|(ENS) VANCOUVER --
forest conservationists were violently
assaulted in the old growth forest of the Elaho Valley
September 15 about 125 miles north of
Vancouver. The victims allege they were beaten by loggers
from International Forest Products and Elaho Valley
"James Jamieson our Millennium Tree Survey camp coordinator, reported to us that at about 11 Wednesday morning, many pick-up trucks with International Forest Products (Interfor) and Elaho Valley Logging Co. written on their doors began to surround him and seven other conservationists in an Upper Elaho Valley camp," said Joe Foy, WCWC campaign coordinator.
The camp does not belong to the WCWC, but is organized by the Forest Action Network (FAN) and People's Action For Threatened Habitat (PATH). These grassroots action groups are dedicated to keeping the temperate rainforests of British Columbia intact. Operating out of a separate camp nearby, Jamieson had been surveying and mapping trees that are over 1,000 years old for WCWC's campaign to preserve the Stoltmann Wilderness as a National Park.
About two hours later, Foy received a desperate satellite-phone call from Jamieson who said that he was locked in his van and surrounded by some 100 angry loggers. The phone call abruptly ended.
At once, Foy called the Squamish Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and was told by Sergeant Gary Brine that officers had already been dispatched to the area.
Before police arrived, Jamieson was dragged from his van, punched and kicked and thrown to the ground. One man raised a boulder over his head and threatened to smash Jamieson's brains in. Jamieson's van was damaged, WCWC's two-way radio and Jamieson's cameras were stolen.
Other conservationists in the camp fared even worse. Cameras were forcibly removed from the conservationists and smashed. One woman's neck was injured as she was jerked around by loggers ripping her video camera off. A male conservationist was beaten and punched -- his eye and knee injured. Other women conservationists and a 15 year-old boy were beaten severely.
reported that an Interfor employee videotaped the
attacks and laughed as the conservationists were being
At 2:30PM Jamieson, after being prevented from locating four WCWC tree survey volunteers under his charge and camped in the nearby forest, tried to drive his damaged van, containing the injured conservationists. Behind him, the loggers were burning the PATH/FAN camp to the ground.
Jamieson was immediately followed by a swarm of Interfor trucks. The RCMP had still not arrived. All along the 60 kilometer logging road, Interfor trucks attempted to force him off the road. An Interfor truck passed him at high speed and blocked the road forcing Jamieson to stop. Two men got out of the truck and threw rocks at Jamieson's van. Jamieson backed, swerved and escaped.
In Squamish, Jamieson and the other conservationists gave statements to the Squamish RCMP. They were treated at the Squamish Hospital and released.
Foy, and Chris Player, both WCWC employees, traveled up to the camp early Thursday morning to locate the four missing WCWC volunteers. "We phoned RCMP Sergeant Brine and requested a RCMP escort, but he told us that he did not have enough staff," said Foy. "We are going up regardless. We intend to maintain our Millennium Tree Survey Camp and continue mapping the ancient giants of the Stoltmann Wilderness until we are successful in our endeavors to see the area granted National Park protection," said Foy.
Paul George, WCWC founder, has vowed to seek justice in the courts. "We ask the RCMP to uphold the law and hold Interfor accountable," he said.
The RCMP executed a search warrant on Interfor's Squamish office. Police were looking for a videotape of the clash between protesters and loggers, but no videotape was located.
While at Interfor's office, Sergeant Brine was informed by Interfor's operation manager Dave Miller that the tape had been "destroyed." Police have yet to determine who destroyed the videotape.
One arrest was made in the incident -- a logging protester who was sitting in a tree at the FAN/PATH camp. Injured by a rock thrown by loggers, his belongings were burned before he was taken into custody.
The police investigation continues.
hearing in B.C. Supreme Court September 17 may have shed some
light on the fate of the videotape that recorded the
The case, brought by Interfor, was to seek an expanded injunction that would keep conservationists and protesters away from the logging area. Just as Mr. Justice Glen Parrett was about to make his ruling, the Interfor lawyer jumped up and said that the company too had looked for the tape. In the course of that search the attorney said he spoke to the Interfor employee who shot the tape. He was told that "persons unknown" had asked the employee for the tape, using a threat to force him to hand it over. The unknown person threw the tape off the Lava Creek bridge. The judge responded that "the dog ate my homework excuse" would not be successful in court.
Judge Parrett ruled that not only would the 500 meter "bubble zone" around the logging work area stay in place, but he added a 200 metre exclusion zone around the logging road entry points.
Still, Western Canada Wilderness Committee researchers won more freedom for their activities than they had previously enjoyed.
Adriane Carr, a director of the WCWC said, "Before, every time we wanted to go through we had to inform Interfor about the timing and how long we would be there. Now we don't have to do that. Now anyone authorized by us to be conducting what the judge called 'legitimate and worthwhile research and activities' must carry a WCWC card and seal on their person, and a list of those people must be maintained in our office. We do not have to seek approval of Interfor for access any time."
The Wilderness Committee is seeking an emergency meeting with provincial Attorney General Ujjal Dosanj. Carr said the group wants a public inquiry into the conduct of the RCMP who she says, "did not act in their capacity to protect public safety." The Committee is asking Dosanj to ensure that the Crown pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators.
"I feel very passionately that the people who were acting in a violent way assaulting the conservationists must be brought to justice. Interfor is also culpable. They were using company trucks, radios; it was an organized assault on peaceful conservationists. If they are not brought to justice, we all lose as Canadians in terms of our rights and freedoms. I have faith that Canadian citizens abhor violence and will come down very heavily on these activities."
Joe Foy and Chris Player found the four missing volunteer researchers on Thursday. Player volunteered to stay on as camp coordinator. The four volunteers were informed fully, said Carr, and all elected to stay. Foy is returning with more volunteers who want to go up there and work.
"We will not back down to bullying," Carr maintained. "We have a legitimate right to be there."
"This is the most violent attack I've ever heard about in the 15 years that I have been working on B.C. conservation issues," said Foy. "We simply cannot let these thugs to deter us in our efforts to see the Stoltmann Wilderness and its thousand year old trees preserved for future generations. We call on all British Columbians and on conservationists around the world to condemn this violent attack and join with us in our quest to preserve the Stoltmann Wilderness -- Canada's foremost National Park candidate."
September 27, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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