Seven Protesters Arrested
Strathcona Park blockade continues
Seven environmental activists were arrested on the weekend as their bid to block mining exploration within B.C.'s oldest provincial park stretched into its second week. The seven were among scores of Friends of Strathcona members and their supporters who defied and injunction ordering them to cease their blockade of an access road. The court order had been obtained Friday by cream Silver Mines LTD.
The first arrests came at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, with FSP members carol Latter, Kel Kelly and Gordon Cyr all being carried from the site by Campbell River RCMP. They were charged with obstructing a road and interrupting the lawful use of property, and were released on $1,000 bail on their own recognizance.
Police arrived again at 2 a.m. Sunday to take away four more protesters, who this time were preventing a bulldozer from commencing work at the site. Later that day, four more protesters sat down in front of the drill rigs and prevented work for the third time during the weekend. However, no arrests were made. Sunday's four arrests followed a day of high-profile protest attended by more than 100 people.
Among the protesters on Saturday were two Indian groups claiming ownership of the parkland in question. Members of the Laich-kwil-tach and the Nuuchanulth nations performed a ceremonial dance which signified their disapproval over mining interests in the park. This week they were exploring possibilities of a counter-injunction against violation of what they say is native land.
One member of the Nuuchanulth, Russell Kwasistala, remained at the protest Saturday night and was one of the four arrested early Sunday. The others arrested were FSP members Steve Lawson, Don Cooper and Denis Crane. They and the first three to be arrested are scheduled to appear in court again to file pleas Feb. 23.
As protesters were carried from the site by police, one member of the protest group compared the scene to Nazi Germany. "In Nazi Germany, they carried the Jews away in the middle of the night and people didn't question it. They accepted what was going on and that the government was making the right choices," said John Lang, a Ladysmith artist who had spent his forth consecutive day at the site Sunday. "I could set up permanent camp here," said Lang, who said enthusiasm remained high both day and night.
Cream Silver Mines LTD. waits at the site daily for protesters to move the demonstration, at a cost of "upwards of $3,000 a day" according to project geologist Scott Tomlinson. The crew is ready to begin drilling three holes, but so far protesters have held off the work. "We have a court injunction that says we have a legal right to be here," said Tomlinson on Sunday, adding that protesters were "beginning to bother" the drill crew. Only violence or vandalism would force the drill team to pull out, he said. Even then the crew would return after more arrests were made, he said.
Tomlinson said the only way to terminate the project would be for the provincial government to buy out Cream Silver's mine claims, staked before the area was proclaimed a provincial park 76 years ago. Tomlinson anticipates "highly valued" deposits of copper, zinc and silver in the area.
The Friends of Strathcona have more than 1,000 members. Organizers say they are prepared for more arrests as they continue to defy Friday's injunction.
the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union and B.C.'s Green Party
have promised support for the park protest. Local UFAW president Rick
Frey said commercial fishermen are concerned that the mining in the park
will harm drinking water and fish stocks downstream.