‘They alienate British Columbians’: Environment minister blasts latest protests, demonstrations

George Heyman said the ministry would not have dialogue with the group Save Old Growth

Activists with Save Old Growth block traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in Metro Vancouver in May 2022, calling for an end to old-growth logging in British Columbia. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Save Old Growth)

Activists with Save Old Growth block traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway in Metro Vancouver in May 2022, calling for an end to old-growth logging in British Columbia. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Save Old Growth)

B.C.’s environment minister has denounced recent acts of protest from environmental groups – including the return of traffic disruptions by old-growth logging protesters, as well as a series of tire deflations targeting SUVs in Greater Victoria.

The group Save Old Growth said Tuesday it would resume blockades on major roadways and highways in order to pressure the provincial government to ban old-growth logging. Commuters travelling through Vancouver’s Stanley Park that day were delayed for about 40 minutes, according to the group.

While in Nelson for an unrelated announcement Thursday (Aug. 4), Environment Minister George Heyman characterized the disruptions as illegal.

“I think they alienate British Columbians who share their concerns about climate change, share the concerns about protecting old-growth forest,” said Heyman.

The government has committed to old-growth logging deferrals of approximately 1.7 million hectares out of 6.2 million identified throughout B.C.

That is far short of what protesters are calling for, but Heyman said the ministry would not engage in dialogue Save Old Growth, which he described as “not a formalized group” that is different from the environmental organizations the ministry is in communication with.

“These are loose amalgams of people who are effectively taking actions into their own hands, and I think it’s important for the public to differentiate between people who are engaging in uncoordinated and illegal behaviour that inconveniences the public.

“People are working hard to raise public consciousness about environmental issues, and doing that every day and trying to educate British Columbians, not force them to pay attention by potentially causing significant disruption in their lives as well as their health and safety.”

Save Old Growth spokesperson Gabrielle Handy said the group doesn’t care whether or not the ministry speaks with them.

“Our position isn’t that we need a dialogue with them. Our position is they need to stop the extractive industry from destroying the last of the old growth forests.”

Environmental protests targeted at commuters have not been limited to road blockades.

Last month, Save Old Growth said it had also spray painted Vancouver landmarks such as the Gastown steam clock. A group called Tyre Extinguishers meanwhile said it had deflated the tires of 34 SUVs in Victoria and Oak Bay to encourage the elimination of large vehicles in metropolitan centres.

Confrontations between protesters and RCMP have also continued at logging and pipeline construction sites.

Approximately 30 people allegedly blocked a police vehicle July 26 on a forest service road south of Houston in northern B.C., where the Coastal GasLink pipeline is under construction. A formal complaint was also filed against the RCMP last month by several groups after 17 people were arrested during a logging protest north of Nelson in May.

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@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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