A future in Fairy Creek ‘that is fair, just and equitable’

The Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations' notice last week to defer old-growth logging in their territories was the latest development in a conflict that has sparked nationwide attention

It’s been non-stop news coming out of Fairy Creek for the past few months and last week was no exception.

Last Monday, the Pacheedaht, Ditidaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations formally gave notice to the B.C. government to defer old-growth logging for two years in the Fairy Creek and Central Walbran areas on southwest Vancouver Island. Two days later, the province accepted the request, which will give the nations time to prepare resource management plans as they take back power over their ḥahahuułi (traditional territories).

It’s the latest development in a conflict that has sparked nationwide attention over the past few months. As hundreds of protesters have descended upon Fairy Creek to halt old-growth logging in the area, the conversation has shifted from focusing on the forestry industry to — belatedly — Indigenous Rights and sovereignty.

The Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration signed by the three nations states that the governance and stewardship responsibilities in their ḥahahuułi must be acknowledged and respected, in accordance with the traditional laws and constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title, Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights.

“We ask that all peoples both Indigenous and non-Indigenous learn and move forward together and that by working together we can realize a future that is fair, just and equitable,” Pacheedaht First Nation chief councillor Jeff Jones said.

Emma Gilchrist takes notes at Fairy Creek
Photo: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

To be clear, the story is far from over. We’ve had five journalists on the ground at different times over the past few weeks, and they’ve seen first hand how the tensions between blockaders and law enforcement have continued to escalate. The province’s announcement isn’t likely to put a stop to that.

Moreover, the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration is the first step in building respectful nation-to-nation partnerships between First Nations and government based on reconciliation.

“The first step in protecting old-growth must be respecting Indigenous Peoples’ land-management rights in their territories,” Premier John Horgan said during yesterday’s press conference.

How that plays out in practice, though, remains to be seen. Just last week, Squamish Nation became the latest nation to request old-growth logging deferrals in their territory, The Globe and Mail reported.

Horgan has said his government is working “as quickly as we can” to respond to requests from Indigenous communities.

And then there’s the matter of the promise to implement 14 recommendations from an old-growth strategic review panel — a panel that called for a “paradigm shift” in B.C.’s forestry policy.

Until these things happen, experts say there’ll be plenty of more Fairy Creeks in the months and years ahead. If and when that happens, you can bet The Narwhal will be there to keep you informed.

Take care and fight for a just future,

Josie Kao
Assistant editor

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All that Site C dam news Sarah Cox has been breaking, year after year? Well, more and more people have been noticing.

This week, the Canadian Journalism Foundation awarded The Narwhal the Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism for Sarah’s dogged reporting on the beleaguered $16-billion BC Hydro project.

The award honours news organizations that “embody exemplary journalism and have a profound positive impact on the communities they serve.”

Sarah’s massive investigation, which was based on 2,247 pages of never-before-released information, led to widespread media coverage and helped the public make sense of a project shrouded in secrecy.

As former Site C review panel chair Harry Swain put it, Sarah is “more of a public servant than many who call that their profession.”

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