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PHOTOS: Seniors block Belleville Street in old-growth solidarity protest

Over 100 senior citizens called on the province to protect more old-growth forests from logging

More than 100 seniors blocked the stretch of Belleville Street outside the B.C. legislature on Thursday as they prepared to be arrested in solidarity with younger counterparts currently in old-growth forests.

After a land acknowledgement, demonstrators used police tape to close off Belleville at Government and Menzies streets. As the elderly citizens gathered to listen to speakers, some laid on the ground and were circled by white chalk, to symbolize the fallen old-growth giants.

The seniors said, after the recent old-growth deferral announcements, the province is misleading people about the current state of logging in Vancouver Island forests.

“They’re not stopping any of the road building or old-growth logging in connected, intact forests just outside the basin of the Fairy Creek watershed,” Jackie Larkin, 76, said to the crowd. “It’s like they say ‘we’ll protect your heart but we’re going to cut off the rest of the body.’”

READ: B.C. approves deferral of old-growth logging at Fairy Creek, Walbran valleys

“This struggle is nowhere near over,” Larkin continued. “John Horgan has broken his election promise to implement his – his not ours – old-growth report in its totality.”

The older folks called on Horgan’s government to defer logging in 1.3 hectares of non-protected old growth forests that was identified by scientists last month.

Susan Gage, a week shy of 75, said her generation took the environment for granted, to the detriment of what will be left behind for her grandchildren.

“This happened on my watch, it’s my age group that’s largely responsible for this, the way we’ve carelessly destroyed so much of the Earth,” she said. “The least I can do is strive and struggle to conserve what is left for our grandchildren. I want to make sure they can go Fairy Creek and marvel at those huge, ancient trees.”

READ: Scientists release maps of B.C. old growth forests, urge province to stop cutting

READ: Vancouver Island First Nations declaration not enough for old-growth protesters

Gage said governments don’t like to change and only will if the public keeps the pressure on them.

The protesters want the B.C. government to also provide funding to Indigenous communities that would allow them to pursue other economic opportunities outside of logging.

“We want to respect (the Nations’) sovereignty, their rights to the land and their rights their livelihood,” said Steve Gray.

He said seniors are passionate about the forests, but aren’t able to be alongside protesters embedded in the Island’s blockades. As a father and grandfather, he’s concerned about the future.

“We look at the climate crisis and what’s going on and we really feel it’s our responsibility to be involved, not to leave it to (youth) to do the heavy lifting, considering it’s our generation that has delivered this world to them,” Gray said.

Belleville Street reopened around 2 p.m. after demonstrators had dispersed.

READ: Behind the line at Fairy Creek: Inside B.C.’s old growth forest battleground

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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