Three protesters were arrested Tuesday after logging operations commenced in East Wilson Creek block two (EW002) on lower Mount Elphinstone.
Sunshine Coast RCMP were called Tuesday morning to enforce a court order on a group of five protesters who had set up a camp just inside the cutblock. After being warned, two protesters left the property. The three who stayed were arrested.
One of the three, Penny Singh, said Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) operations manager Dave Lasser arrived at the camp at about 10:30 a.m. “with six police officers and four police cars.”
Singh, 50, and two men, aged 23 and 27, were arrested for civil contempt after allegedly refusing to comply with the court order.
“I went with the police,” Singh said. “One of the fellows went limp, so it took four officers to carry him away. The other fellow, they put him in handcuffs. We were driven in separate police cars to Sechelt.”
At the RCMP detachment in Sechelt, the three were photographed, but not fingerprinted, as they had not been charged with a criminal offence, police said.
Singh said it was the first time she had been placed in a jail cell.
“It was very difficult for all of us not to panic. But instead we meditated, we sang, we played jailhouse toilet-paper hockey,” she said,
The three were kept in separate cells for about five hours, she said, “but we did talk to each other through the little slot thing and play hockey.”
The three were released on undertakings to appear in Supreme Court in Vernon on Jan. 14, 2013.
The next morning, about 20 residents assembled at the trailhead and Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) parked a pickup truck across the logging road, blockading EW002.
“We don’t call them blockades,” Muirhead said. “We call them information gates.”
Lasser said he spoke for almost two hours to the protesters.
“There were some wonderful people here today,” he said later. “There was some good dialogue, some good points raised.”
The protesters asked to meet with SCCF officials to discuss the logging dispute, and Lasser said he would relay the request to the board of directors. When reached on the phone, chair and president Glen Bonderud confirmed “there wasn’t a willingness on the part of the board to continue the dialogue with respect to this block,” Lasser said.
“I then called the RCMP, advising them that Ross wasn’t going to move his truck and our crew couldn’t go to work. They attended probably 20 minutes later. The RCMP asked everyone to leave, which they did,” Lasser said.
There were no further arrests.
Singh said a meeting is all her group is asking for, as well.
“I think it’s important that we’re not pushing. We’re simply holding our ground, waiting for a public meeting,” she said.
Singh and other members of her group were back on the mountain Wednesday afternoon, but had moved their camp outside the cutblock. With the sound of logging activity audible from their new roost, however, Singh said she couldn’t predict what the group’s next steps would be.
She had to return, she said, “because I need to follow a line of truth — and the truth is, I’m not a criminal.”
Singh and other protesters had been camping on the edge of EW002 when they stopped logging on three separate occasions this fall in East Wilson Creek block 11, Singh said, calling those acts “spontaneous inspirations.” The third incident, on Nov. 5, led to the SCCF obtaining an injunction from a Vernon judge, which was posted at both logging sites.
Singh said the 14-plus hectares marked for logging in EW002 remain her group’s prime focus.
“The forest we’re in front of — that’s where people’s hearts are. It has rhododendrons, pig’s ear, chanterelles and pine mushrooms. It has the old Doug firs. It means so much to so many people. They feel so strongly about it,” she said.
Lasser said logging activities commenced this week although engineering survey tapes stolen from the site have not been completely restored.
“We’ve got fallers working where it’s OK to work and we’ll go from there,” he said.
The turn of events is unfortunate, Lasser added.
“None of us like what’s going on here right now. And I hope it won’t happen in the future on other blocks.”