old growth,” he said.

Youth Environmental Action organizer, Nalan Goosen, said young people believe they are the ones being “most affected by logging old growth” since they will inherit a damaged environment.

Describing that damage was Dr. Loys Maingon, who was arrested at Clayoquot Sound in 1992 for protecting old growth. While he presented statistical and scientific information, he did it in a passionate way that stirred the crowd.

Eartha Muirhead, who is spearheading the anti-old growth logging movement with First Nations at Schmidt Creek, said that “letters and polite emails to our provincial government may no longer be enough. We may need to lay our bodies on the line to save old growth.”

Other speakers included Cumberland Councillor Vickey Brown, who told the crowd that her young son said that “there are places where people just shouldn’t be” like old growth forests.

Will Cole-Hamilton, a Courtenay City Councillor, said that logging old growth is a “destructive practice” that has led to our Island’s “scarred landscape.”

Mark de Bruijn, a local Green Party of Canada candidate, noted that “tweaking provincial regulations is no longer enough. We need a profound overhaul of the system.”

Marchers spontaneously made their own signs, like Megan Trumble. They recited poems like Lorraine’s “Stained Shoes.” They penned and sang their own songs like Joanna Finch’s “We Are One.”

“The energy” at the Day of Action “was electric,” said one participant.




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Vancouver Island old growth faces a bleak future, say speakers

Vancouver Island old growth faces a bleak future, say speakers

The clear at Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew  /   Photos by Diane and Jay Van Oostdam

By Pat Carl

A Friday night crowd of 100 listened intently as speakers from Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee illustrated the grim reality of what remains of old growth forest on Vancouver Island.

The shocked audience often sighed audibly as the speakers showed photos of recently clear-cut old growth and pointed out the roads already built to more easily harvest much of the rest.

Vancouver Island’s coastal temperate rainforest is a unique system, according to Mark Worthing of the Sierra Club, one that is disappearing at the astonishing rate of 34 soccer fields per day. Less than 10 percent of the original 3 million hectares of old growth forest still exists on the Island and SW mainland.

“Because of the climate crisis,” Worthing claims, “business as usual isn’t an option. Trees are the tools we need to fight the climate crisis.”

Diane Van Oostdam standing in front of Big Lonely Doug — Height: 70.2 meters/230 feet. Circumference: 11.91 meters/39 feet

Torrance Coste from the Wilderness Committee claims that old growth and even second growth forests are our best “offense and defense’ against climate change. Because the audience members benefit from BC government-owned timber sales, we all are responsible for the demise of old growth forests, according to Coste.

A third speaker, Stacy Harper, a graduate student at Royal Rhodes, is writing about the astonishing gift the Cumberland Forest Society made to its community when it purchased 110 hectares of forest near the township.

“Since Cumberland members have long been involved in the forestry economy, they have a special attachment to those 110 hectares,” Harper said.

he community has altered its relationship with the forest; while once the community harvested the forest, it now protects the forest. In interviewing one community member, Harper was told that when the government ‘owns’ the forest, it can do what it wants. When we own the forest, we can protect it.

Following the presentations, Galen Armstrong, a lead organizer at Sierra Club BC, fielded questions for the speakers. One question echoed the frustration many attendees felt who think assertive direct action is needed to save old growth and second growth forests and to fight climate change.

Both Coste and Worthing explained that their present positions require that they work within the legal and political guidelines provided by their organizations. But in his experience, Coste has found that “civil disobedience is the sound of not being heard,” which resonated with many of those in attendance.

Comox Valley residents Diane and Jay Van Oostdam recently traveled to the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew. Their photos illustrate the assault on old growth forests in BC.

Pat Carl is a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project

This article has been updated to state Vancouver Island originally had 3 million hectares of old growth forest, not 360,000 hectares.




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Orca and a dinosaur join Comox Valley youth in climate action march

Orca and a dinosaur join Comox Valley youth in climate action march

Photo by Fireweed 

By Pat Carl

Y outh Environmental Action (YEA) took to the streets of Courtenay on Friday, May 3, to highlight the desperate situation the local community, province, country, and, indeed, the globe faces as the long brewing climate catastrophic comes home to roost.

Homemade placards challenged early afternoon shoppers and drivers with “The Climate is Changing; Why aren’t We?” as well as “It’s Our Future” and “Lower the Voting Age Before It’s Too Late.”


The call to attend the march went out through various social media formats and was answered by daycare students with their parents, elementary and high school students coming to the event on city buses, and college students skipping classes as well as older supporters. The estimated 250 students from across the Comox Valley were joined by older supporters swelling their ranks to 300 avid climate activists.

They challenged all levels of government to find their environmental consciences. They had specific questions for Gord Johns, NDP MP, and Ronna-Rae Leonard, NDP MLA who greeted marchers outside of their shared downtown Courtenay office.

Ava Perkins wanted to know when climate sciences were going to be taught in K-12 classrooms.

Ella Oldaker wanted the two government officials and their parties to actively protect old and second growth forests.

Mackai Sharp wanted to know how the federal government intended to protect the West Coast from [offshore] drilling.

Sienna Stephens asked why the herring fishery was continuing unabated in the Strait, when herring are a food source for other marine species.

All good questions, both Johns and Leonard agreed. Johns encouraged youth to “raise the volume” in their quest to lead the world away from climate disaster, while Leonard cautioned everyone to remain constructive and work with lawmakers in making the world a better place.

Older supporters of the march reacted to Leonard by shouting down her mild responses to the student questions as typical NDP pablum. In response, Nalan Goosen, one of the founders of YEA, asked everyone in the crowd to listen respectfully to the politicians’ responses.

One four-year-old, Yma, told this reporter that she was at the march with her mother because “there are too many factories and big buildings” and too few trees.

One seventh grader, Cory McAllister, said he is home schooled but found out about the march on social media and felt he had to support YEA.

An orca and an eight-foot-high dinosaur also joined the march.

In the crowd of older supporters, Pam Monroe, sincerely apologized to the students. She explained, “I worked in Alberta in the oil and gas industry for years. My lifestyle profited,” she said, “at the expense of the environment.”

Pat Carl is a contributor to the Decafnation Civic Journalism Project



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Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

Five anti-fracking activists speak at CV forum

Forum speakers, from left, Bernadette Wyton, Keith Wyton, Michael Sawyer, Damien Gillis, and Richard Wright  /  Pat Carl Photo

By Pat Carl

This article was updated April 3 to adjust the audience size.

The environmental and cultural dangers posed by LNG, fracking, and gas pipelines and the direct effect they may soon have on the Salish Sea, the Comox Valley, and Barkley Sound were discussed at a recent public forum at the Florence Filberg Centre. About 250 people heard the dire warnings from five anti-fracking activists.

The Watershed Sentinel magazine, the Council of Canadians, and the Glasswaters Foundation co-sponsored the forum.

Damien Gillis, a journalist and the director/producer of the award-winning documentary, Fractured Land, described fracking’s by-products, including methane, as more environmentally damaging than CO2 when LNG’s full life cycle is taken in account. LNG is worse than coal “cradle to grave,” said Gillis, who also said that economically LNG is “hanging on by a thread” with the help of the provincial government’s tax subsidies.

Following Gillis, Michael Sawyer, a self-described lone-wolf lawyer, described how he appealed the National Energy Board’s decision that opened the way for the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline. His appeal hinged on the fact that the Prince Rupert pipeline attached to a significant section of federal pipeline, which brought the pipeline’s ultimate approval under federal, not provincial, jurisdiction.

Despite the limits of both provincial and federal environmental guidelines, federal guidelines are more rigorous than provincial. Although Sawyer’s appeal of the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline occurred in 1998, it provides the framework for his current appeal to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Third on the forum’s agenda was Richard Wright, a spokesperson for hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan Nation. Following the direction of hereditary chiefs in the Luutkudziiwus Territory, Wright and other band members closed their territory to LNG development by constructing Madii Lii, a camp that establishes the Nation’s control over their territory.

Part of the tactics used by provincial and federal governments is to ignore the hereditary chief system, a system of oversight in place for thousands of years, and, instead, seek permission for industrial development, such as LNG, from those not in a position to give it. This pits band members against band members. The Gitxsan Nation is also collaborating with the Wet’suwet’in in that band’s struggle with LNG.

The team of Bernadette and Keith Wyton, members of the Barkley Sound Alliance, provided background on the proposed Kwispaa site at Sarita Bay in the Port Alberni Inlet which is the endpoint of the gas pipeline which begins in Northern BC. Even though the Kwispaa project is currently on pause, the Wytons warned the project, in the future, may raise its ugly head under new management.

Negative environmental impacts of the project include the destruction of fish, fish habitats, marine vegetation, and the compromising of critical killer whale habitat, as well as gas flaring, light and noise pollution. These environmental impacts are compounded by traumatic social blowbacks, such as the construction of 2,000-bed man-camps along the pipeline route, which have been linked to spikes in local crime, such as violence against women, and drug and alcohol abuse.

A question period followed the individual presentations during which audience members were reminded that LNG gas is not extracted for the use of BC residents, but is intended strictly for export. Looking ahead, the current profitable LNG market in China may not even exist in a very few years as China extracts its own fracked gas.

Additionally, fracked gas wells have a shelf life of approximately three years, which means that many more wells will be drilled in Northern BC to meet export demands and many wells will be orphaned without remediation required of LNG.

Pat Carl lives in Comox and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project.


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Decision time looming for North Island Green Party

Decision time looming for North Island Green Party

From left, Blair Cusack and Mark de Bruijn  /  Pat Carl photo

By Pat Carl

North Island-Powell River (NIPR) Greens, Voters-all: The time has come. Drum roll, please.

On March 10, between the hours of 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Greens will file into the party’s nomination meetings to cast their votes for the candidate who will represent the NIPR riding in the 2019 federal election to be held some time in October.

Greens can attend the meeting either in the Powell River Public Library located at 100 – 6975 Alberni Street in Powell River or in the Black Creek Community Centre located at 2001 Black Creek Road in Black Creek.

Yes, through the miracle of modern technology, voting for the GPC NIPR riding candidate will be conducted simultaneously from two different locations as befits a riding that encompasses nearly 58,000 square kilometres. Greens have their fingers crossed that electronic wizardry is sufficient enough to pull this off without a hitch.

While non-Green observers are welcome, voters will need to verify their Green Party membership, snap up a ballot, and check the name of their preferred candidate.

If your GPC membership has expired within the last 12 months and you have the exorbitant $10.00 membership fee in one of your pockets or buried deep in your purse and you’re willing to part with such a lavish sum, then you can vote. Such an opportunity. Let your voice be heard.

And, here, direct from attending three separate meet-and-greets, are the two candidates:

Blair Cusack believes environmental half-measures are no longer feasible. “There was a time when it was possible for me and you to do green things and help our community on the one hand, but, on the other hand, vote for a party that appealed to other aspects of what we wanted or what we believed in. Those times are past.” Read more about Blair.

Mark de Bruijn believes the environmental and social issues affecting the NIPR riding are growing. “I want to work with the many concerned, motivated and inspired people in our communities to find fresh and innovative solutions to these challenges. It is work we can do together; everyone can play a part.” Read more about Mark.

Unlike other parties, GPC has opened its doors at three meet-and greets and allowed party members and the general public to observe, question, and provide feedback to the two candidates. And here’s a shocker: Although only one of the fine candidates can win the nomination, they have both pledged to actively work on the campaign of whichever candidate is chosen to run in the election.

Following the decision made by Greens at the nomination meeting, the Campaign Launch is set for March 23 with time and location to be announced. Joining the launch will be NIPR’s special guest, Green Party MP Elizabeth May. Watch the NIPR Facebook page and website for more information as it becomes available.

Pat Carl lives in Comox and contributes to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project


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