North Island families struggling as Western Forest Products strike enters 5th month
PORT MCNEILL - As the strike between unionized forestry workers and Western Forest Products nears the five-month mark, other businesses and communities are feeling more of an impact.
Jessica McLaughlin, executive director of the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce says several families are starting to get hit hard.
"We've seen a repossession vehicle in town often, because it's the five month mark and people have eaten up their savings as well as their allowable defer," McLaughlin said. "Mortgages are coming into delinquency."
The union wrote a letter to the United Steel Workers as well as Western Forest Products urging both sides to work together to reach a settlement. The letter pre-dates similar correspondence from mayors on Vancouver Island as well as the acting mayor from Powell River.
The chamber referenced how nine families decided to move away from Port McNeill.
McLaughlin told CTV News, "there have been boats towed away, there have been cars towed away, it's not people trying to fear monger, it's a reality of what's happening in our town right now".
A Campbell River counselling firm indicates it has also heard from more people being impacted from the strike.
Kelsi Baine is the executive director of Upper Island Counselling and notes the effects are wide-reaching.
"What has really become evident to me, increasingly so since the strike began, is how many other industries beyond forestry this strike is impacting," Baine said.
"There are entire communities, particularly on the north island that are there due to forestry," added Baine. "Woss, Zeballos, to name a few, they exist and the stores and the gas stations in those towns will really be struggling".
Baine said members of the general public not connected to the strike can assist those in difficulties right now by understanding more about the generational pride they have over the industry.
"Just have a real, rich appreciation and understanding for the role that forestry plays in the culture of our province and particularly the northern half of the island," Baine said.