Sierra Club forestry meeting cancelled for ‘safety’ reasons

WatchThe City of Campbell River canceled the environmental group's booking at the Community Centre citing

About 100 forestry workers and supporters showed up at the Campbell River Community Centre Monday night only to find a sign on the door saying the event hosted by Sierra Club BC had been cancelled by the city.

Some people had come from as far as Port McNeill and Woss.

“A little shocked and like are you kidding you cancel a meeting that late in the day?” said Susie Harmison who drove down from Woss.

Environmental groups Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee were hosting the event called “Forests, a Climate for Change.” It would have been one of the numerous forums held recently across Vancouver Island to question current logging practices.

However, in the face of the lengthy Western Forest Products strike and now the massive logging layoffs by Mosaic this week, Sierra Club BC said Monday it was toning down its planned approach and offered an ‘open mic’ session knowing that so many loggers were planning to attend.

“I was going to tell them that they don’t make environmentalists like they used to,” said Sierra Club BC’s Mark Worthing. “We don’t have time to find solutions in the forests that don’t uplift everyone.”

Forestry workers said they had no intention of causing any trouble and were showing up in large numbers to hear what the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Committee had to say about their livelihoods.

“And offer some facts that we believe to be true that may contradict some of the stuff they’re telling us,” said Carl Sweet who seels logging equipment at a Campbell River dealer.

However, two hours before the event the City of Campbell River sent out a notice saying it was cancelling the reservation for the meeting room at the Community Centre.

“We’ve got a whole community of people who are more than willing to talk and have a factual-based conversation but I think people got a bit scared that it might get out of hand so instead of the talking the door got locked,” said Truck Loggers Association Vice President Bill Nelson.

“You know they wanted to talk as much as we wanted to talk so we’re not sure where the gap is there, the dissidence is kind of curious and I’d like some more answers,” added Worthing.

The city says there was no specific threat to anyone’s safety.

“We recognize that many people had good intentions for the event last night and are upset that it was cancelled,” said Ron Bowles, the City’s general manager of community development. “For them, this was an unpopular decision, but our first duty is public safety.”

“We found out the same day that a large number of people were planning to attend and rally. After talking with the RCMP, we determined that, on such short notice, we could not provide appropriate security to ensure a safe and respectful event,” Bowles said.

“Forestry jobs and environmental protection are urgent concerns for our community, supporting livelihoods and local quality of life,” he added. “City facilities can provide a public space where people can gather, share information and have important discussions. And, for every event in City facilities, our top priority is to ensure safe and respectful behaviour.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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