Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt has resigned from the Capital Regional District’s Indigenous Relations Committee after a Vancouver Island First Nation expressed concerns over his activism against old-growth logging.
It comes after a video of Isitt emerged on YouTube showing him getting into an argument with police enforcing an injunction request at an old-growth logging blockade leading to the Fairy Creek Watershed, which is on Pacheedaht land.
In the video, Isitt questions whether RCMP’s decision to hire a tow truck driver to remove vehicles from the injunction enforcement area is legal.
In a letter to the CRD dated July 8, Pacheedaht First Nation Chief Coun. Jeff Jones says Pacheedaht has “repeatedly” urged the district to stop interfering in the affairs of his First Nation “for which CRD has no jurisdiction.”
“It has recently come to our attention that Councillor Ben Isitt, a CRD Board member, has been actively supporting and involved in exactly the type of disrespectful behaviour that PFN has strongly objected to,” Jones wrote.
“We take the view that this is deplorably unacceptable behaviour for an elected official who is in a position of power and influence, and is capable by vote or behaviour of imposing negative impacts on our nation.”
Jones went on to say Isitt’s behaviour shown in the video confirms the First Nation “cannot trust” the CRD to respect the nation’s rights and title.
He also called on the CRD to take corrective action in the matter.
In a letter to CRD Board Chair Colin Plant and Indigenous Relations Committee Chair Maja Tait, Isitt says he reflected on Jones’ concerns before deciding to resign as vice-chair of the committee.
“While I stand by my actions attempting to prevent the wrongful conversion of property belonging to my constituents on the Gordon River Forest Service Road, I believe that it is in the best interests of the CRD and its relations with Indigenous communities for another CRD Director to serve as Vice-Chair of the Indigenous Relations Committee at this time,” he said.
Pacheedaht First Nation has previously called on those protesting the logging of old-growth in the watershed to respect its decision-making in its own territory, adding that it does not welcome “unsolicited interference,” including third-party activism.
In June, the leaders of three First Nations on southwestern Vancouver Island including the Pacheedaht First Nation told the B.C. government they want old-growth logging temporarily deferred in two areas, including the Fairy Creek watershed. The B.C. government said it would honour the request, but protesters say the deferrals did not go far enough.
Since enforcement began at the old-growth blockades, police say that a total of 409 individuals have been arrested — at least 27 of whom were arrested previously.
This is a developing story. More to come.