210+ groups call on B.C. to fulfill old growth pledge ahead of February 25 rally in Victoria
February 16, 2023
Unceded Lekwungen Territories (Victoria, B.C.) – Organizers behind the United For Old Growth rally say momentum is building for a giant mobilization in Victoria in less than ten days. Rallying behind a declaration signed by more than 210 organizations, participants in this march and rally will call on Premier David Eby and the BC NDP government to honour their promise to move faster to protect old growth forests and reform forest stewardship across the province.
Signatories include the BC General Employees Union (BCGEU), the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and the BC Teachers’ Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice. Initial signatories to the declaration are the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Elders for Ancient Trees, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, and Wilderness Committee. Many of the hundreds of endorsing groups are organizing contingents to join the February 25 rally.
“Make no mistake, due to decades of lack of oversight and mismanagement, old growth forests in BC are in a state of disaster,” said Chief James Hobart of the Spuzzum First Nation. “The priority of the BC NDP government seems to be to continue to greenlight the old-growth onslaught, but together we can send a clear message to the NDP and change that light to red.”
The February 25 event will begin with a march from Centennial Square at noon, followed by a rally on the front lawn B.C. Legislature at 1:30 p.m. Rally organizers are inviting everyone to attend and to bring banners and art for the march.
Speakers and performers at the rally include:
- Chief James Hobart, Spuzzum First Nation
- Kwakwaka’wakw Hereditary Chief David Knox, Kwakiutl First Nation
- Janelle Lapointe, Afro-Indigenous climate justice and Indigenous rights organizer, Stellat’en First Nation
- Elder Bill Jones, Pacheedaht First Nation
- Rainbow Eyes, land defender, Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation
- David Suzuki, legendary environmentalist and broadcaster
- Dr. Karen Price, independent ecologist and provincial Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel member
- Christina Enns, Tla-o-qui-aht/Dakota youth
- ANSWER Women’s Drum Group
The walk from Centennial Square will be led by drummers from local First Nations, and feature a strong artistic component –for several months hundreds of artists and volunteers have been creating banners, mobile murals and 3D art pieces in preparation for the rally.
The United We Stand for Old Growth declaration calls on the BC government to keep its promises, including to immediately halt logging in the most at-risk forests; provide full financial support to First Nations and implement a just transition for forest communities; and ensure all forest-related decisions uphold First Nations Title and Rights.
“Old growth forests are a critical element to prevent the worst ravages of the climate crisis. Not only are they carbon sinks, but they stop erosion, prevent forest fires and inhibit flooding,” said Tara Ehrcke, Ditta Cross, and Sarah Newton of the BC Teachers’ Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice. “We owe it to those already suffering from climate catastrophes, and to all the world’s children, to do everything in our power to maintain a liveable planet. The government has set up a blueprint for primary forest protection: we have to ensure they act on it.”
The declaration is gaining steam ahead of a February 25 march and rally, as thousands of people prepare to come together for old growth forests on the unceded territories of Lekwungen-speaking peoples in Victoria, B.C. The rally is being held on Eby’s 100th day in office, aligning with the timeline of his pledge to accelerate action on old growth within his first 100 days.
“The strategic review panel made its recommendations long ago. Why are logging companies, even the government’s own logging company, BC Timber Sales, still logging in deferrals? This is a pointless and harmful game. The stakes could not be higher; the very future of our children is at risk. BC has already been experiencing devastating floods, landslides, and forest fires; what more must happen for government and big business to stand in solidarity with their fellow humans and the ecosystems that keep us all alive?” said organizers with Old Growth Revylution, which is hosting a parallel rally in Revelstoke on February 25.
The BC NDP government promised to implement all 14 recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review in 2020, including to immediately stop (or defer) logging in the most at-risk old-growth forests. The recommendations had specific implementation timelines, ranging from six months for deferrals to three years for establishing a robust monitoring system – but to this day not a single recommendation has been fulfilled, and old growth and at-risk forests mapped for deferral are still being destroyed. Over the same period, over 1,100 people have been arrested while peacefully defending old-growth forests in multiple regions of B.C.
The United We Stand for Old Growth Declaration remains open to additional signatories. Groups are encouraged to sign prior to the rally on February 25 and attend the demonstration with their community.
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