Friday, December 30, 2005


The Winter Solstice marks the point where the Northern Hemisphere of the planet Earth faces the Sun for the shortest time. From now until the Summer Solstice the days lengthen with the coming of the light. Many people are privileged enough to be able to celebrate this season by giving and receiving gifts. In the past year Gordon Campbell’s government has been giving gifts to giant logging and real-estate companies Weyerhaeuser and Brascan. Perhaps in return for millions of dollars in contributions to the BC Liberal’s elections campaigns.

However, a reality check has come just in time for the holidays. Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court released her decision in the Hupacasath First Nation lawsuit seeking to quash the decision of the Minister of Forests that approves the privatization of 70,300 hectares of private land in Tree Farm License 44 (TFL 44).

The Court rejected arguments by the Crown and Brascan that Aboriginal Title could not exist on fee simple or private land. Last Winter the BC Liberals announced plans to privatize crown forest land identified as TFL 44 which runs along both shores of the Port Alberni Inlet. This gift of public land to a private corporation is part of Gordon Campbell’s second term commitment to industry.

One week after the BC Supreme Court released its decision BRASCAN changed its name to Brookfield. Coincidence? Fact: November 3. 2005 BC Supreme Court released its decision, November 10, 2005 BRASCAN changed its name to Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

During the proceedings of the court case BRASCAN paid Weyerhaeuser $2.4 billion for its BC coastal logging operations. Weyerhaeuser ran away to the USA with the cash plus the plunder of 7 years of logging while cutting thousands of jobs in BC. In 1999 the US corporate giant Weyerhaeuser, the largest logging company on the planet, bought MacMillan Bloedel and fired thousands of workers. In October 2004 Weyerhaeuser posted third-quarter profit at US$594 million, third-quarter sales totaled US $5.85 billion.

May 30, 2005 Brascan bought Weyerhaeuser's BC coastal timber and gave the name ‘Island Timberlands’ to all logging operations on Vancouver Island. Brascan laid-off thousands of forestry workers around the province, shut down several operations, and increased logging to 7 days per week 24 hours a day. Island Timberlands has closed public access to the roads into the Northwest Bay logging division making it very hard to identify who is doing what. Adding to the confusion this multinational company hires subcontractors which enables them to avoid unions and certain liability considerations. Meanwhile 43 people died at work in the BC forestry industry in 2005. On Vancouver Island 3 men have died in the past 2 months while logging.

Brascan is a development company which had big plans to turn publicly owned crown land designated as forest land into private real-estate. On their corporate website Brookfield states under the heading ‘Higher and better use land sale strategy’:
– Approximately 13,000 hectares of lands are viewed to have greater value in non-timber use, located on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
– It is expected that the constantly growing rural-urban interface will result in ongoing land sale opportunities.

Brascan Corporation is a global asset manager focused on property, power and infrastructure with $40 billion of assets inter-listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges. There is no mention at of the court case against the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni.

The courts have once again told the BC Government that they cannot ignore the rights of First Nations while selling, trading, or giving public land to private corporations. As in the case of the Haida, the BC government must negotiate in good faith with First Nations before selling the resources and land that is in question.

Specifically, the court ruled that, “The decision to remove the land from the TFL was a decision with important ramifications for the future of that land.” The court found that the Crown breached its duty to consult with the Hupacasath regarding the removal of the land from TFL 44, and regarding the consequences of the removal of that land on the remaining (Crown land) portion of TFL 44."

Friday, December 09, 2005


I remember the silence of the winter’s night, the gentle sounds made by the trees swaying in the breeze, the distant thunder of Englishman River Falls, and the occasional hoot of an owl. Today those sounds are overwhelmed by industrial noise. I can hear the sharp whirr of the feller bunch cutter as the blade rips through the trunk of a tree followed by the crash of the tree as it is thrown to the ground. This is repeated every thirty to forty seconds, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The din of the Errington Cedar Mill’s debarker, chippers, loaders, and saws add a cacophony of noises that grates the very soul from 6 am until late into the night, sometimes 7 days a week. Many times I have heard the metallic crash of chip bins being loaded by beeping loaders at 1 am. Wheaton Industrial Saw joins in with the shrill grinding sound of metal that drones endlessly on in a robotic rhythm that is as repetitious as a sewing machine. All of this heavy industry is going on in a ‘Rural Residential’ zone as designated by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

I was drawn by the noise of industrial logging to cross the Englishman River in hip waders, where Morrison Creek flows into the river. The rushing water drowned out all other noise as I braced myself against the forces of nature and moved my feet slowly between the round stones on the riverbed.

I walked downstream along the bank to the place where the South Englishman river brings water from the Mt. Moriarty watershed to join the water flowing from the Mt. Arrowsmith watershed. At times the ‘riparian zone’ along the top of the River bank consisted of only a single tree. A road had been bulldozed along the top of the river’s bank and at times only 30 feet separated the mud of the logging road from the flowing water. Ditches had been dug into the river bank to drain the roadbed directly into the Englishman River. These ditches will encourage silt, mud, machine oils, and debris being flushed into the river with the heavy rains of Spring.

Along the banks of the South Englishman RIver fisheries signs are posted on several alder trees stating: “Fish Habitat” and “Salmon Enhancement Program.” On the north shore of the Englishman River a well established channel system enters the main river just downstream from the logging road and clear-cut. Millions of salmon fry are release into the wild each year while hundreds of thousands return as spawning adults. Englishman River is still the second most endangered River in BC.

A yarder was pulling logs out of the clear-cut as I walked along the river and in the next section I could hear the sounds of a feller buncher. Mechanical progress has made it so that a single worker can fell many acres of trees per day while another worker can yard the same to the road edge. A couple of truckers and the job is done. An entire forest in exchange for only a minimal number of jobs.

I noticed several old growth veteran trees, likely left behind by the first loggers in the 1950’s for a variety of reasons, they provided the area with seeds for an entire generation of trees. This was standard practice in those days and as a result massive Douglas Fir trees still grow sporadically around the entire region.

Then I heard a chainsaw at the base of a group of five veteran trees which towered to a height of over 250 feet. Each veteran was easily over 6 feet across at the butt. For more than five minutes the roar of the chainsaw continued as smoke billowed from the base of the tree. Then, slowly, the giant began to tilt over, gained speed and made a thunderous crash against the floor of the clear-cut. This process was repeated until only three trees stood in the entire clear-cut spread out over 80 acres. (Crown land) portion of TFL 44."