First Nations chiefs ask protesters to remove illegal camp on Vancouver Island
June 24, 2022 By Jennifer Ellson
Indigenous leaders from the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations met with protesters on Thursday, June 23, to give final notice to immediately dismantle an illegal camp built across a main logging road on Ditidaht traditional territory in Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44 on Vancouver Island.
The First Nations’ elected and hereditary chiefs were supported by the Ditidaht Ts’aa7ukw and C̕awak ʔqin Witwak Guardians, and C̕awak ʔqin Forestry personnel, and accompanied by B.C. government representatives, and the RCMP.
The formal request follows several unsuccessful but peaceful attempts by Ditidaht to have the illegal camp removed, said a joint statement from the First Nations. The camp was built without the free, prior and informed consent of the Ditidaht Nation’s elected and hereditary leadership and violates both traditional Indigenous and provincial laws.
It also infringes on the legal decision-making authority and sovereignty of the three First Nations within their traditional territories and TFL 44, and the rights granted to C̕awak ʔqin Forestry under provincial tenures and permits, the group explained.
“As Indigenous governments, it is our responsibility to decide what is best for our lands, our waters, our resources, and the well-being of present and future generations,” said Ditidaht chief councillor Brian Tate. “The unauthorized encampment disrespects our right to walk with pride between the traditional and modern worlds, to protect our culture and to explore economic opportunities for the common good and benefit.”
“Over the past year, we have set a clear, inclusive path forward for sustainable forest management within our territories, from deferring old growth harvesting to a new Indigenous-led integrated resource management planning (IRMP) approach, to sustainable development, to investing in a climate positive future,” said Huu-ay-aht chief councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr.
“It is time to respect our constitutionally protected Aboriginal title, Aboriginal rights and treaty rights so that we can focus on these win-win stewardship solutions to heal our lands, our waters and our people for the benefit of our current and future generations. This work will take time and we ask that the protesters, their organizers and their funders give us the time and space to achieve these goals,” Dennis added.
The First Nations leaders said the illegal camp impedes lawful forest operations managed by C̕awak ʔqin Forestry and permitted by the Province of B.C. under the Forest Act on TFL 44, which also covers portions of the Ḥahahuułi of the Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations. C̕awak ʔqin Forestry is a limited partnership between Huumiis Ventures Limited Partnership (wholly owned by Huu-ay-aht First Nations) and Western Forest Products.
“Too often we are the last to benefit from what is taken out and the last to be asked what must be put back in – that ends now,” said Pacheedaht chief councillor Jeff Jones. “Today we speak as one, and Ditidaht orders these activists to shut down the camp, set aside their self-interest and instead acknowledge that our [First] Nations won’t be guided by the actions of a few but rather by our sacred principles … and by our responsibilities to our future generations.”
The three First Nations also provided a declaration notice to the protestors, putting all visitors to the Ḥaḥahuułi on notice that they must acknowledge and respect Indigenous sovereignty, governance and stewardship responsibilities, and not interfere with forest operations authorized by the B.C. government under the Forest Act. Equally, all visitors must not interfere with peaceful, legal protests that do not disrupt legally authorized forest operations.
Read the full joint statement here.
Link to the full, unedited video of the First Nations leaders addressing the protesters. Video: C̕awak ʔqin Forestry.
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