'Go home and collect your welfare': Fight between B.C. anti-logging activists, forestry workers caught on video
VICTORIA -- Video has emerged of a tense altercation between forestry workers and activists trying to prevent old-growth logging on Vancouver Island.
The activists say a young Indigenous person was injured during the standoff with 10 workers in the Walbran Valley, near Port Renfrew, on Tuesday.
The region has been the site of ongoing blockades by the Rainforest Flying Squad, a group that is opposed to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island.
The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction last month to remove the blockaders from the nearby Fairy Creek area, but the RCMP have yet to move in to clear the protest camps.
The Rainforest Flying Squad filed a notice to appeal the court's decision earlier this week.
Video shot by the activists Tuesday and provided to CTV News shows several forestry workers threatening the blockaders at a protest camp.
"Maybe you should go home and collect your welfare cheque," one worker tells the activists.
"You guys think you’re smart," another one shouts. "You and your f--king teepees."
Western Forest Products issued a statement Wednesday through TFL 44 Limited Partnership, its joint operation with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations-owned company Huumiis Ventures.
In the statement, the company identifies the men as "a contractor crew" and says the RCMP and WorkSafeBC were notified of the incident.
But the RCMP said they were not aware of the altercation prior to seeing the activists' video on Wednesday. Mounties from the Lake Cowichan detachment have been sent to the area to speak with victims and witnesses, the RCMP said.
"You made the Walbran look like Hastings Street," one worker shouts in the video, referring to Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside.
"You want your Fairy Creek, you can have it, but stay the f--k away from Western [Forest Products] land," another says.
At one point in the video, one of the men slaps the phone out of the hand of the activist who is recording the altercation, while other men shout "grab the phone" and "get that phone."
The activists say three workers also attacked a young Indigenous member of the blockade, trying to force him to the ground while a fourth man hit him. The workers then promptly left the camp.
The forestry company says it has hired a third-party advisor to investigate the incident and has paused its tree-cutting work in the area pending the outcome of the investigation.
In a separate statement Wednesday, Huumiis Ventures chairperson John Jack said he was "disturbed" by the altercation.
"I fully support both the right to peaceful protest and the obligation of all forest companies, including TFL 44 LP, to provide a safe work environment," Jack said. "I appreciate that there are disagreements about how our forests are managed, but I expect those disagreements to be respectful and free from racism and violence."
The Huumiis chairperson said the company is taking the matter very seriously, adding that the third-party investigation would include recommendations on how to continue forestry operations while balancing legal protests.
"As soon as possible, TFL 44 LP will convene a meeting of its board with Ditidaht, Huu-ay-aht and Pacheedaht First Nations to provide an update on the incident and seek their input on further steps being taken," Jack said.
Protesters have been actively blockading logging roads in the region around Port Renfrew, on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, since August.