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

Video shows logging operation on disputed Saturna Island land

Tsawout First Nation members opposed to logging on reserve land

Video footage taken from a plane shows an extensive logging operation on Saturna Island despite some dismay amongst Tsawout First Nation community members.

Some members of Tsawout First Nation are opposed to the logging operation, which has already clear-cut about 80 per cent of a 33,477 cubic metre-stretch of Douglas Treaty traditional hunting and fishing community land, according to Perry LaFortune, one of the individuals opposed to the logging.

Tsawout First Nation chief and council made the decision to contract a lumber company to cut down trees on the reserve. LaFortune said they have asked their chief and council for a concession of the remaining 20 per cent of land but said he is unsure as to whether or not they will concede.

“We want them to make some concessions and they say they can’t, they’re bound by contract,” he said.

The video was submitted to Black Press Media by Daniel Claxton, another individual opposed to the operation.

READ MORE: Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

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.

“We’re pretty passionate about this because we have lost so much,” LaFortune said.

LaFortune said his grandfather had a campsite on the land since 1904 and that his family has been using it for hunting and gathering since.

He said many children are able to use the land to learn about their culture and traditional hunting and gathering as well.

“I know because I drove the bus with those kids on it,” LaFortune said.

READ MORE: Tsawout councillor visits Saturna to meet logging protestors

Mavis Underwood, a councillor from the Tsawout First Nation visited Saturna Island to talk to the community members who are opposed to the logging operation. Underwood acknowledges that poor communication about the operation has led to dismay amongst some community members. However, she said the Tsawout First Nation is land-rich and revenue poor as well as under financial pressure as the band seeks to build a new longhouse.

She said the land, in her view, can be better used.

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

However, LaFortune said that the trees and plants on the land will be very difficult to replace in the wake of the logging operation.

“They said they were going to replace anything and everything that is logged over,” La Fortune said. “They need a canopy in order for these things to grow. How are they going to do that with no canopy?”

La Fortune noted that those in opposition to the operation are trying to do what is best for the band.

“The council has taken it and run with it and think that it’s in our best interest,” La Fortune said. “It’s not.”

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