Protesters against old-growth logging blocked the Pat Bay Highway’s northbound traffic near Tsehum Harbour Park and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal Monday morning.
By 11 a.m., police had arrested four people. The protest started in the early morning hours and by 8:30 a.m., about 12 Save Old Growth protesters were still on scene. A trailer blocked part of the roadway and held a barrel of concrete, with one protester’s arm encased inside.
An SUV parked to block part of the roadway also had two protesters locked together.
Vehicles were able to proceed north after weaving through two barriers that had been set up.
The demonstrators were joined by about a dozen Sidney/North Saanich RCMP and Central Saanich police officers at the scene. Police vehicles blocked the protesters’ barriers as officers directed traffic in the area.
Sophia Papp, a Save Old Growth spokesperson on the scene, said early in their demonstration a member was also perched atop a 15-foot ladder on the highway. Papp said one driver, “incensed that we were inconveniencing his day,” snapped a wooden support structure and led to the ladder toppling, with the protester falling to the pavement below.
That person was taken to the hospital after the fall, which occurred just after 6 a.m., Papp said.
According to a GoFundMe campaign, the protester suffered a broken pelvis and required surgery.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alex Berube said the protest created frustration amongst commuters “who attempted to bypass this illegal blockade.” He said the blockades are dangerous for protesters and others.
“While we understand the commuters’ frustration, the RCMP does not condone illegal actions taken to bypass blockades,” Berube added.
Save Old Growth said the North Saanich protest is part of their campaign to pressure the B.C. government into passing legislation that would immediately end all old-growth logging in the province. Their blockades will continue until that demand is met, the group says.
Derek Menard, a Save Old Growth member, said he’s spent countless hours lobbying for change and did “everything you’re supposed to do and (what) everyone suggested you should do,” such as writing letters and signing petitions – but got nowhere. He claimed the province is politicizing “the extinction of the human race and the collapse of society.”
“At some point, everyone is going to be asked the question ‘What did you do when you knew?’ When you knew all the science was really clear and was made repeatedly clear to you and you had that knowledge and you knew what’s going to happen if we don’t change our actions and our legislation,” he said at Monday’s protest.
Berube said the incident remains under investigation and police are asking with anyone with information to contact the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP at 250-656-3931.