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Hundreds mark 10-year anniversary of Clayoquot Sound protest

Hundreds of people who were arrested at a massive logging protest on Vancouver Island in 1993 returned to the area for a reunion of sorts on Saturday.

The 10-year anniversary of the Clayoquot Sound protest was meant to honour the 856 people who were arrested at the entrance to the old growth forest on the western tip of Canada, said Valerie Langer, one of the organizers for the 1993 protest.

"The logging trucks would come in every day and if they couldn't get in, they'd call the police who would come and arrest people," she said.

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Ten years ago, as many as 12,000 protesters from Canada, the U.S. and Europe took over the Kennedy River Bridge, a major access point to a logging road into Clayoquot Sound, for three months.

"People simply stood in the road and when the police came they said 'I will not move. In good conscience I cannot move,' " she said. "Then the police would arrest them."

Sentences ranged from two weeks to six months in jail.

The anniversary, held in the field of a local school in Tofino, a small town south of Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, featured booths set up by several environmental organizations and a sound stage featuring live music.

Participants were encouraged to go to workshops in tents named after different types of trees, led by speakers ranging from activist Jaggi Singh to New Democrat MP Svend Robinson.

"I'm here to celebrate the courage and the vision of the people who stood on the line and to remind Canadians that 10 years later the struggle is not yet won," said Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Robinson said the event is also meant to apply pressure on Interfor, a B.C.-based forestry company, to stop logging Clayoquot Sound.

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In June, the B.C. government approved an Interfor plan to log about 20,000 truckloads of wood from Clayoquot Sound's coastal temperate rainforest, a rare type of forest that covers less than one per cent of the Earth's surface.

A month later, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation sent the company an eviction notice to protest the logging contract.

There are many creative ways to apply such pressure, said Mr. Robinson, not the least of which is the decision Raincoast Books took earlier this year to print all Canadian copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on recycled paper.

But if push comes to shove, there might be a repeat of the demonstrations 10 years ago, he said.

"Interfor has to understand that Canadians will not accept the destruction of these forests today anymore then we did 10 years ago," said Mr. Robinson. "If the bulldozers are prepared to go back in we have to be prepared to use civil disobedience again, though I hope it won't come to that."

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