The Haida Nation has set up blockades around B.C.'s Queen Charlotte Islands, demanding it be consulted over forestry operations and land-use issues.
More than 100 protesters blocked roads to logging camps, disrupted barge traffic and forced the provincial forestry office in Queen Charlotte City to shut down, Port Clements Mayor Dale Lore said Wednesday.
The protesters said they're are upset by the B.C. government's refusal to consult with the Haida Nation over Weyerhaeuser's recent sale of private coastal forest land and Crown timber rights to Brascan Corp.
Haida spokesperson Gilbert Parnell said they want to stop logging in environmentally sensitive areas and said they want to block the $1.2-billion deal – scheduled to be completed in June – until those concerns are dealt with.
Last November, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that governments must consult meaningfully with natives and consider their concerns about projects that could infringe on aboriginal land claims.
But the court's ruling doesn't force governments to forge agreement with the affected bands and it doesn't extend to developers.
Haida asks Governor General to intervene
Council of the Haida Nation President Guujaaw said the logging company and the province are ignoring not only the Supreme Court ruling, but also community concerns.
"There is an opportunity now to ... create a sustainable economy on this island, but if it keeps on going the way it is now we are going to lose that."
Guujaaw said the provincial government is not dealing honourably with First Nations in B.C., and has asked Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson to intervene. He said it is the duty of the Governor General to oversee the moral authority of the Crown.
An official with the Ministry of Forests said it is willing to talk to the Haida, but cannot stop the transfer of logging rights from Weyerhauser to Brascan.
Protesters may shut down all logging
If the government doesn't budge, Lore said there is widespread support amongst the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities for a complete shutdown of all logging on the islands by the weekend.
He said he's repeatedly urged provincial officials to consult with the Haida, telling them they'd be defying a Supreme Court order if they did not. "My town is going to get caught in the middle," Lore said.
Weyerhaeuser spokesperson Sarah Goodman said it's not the company's responsibility to consult with the Haida about the timber licence sale to Brascan.
"The Supreme Court was very clear that businesses such as Weyerhaeuser do not have duty to consult and accommodate First Nations," she said.
"It makes good sense to work with First Nations. They are our neighbours. And we believe the government has in place many processes to consult with the Haida and will continue to do so, regardless of who holds the licence."