A cleared swathe of land, once forest. (Courtesy of Perry LaFortune)

A cleared swathe of land, once forest. (Courtesy of Perry LaFortune)

Tsawout councillor visits Saturna to meet logging protestors

Three Tsawout members engaged in direct action to stop logging, in defiance of leadership

Mavis Underwood, a respected councillor from the Tsawout First Nation has travelled to Saturna Island to talk to three community members who are disrupting logging operations there, amid an acrimonious land-use dispute.

The Tsawout First Nation has 955 registered members, with more than half living on a small reserve near Central Saanich. Part of Saturna Island is reserve land where members can exercise their traditional practices of hunting, fishing and collecting medicinal plants.

RELATED: Tsawout members upset with leadership’s decision to approve logging

Underwood is an elected Tsawout Councillor and she acknowledges that poor communication about the logging plan has led to unhappiness in some quarters.

“Some people have good reason to be concerned,” she says. “In hindsight, communication hasn’t been the best and we should have done better.”

Community members who fish and hunt on the island are unhappy, saying the extensive logging operations, reported to be about 130 acres, have disrupted their activities and they weren’t consulted.

Tsawout leadership say that three community meetings had been scheduled before logging commenced, but were all cancelled as marks of respect due to deaths within the community.

Misunderstanding seems to have grown from the council’s belief that logging parts of the island had been discussed for ten years, while the protesters believed logging wasn’t going to happen precisely because it had been talked of and not acted upon for so long.

ALSO READ: Court approves First Nations Health Authority’s strong medicine

“We understand the anger,” says Underwood. “We’re not heartless and we didn’t take on this project in a careless way.”

She continues, “We [the Tsawout First Nation] are land rich and revenue poor. We are under pressure to fund new projects and bring people together.”

Underwood says the decision to log parts of Saturna was taken due to intense financial pressures, as the band seek to build a new longhouse. Leadership believe the project is critical to provide a place of meeting and care for a community reeling from rising mental health issues.

RELATED: Tsawout bless land for longhouse (2011)

The logging operation will net $2, 500,000, around half of which will go to the co-owners of the land – the Tseycum First Nation. Around $1,000,000 will be left to fund clearing and building of the community longhouse.

Protestors claimed their concerns had been dismissed and leadership had flip-flopped about the reason for the clearances, variously claiming powder worms, root rot and beetle infestation.

“There are three identifiable infestations and we’re also dealing with lots of deadfall, which is a fire hazard,” Underwood said.

ALSO READ: Yoga cop teaches Oak Bay youngsters about health and wellness

She explains that the land, in her view, can be better used, “We have a lot of transient camping, squatting and people growing things on the land.

“We want reforestation and regrowth, with the planting of medicinal plants. We want a presence and place on our land.”

Despite the contractor believing the logging roads will remain, Underwood says council are not seeking to build on the cleared areas. However, she says council would consider building cabins or rental houses around the perimeter to secure much needed revenue.

First Nations

 

Some of the felled trees on Tsawout land on Saturna Island. (Courtesy of Perry LaFortune)

Some of the felled trees on Tsawout land on Saturna Island. (Courtesy of Perry LaFortune)

Just Posted

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read