More than 100 people gathered at the BC Legislature for the first time in months for a prayer walk for old-growth forests.
It was the first rally for old growth since February, when thousands crowded outside the government building.
On Sunday, three groups hosted the prayer walk on the front lawn, which featured speeches from Elders and Hereditary Chiefs calling for further protection of old-growth forests.
“It’s time for them to get on board,” said co-organizer Paul Chiyokten Wagner.
This comes days after the provincial government announced it would extend a deferral on the Fairy Creek Watershed until Feb. 1, 2025, days before it was set to expire.
“The extension applies to the same forest lands as those deferred in June 2021 in response to a request from the elected leadership of the Pacheedaht First Nation,” said the Ministry of Forests in an emailed statement.
The deferral would protect 1,183.9 hectares, all Crown land in the Fairy Creek watershed.
“The number one threat to our own existence, even financially in these larger governments, is climate disaster,” said Wagner.
A deferral would only be a temporary measure, and Island First Nations leaders say waiting two more years for a solution would be too late.
“All the logging companies, they’re trying to get our last [old growth] within the next year or two years. By then, they’ll all be gone,” said Quatsino First Nation Hereditary Chief Sonny Wallas.
Nearly 1,200 protestors were arrested after an injunction preventing interference was issued at Fairy Creek. The B.C. Supreme later withdrew contempt charges against several protestors accused of violating the injunction.
Wallas says if it comes down to it, people will be ready to defend old growth.
“I am concerned about the arrests, but it’s something that the people of Mother Earth and the people would sacrifice to defend the lands and defend the trees,” said the Chief.
The Province says since November 2021, more than two million hectares of old-growth have been deferred in B.C.
They say continuing collaborations with First Nations in the area are ongoing for long-term forest ecosystem management. Additionally, more deferrals are expected.