Bill Johnston, an environmental activist, has advocated against forestry practices on Vancouver Island for well over 30 years.
Today, Johnston demonstrated in a flash mob along the waterfront and at the Bay Centre alongside 20 other protestors representing Elders for Old Growth. They were also seen along Victoria’s inner harbour.
Together, they danced to renditions of songs remixed with lyrics attributed to the state of old growth forestry on Vancouver Island.
And here’s the same group down at Victoria’s inner harbour earlier in the day.
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— Victoria Buzz (@victoriabuzzes) February 16, 2023
“I think the flash mob is the public manifestation of everything we stand for. The old growth is still coming down. It’s been more than two and a half years since the government said they were going to implement 14 recommendations to stop old growth forestry,” Johnston tells Victoria Buzz.
This protest comes a day after Premier David Eby and Minister of Forests, Bruce Ralston launched new measures to protect old growth and develop localized plans with First Nations to better care for BC’s forests.
“Our forests are foundational to BC,” said Premier Eby. “In collaboration with First Nations and industry, we are accelerating our actions to protect our oldest and rarest forests.”
Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley applauded the announcement and released a statement of her own expressing the BC Green Party’s relief.
“After six years of our caucus pushing for these changes, I am relieved and grateful to see substantial and transformative changes to forestry in BC,” said Furstenau.
“It is important to recognize that these changes are the result of decades of tireless work by First Nations and environmental advocates.”
While Johnston is hopeful of the province’s revised commitments to forestry alternatives, he says it doesn’t change the fact that local species are currently at risk.
“We’re so backwards in this province. We have 35 species at risk right now. The Salmon runs are affected, and the Cariboo is in desperate shape. They all say, well, we’re going to do something. Well, they’ve been saying that since 2017,” says Johnston.
Today’s demonstrations helped bring attention to a larger gathering set for 12 p.m. on Saturday, February 25th at Centennial Square.
Welcoming members of the public from all walks of life and backgrounds, Johnston says the event aims to prioritize inclusivity.
“We’re going to have a lot of Indigenous participation leading walkers down Government Street to the Leg. We have a roster of speakers that includes leading activists in the sector.”
With David Suzuki slated to be in attendance as a featured speaker, Johnston says he continues to be impressed by the now 86-year-old, environmental advocate who’s dedicated his life to educating Canadians on environmental topics.
With a little over a week until the public event, Johnston hopes the effort he and others are putting forth helps bring attention to local environmental issues happening in our own backyard.
“This is what BC is known for. It’s rare in the world to have these kinds of forests. We must protect them now,” says Johnston.
With files from Curtis Blandy.