Block A on Saturna Island Indian Reserve No. 7 where three community members and some Saturna residents were protesting the logging of Tsawout land. (Courtesy of Perry LaFortune)

Logging halts as Tsawout leadership launches legal action against members of their community

Indigenous Services Canada to send inspectors amid fractious climate

Amid a situation where Tsawout leadership have served their own protesting community members with injunctions, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) announced they will send inspectors to the disputed logging site on Saturna Island.

Tsawout leadership and some community members have been locked in an acrimonious stand-off over their decision to log a large portion of band land on Saturna Island.

RELATED: Video shows logging operation on disputed Saturna Island land

Feb. 26, Tsawout leadership secured a permit to log 33,477 cubic metres of community land co-owned by Tseycum First Nation on Saturna Island Indian Reserve No. 7.

The land was split into three blocks with the expectation that once the zones were logged, the bands would receive around $2.5 million. Tsawout leadership planned half these funds to go to their partners, the Tseycum, and the rest would go towards building a much-needed long house.

Members of the community who use the land for fishing, hunting and medicine gathering were dismayed at these decisions, after they were made with little consultation and no warning, and three people occupied the site.

Block A has so far been 80 per cent cleared but the protesting community members managed to halt work on blocks B and C.

RELATED: Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

Tuesday, March 26, Mavis Underwood a Tsawout councillor, reported that the three unhappy community members who had occupied the site, were served with injunctions that prohibited them from being on site to disrupt the logging. She said injunctions had also been secured against anyone else protesting in the future.

“We [then] met the three individuals. They don’t have a mandate or speak for the community but we made concessions to them as we need to get the timber off Island to fulfill our contract,” she said.

“We are concerned we don’t have direct communication with Tseycum, and it was their request to complete the contract,” said Underwood.

Underwood stated that at the meeting the three main protestors agreed to cease operations on site if tree falling didn’t continue. She says that, for now, there are no plans to continue logging blocks B and C. She added that her main concerns now are theft from the work site and protecting band staff who have received online harassment.

RELATED: Tsawout councillor visits Saturna to meet logging protestors

The picture remains confusing for those involved. Daniel Claxton, one of the community members served with an injunction said he was unsure if it had been rescinded after hearing news to that effect today. If he does not receive confirmation he expects to be in court on Monday morning. He reiterated that his only motivation is to preserve the land for his children and future grandchildren.

In this climate and amid accusations that culturally significant burial sites and trees have been destroyed, ISC have agreed to send inspectors to the site.

“In consultation with the Tsawout and Tseycum First Nations and the project proponent, Chemainus Forest Products, the Department is considering an appropriate date for a site visit,” William Olscamp, a media relations spokesperson for ISC wrote in an email.

In a further twist, Wednesday, supporters on Saturna Island set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the protesting community members’ legal defence fees, and raised over $15,000 in just a few hours.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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