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Neil Young joins massive rally for old growth forests in B.C. capital

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A huge crowd gathered in downtown Victoria Saturday to voice opposition to old-growth logging in B.C. and call on Premier David Eby to speed up efforts to protect ancient forests.

Eby was on the mainland, marking his 100th day in office by announcing another round of affordability credits to help residents cope with the rising cost of living. 

In the capital, demonstrators gathered at Centennial Square and marched down Douglas Street to the legislature building, where they listened to speakers and took in a surprise musical performance by Neil Young.

Young, playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, sang two songs: “Comes A Time,” which has a chorus about tall trees, and his hit “Heart of Gold.”

Young also addressed the crowd between songs, saying thank you Canada and calling old trees sacred and precious.

He was introduced by his wife, actress Daryl Hannah, who said the cold weather was giving her a bit of brain freeze.

The hundreds of people attending the rally cheered wildly as Young, who appeared unannounced, took to the stage and started to play his harmonica.

Dubbed the "United We Stand for Old Growth Forests! Declaration, March and Super-Rally," the action took place in response to the B.C. government's failures to protect the province's most at-risk old-growth forests from logging, according to a statement from the organizers.

The initial group of signatories to the declaration included the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Elders for Ancient Trees, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, and the Wilderness Committee.

More than 220 organizations – including BC General Employees Union (BCGEU), the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and the BC Teachers’ Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice – had signed on to the declaration as of Saturday. 

Scheduled speakers at the rally included environmentalist David Suzuki, Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones and Karen Price, an ecologist and provincial Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel member.

"Old growth forests are vital for the health our lands and waters, our salmon and our culture, and the days of cutting them down need to end," said walas 'Namugwis, David Knox, a Kwakwaka'wakw Hereditary Chief and member of the Kwakiutl Nation, in a statement from organizers.

"Too much land in our territory has been destroyed, and this continues without the free, prior and informed consent of our chiefs and people."

The declaration accuses Eby's BC NDP government of failing to implement the 14 recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review, despite promising to do so during the 2020 election campaign under former leader John Horgan.

“Human beings have become the dominant factor altering the physical, chemical and biological properties of the planet on a geological scale,” said Suzuki in the organizers' statement.

“In a critical moment when climate change and mass species extinction are undeniable, it’s an intergenerational crime to trash these priceless treasures for short term economic and political benefits.” 

With files from The Canadian Press

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