Arli, Reece, and I visited the Fairy Creek Blockades last month. With your contributions, they hope to bring $7,000 and as many supplies as they can back to the front lines. The following is a glimpse into the girls’ experiences and associated effects on their perceptions of the society they are poised to inherit from us.
The girls are fascinated by Big Lonely Doug, BC’s second largest Douglas Fir. This forest matriarch stands starkly alone in a clear-cut as a hollow token of conservation from extractive industries that haven’t matured much past skinning beavers.
Minutes outside of Port Renfrew on a public Forest Service Road the little ladies were stopped at an arbitrary exclusion zone erected by the RCMP and were refused vehicle access to Big Lonely Doug many kilometers away. If willing to submit to a search and disclosure of identity (disguised under a thin veil of forest fire safety precautions) the RCMP allowed them to walk 5 kilometers into the consolation prize of Avatar Grove; a postage stamp of old cedars in the midst of an otherwise blank and bleached envelope.
As ten and eight-year-old girls, the callous screening by militarized RCMP members elicited a plethora of contradictions from the image of safe, helpful, and trustworthy public servants instilled in them at a young age through school safety sessions and our parenting. The two of them erupted in emotional questions once out of earshot for fear of repercussions. We hugged. They asked. They listened. They absorbed. They gained resolve.
Instead of feeling safe in the presence of RCMP, Reece drew on the energy of others like her, “When I was hiking up to Avatar Grove, I saw so many people hiking back down from just visiting this old growth forest and it made me feel like so many people cared. That made me comforted.” Upon arrival she spent silent time observing the differences between the old growth forest we rested within and the second-growth analog-cornfields we walked through to get there. “Looking up at the trees, they were so tall. Their branches were covered in moss and it was so pretty. I learned that old growth trees can have dead tops, few needles until the canopy, and how far their roots spread out into the soil.” Arli also wandered the boardwalks visibly mired in complex emotions. “I felt hopeful when we saw the big trees. I just felt it. I knew they were protected and maybe those trees would inspire others, you know, to see that they are not just standing money.”
Thirty-six days later The Honourable Mr. Justice Thompson condemned the RCMP’s unilateral choices to restrict the ladies’ access at the arbitrary exclusion zone. In part, his August 9th decision noted that “The freedom to go where one wishes, when one wishes, is part of this right to be left alone. An aspect of this freedom of circulation is an individual’s right to use the roads.” Further, Mr. Justice Thompson concluded that the RCMP, the purported bastions of our civil society, were themselves acting above the laws they are entrusted to uphold on our behalf by saying that “the RCMP do not have legal authority for these actions. The actions are unlawful.”
Through the support only sisters can give each other, the two locked hands and walked back through the blue gauntlet stinging each member with cold eyes of disappointment and not looking back. Before I even started our vehicle, the ladies had unanimously, and with conviction, decided to head to the Fairy Creek Blockade Headquarters to see if there was a way they could help. We checked in at the main gate where through the largest of smiles volunteers recited codes of conduct, *real* fire safety measures, and an orientation to the site. Weaving through all manner of blockades-in-waiting we were ushered through Bear's Mouth, a menacing log structure high enough to allow cars but not logging trucks, standing guard at the entrance to a community created in a gravel pit. Finally pulling her head back in the window before parking Reece stated with wide eyes “I’m inspired by how creative the volunteers are in creating the blockade structures. They are so big, so secure, and so strategic.”
While the little ladies didn’t make the arduous and covert trip to the front lines, they overheard many firsthand accounts of what was happening there. We also supplemented with countless photos and videos from the distant blockades shared on social media. We watched RCMP drop a detained person vertically on their head, RCMP cut metal with an angle grinder while showering immobilized volunteers with sparks, we watched as RCMP set up tarps around arrests in action so no cameras could capture their untold atrocities. Reece recounted “I was surprised at how many people were risking themselves so close to machinery, with such aggressive RCMP, how happy people were when they were arrested – that they had contributed.” Slowly, in active realization, Arli revealed that “watching videos of their violence, their anger… they didn’t care about the protesters, they didn’t care about the trees. They were a different type of people. It’s like they wanted them to be cut down. Police always seemed like heroes until this point.”
After some time for their perceptions to settle into new positions the ladies wanted to contribute on their own level. They dove into our cooler to donate almost all of our food to the collective. While walking up the forest service road to the camp kitchen with an armload of supplies Arli stated “I’m just a tiny crumb of a cookie to this world, but if I have to help, I’ll do as much as I can to help the people who are protesting and standing up for the trees, and you know, doing impactive things. They are like idols, sort of. The trees thank them.” As I stood back proudly watching my understudies play their roles I could overhear Arli share that “I feel like they are trying as hard as they can, like ants that the police, government, and loggers keep stepping on.”
In the weeks that followed the ladies have come to me almost every day with a new question about their experiences and recalibrate accordingly. We have looked at online maps showing the scant extent and fragmented remaining old growth forests. Reece recalled “When I saw the map of how little old growth was left, it made me uncomfortable because I thought so many more people cared and wouldn’t let this happen.” We continue to devour news stories and social media content following the ebb and flow of enforcement. We’ve watched videos of a logger punching a volunteer chained in place which led Arli to say “I’m such a tiny mind in a world of minds. I want other minds to consider that we need jobs, but our world is more important and that we can spare a little money to keep our world happy. The world is giving people a chance, but it's about to turnaround and give us karma.”
As this world collectively weathers famine, floods, and humanitarian crises, younger children are having to digest the choices of their previous generations at an age where they should be rolling in mudpuddles or believing in fairies; not believing in the mission of those trying to protect Fairy Creek. Sitting in my lap, Arli recently slid into a candid monolog “I didn’t want to get involved. I didn’t want to know it was happening or have it be part of my life. Because… I didn’t want it to be real. I kinda knew, but I imagined it wasn’t a part of my life - but it is now so real. My brain is like a hallway of doors and now that I’ve opened this one, I want to shut it but I guess I can’t. I’m going to do the opposite and go through the door. I opened it and I learned about it… it's like opposing magnets that you can’t connect, it just doesn’t feel right to close it. I know I can’t fix it on my own, but I know I can help make it better.”
The Clegg Ladies’ young minds have concluded that “it is desperate for help, they are organized, but they need people and supplies. They are acting strong even though there is not a lot of hope as they are getting arrested every day.”
At the time of writing this, RCMP has toppled Bear's Mouth, the camp kitchen was crushed by an RCMP excavator, and everyone at Headquarters was evicted or arrested. There have been 619 arrests and over 200 “catch and release” detainments over 373 days of continual occupation of the last unlogged watershed in the San Juan Valley on Vancouver Island.
The ladies and I will be heading back this week. With your help, they hope to bring $7,000 and as many supplies as they can. Please contribute as able.
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