Before marching through the streets of downtown Kelowna to protest the logging of B.C.’s old-growth forests, hundreds gathered at Kerry Park on Saturday (June 5) in solidarity with blockaders at Vancouver Island’s Fairy Creek watershed.
Since May 17, more than 170 people have been arrested for attempting to defer old-growth logging in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas. On Monday, three Vancouver Island First Nations came together and asked the province to pause old-growth logging in the areas for the next two years.
Echo Sulin, a member of Old Growth Okanagan, told the crowd in Kelowna that the preservation of old-growth forests is an environmental and social justice issue.
“Logging corporations are destroying and exploiting land that does not belong to them, the government or anyone other than the traditional Indigenous occupants of the land,” said Sulin.
She said that the group wants to see a sustainable future where ancient ecosystems are protected and respected rather than being seen as resources for extraction. Once the trees are cut down, “That’s it,” she said.
“These ecosystems will not be renewed in our lifetime. They will not be renewed in the lifetime of our children or our grandchildren. We need to act now.”
Following speeches made by guest speakers and live music performed by local artists, demonstrators marched through Kelowna’s downtown, repeating chants such as “Not our legacy, save Fairy Creek” and “Old-growth logging has got to go.”
Fellow Old Growth Okanagan member Waseem Hakhroo said that the cause isn’t against the logging industry, but rather, they’re against the logging of Canada’s depleted old growth forestry.
“I think that’s where the gravity of the situation comes in, where you see that there’s only less than three per cent of this temperate rainforest — the old-growth — left on Vancouver Island and it’s something worth protecting because these trees are over 2,000 years old,” said Hakhroo.
He added that he and four others from the group — which launched on May 30 — were planning to head to the Fairy Creek blockade later that evening, bringing a message board signed by supporters in Kelowna.
“I won’t stand for this negligence of our environment. These trees won’t be standing either if we don’t do something about it.”