The N’Quatqua Logging Co.’s (NLC) logging of lot CP16, which began June 29, has been given the legal go ahead.
On Tuesday, July 4, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield turned down a request for an injunction against the logging company. Operations had been temporarily suspended on June 30 pending the decision.
Logging of the lands, more than 80 ha located above Anderson Lake, has been controversial, drawing protestors and a coalition of N’Quatqua and non First Nations people calling themselves The Friends of the Old Growth Alliance. The group was formed in reaction to what they maintain was a lack of consultation concerning the execution of the band’s timber licence. The group also maintains that the forested area is traditional territory essential to traditional ways of life.
According to group spokesperson Carol Thevarge, the basis of the protest was that community members were not notified about public hearings pertaining to the land. As well, subsequent requests to review minutes and other documents pertaining to those meetings were ignored.
The alliance initially set up a blockade at the entrance to D’Arcy on Portage Road on April 23.
Within a few weeks, chief and council sought an injunction against the group. Chief Harry O’Donaghey and his three-member council threatened to sue 10 members of the alliance for financial losses they alleged the band would incur as a result of failing to fulfill contractual agreements pertaining to the logging the land.
At that point, the alliance’s strategy changed as well, reconfiguring what started as a blockade as a "Sacred Fire", a meeting place for peaceful protest.
The logging company’s case against the protestors went before Judge Ian Pitfield in chambers.
The judge dismissed the case. In his decision he wrote: "Nothing in the affidavit material shows that any Defendant has breached any law or statue. Application (1) appears to be for the purpose of having the Court compel people to respect the Laws. I expected people to obey the Law without the Court telling them. Tribal Police can deal with this. It is not for the Court to judge (or) prosecute conduct which has not yet occurred."
Since no access to the area had been denied because of the protestors’ actions, Judge Pitfield deemed the case for an injunction invalid. The judge also noted that the case was complicated by the fact there were two separate issues and all parties were members of the N’Quatqua band.
At the time the logging company’s case was dismissed, members of the alliance were given 21 days to file a counterclaim. On June 23, the necessary documents outlining their position were filed in court.
As part of that counterclaim, the group had been seeking an interim injunction to stave off the logging until the legal issues surrounding CP16 cold be examined and evaluated within the judicial system. While the request for the injunction was denied, the fight to save the estimated 30,000 trees and residential wildlife is far from over.
"Judge Pitfield is going to hear our side of things on July 13," said N’quatqua band member Karen Thevarge, from outside B.C. Supreme Court late Tuesday afternoon.
The alliance’s side of things could prove damning for the band’s government. Prepared by the law firm of Devlin Jensen, the alliance’s counterclaim contains 10 specific allegations against Chief O’Donaghey and his three-member council including: "failure to adhere to rules of band government," "the wrongful and in bad faith termination of the Land and Resource Committee" and "entering into highly improvident contracts that had little or no benefit to the band."
In the meantime, logging preparation is underway and roadwork continuing. Ainsworth, Copper Child Contracting, Bridge River Logging Metrona Enterprises Ltd. have been contracted by the N’Quatqua Logging Company and its partner company, CRB Logging, to carry out the work. In a community notice advising members of the band that logging was underway, Chief Donaghey noted that all road issues had been addressed and legal access has been secured. According to a document prepared by the alliance, that road access is via Seton and was obtained through that community’s Chamber of Commerce.
Chief and council had no comment regarding the impending legal case against them.