Let’s focus on creating resilient communities.

30 years ago, people around the world called for a BC NDP government to protect old-growth. This year, Fairy Creek became the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history as people call for the exact same thing.

A year ago Premier Horgan promised if elected his government would implement the old growth strategic review panel’s report in its entirety – including a deferral on logging of old growth while developing a new strategy. Essentially, to end the talk & log approach. A year later and the BC NDP have, as of May, increased approvals of old growth logging by 43%. Not only has this government failed to act, but they’ve made things worse. Today I asked Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Katrine Conroy, when she’ll fulfill their broken promises and actually implement deferrals on old growth logging. I asked Premier Horgan when his government will truly prioritize protecting old growth forests.

Transcript:

S. Furstenau: A year ago our province was in an election campaign. On October 15, 2020, the Premier stated that if elected, his government would implement the old growth strategic review panel’s report in its entirety….

[Interjections.]

S. Furstenau: There is nothing to clap about.

Mr. Speaker: Members, let’s listen to the question, please. Just wait. Please continue.

S. Furstenau: It included the recommendation to defer the logging of old growth while developing a new strategy.

Where are we at a year later? As of May, this government’s approvals of the logging of old growth increased 43 percent over the previous year. First Nations that have requested deferrals on their territories are still waiting. B.C. has once again seen the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history, with over 1,100 people arrested at Fairy Creek and, in the meantime, no new deferrals.

As I expect we will hear a whole bunch of numbers thrown around in the response, I will remind this House that an analysis by scientists of the 200,000 hectares of deferrals announced in 2020 revealed that only 4,000 of those hectares actually contained productive old growth needing protection as defined by the old growth review panel’s recommendations.

My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. On June 2 of this year, the minister stated in an interview on CBC: “I expect we’ll be able to announce additional deferrals this summer.” Will the minister be announcing these additional deferrals now that summer is over?

Hon. K. Conroy: I want to thank the member for the question. I’m really happy to talk about this, because I know how passionate everybody in the House is about old growth and about our forests in general.

Just to remind the members, we have deferred the harvesting of old growth in 11 areas across the province since the report was tabled last year, totalling nearly 200,000 hectares. We brought in a big tree regulation to protect over 1,500 groves of exceptionally large trees, those trees that people look to, those fantastic big trees that people want to put their arms around and can’t. We’ve created an independent review, and we are committed to implementing all of those recommendations, as I have been saying. All of those recommendations are being worked on.

We’ve protected forest habitats for caribou, spotted owl, vulnerable species like the marbled murrelet and northern goshawk. We did work with the Pacheedaht, with the Ditidaht and with the Huu-ay-aht to defer over 2,000 hectares of old growth in the Fairy Creek watershed and the central Walbran area. And yes, we did strike a new independent technical advisory panel — I think it’s made up of the very people that the member referred to — working together to identify the most at-risk old-growth ecosystems in the province and provide a basis for additional deferrals.

The member may roll her eyes, but these are significant issues that we have dealt with and that we are moving forward on. We are implementing all 14 recommendations. We are moving forward, and we will be making more deferrals soon.

Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.

S. Furstenau: I worry a great deal when the reality that people are experiencing is not acknowledged or recognized by the people in here who they expect to represent them, who they expect to recognize what is actually happening.

The talking points are well polished. They’re great. Yet the recommendation in that review panel’s report indicated very clearly, six months after the review panel report was received by government: implement deferrals on old-growth logging in this province. We are now 18 months since this government got that report. On August 4, First Nation leaders in British Columbia called on B.C. to take immediate action to protect old growth. It’s not about picking and choosing. It’s about actually doing what you say you’re doing.

The Minister of Health, yesterday and today, has been saying: “We need to take action on climate change. We need to take action to ensure that British Columbia becomes more resilient to climate change.” It’s astonishing — 43 percent more approvals of old-growth logging under this government than the year before, 43 percent more according to government data. Keep applauding that.

[Interjections.]

Mr. Speaker: Members, let’s listen to the question.

S. Furstenau: Scientists have estimated there are 1,300 tonnes of carbon per hectare stored in the old-growth forest at Fairy Creek and in old-growth forests in British Columbia. The reason those forests can contain that carbon is because of their biodiversity.

We don’t need another technical panel; we don’t need another report. The only thing that’s getting deferrals on here is actually the action this government kept promising it would take. We need government to do what it promised it would do.

My question to the Premier. The vast majority of British Columbians want to see this government live up to its promise to protect the last remaining old-growth forests in this province. When will this file be treated as a priority by this government?

Hon. K. Conroy: Again, I thank the member for her questions.

It’s interesting that she referenced Fairy Creek. It was actually…. The message that was coming from her, from her colleague, from colleagues outside, was that that was the last remaining ecosystem, the last remaining old growth, and we did protect that. We protected that.

Our government is also committed to reconciliation and to environmental protection, which we believe must go together, must work hand in hand. The days of making unilateral decisions on behalf of Indigenous peoples are over. I believe I’ve been very clear. Our government has been very clear that in order to protect old-growth forests, we have to put Indigenous peoples at the front of the discussion, and that’s what we’re doing.

We are having those discussions with Indigenous nations. We are looking at areas across the province, but we are also respecting the wants, wishes and needs of Indigenous nations.

I want to quote Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert Dennis who said to people: “It is our responsibility to take care of our land for future generations. We are the decision-makers. We follow the guidance of our Elders and citizens to make the decisions we think are right. We are asking others to respect that process and follow our direction on our territory. Our citizens have a constitutionally protected right to manage and benefit from our lands, waters and resources.”

I think that we should all respect those words from Chief Councillor Robert Dennis. I think there are many other nations that have reached out and have said the same thing. I think it’s incredibly important that we respect the rights, needs and wishes of Indigenous nations in this very important decision-making.

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