One Year Later, RCMP Investigator Questions Tree Sit Raid

Complaints to the RCMP have triggered an investigation into a military-style police raid on a small protest camp in Langford last year. In January 2009, former RCMP internal investigator Curt Acheson met with half a dozen community members and promised full disclosure about the February 13, 2008 operation, which involved at least sixty heavily-armed Emergency Response Team officers, police dogs, and tree climbers. RCMP officers from as far away as the Fraser Valley patrolled a kilometer-wide exclusion zone around the clock for three days while logging machines clearcut the route for Langford's new highway interchange.

Acheson is also investigating complaints that West Shore RCMP stood by and did nothing when a small rally beside Highway 1 was attacked by a much larger group of Bear Mountain construction workers two weeks after the raid on the camp.

At the heart of the complaint is the appearance of bias in how the police treated the environmentalists compared to how they handled the angry mob of contractors, according to tree sit supporter Nancy Powell. "There was a huge difference between the way the two groups of human beings were treated – the tree huggers versus the construction workers. On the one hand, tree huggers were tackled like football players. On the other hand, clearly misbehaving thugs were ignored altogether."

Powell and five other people were arrested and charged with mischief in Langford at civil disobedience protests in February 2008. The charges were later dropped. Acheson explained that it is not in the public interest to press criminal charges against peaceful protestors, and that the usual procedure involves filing a civil suit and obtaining an injunction. He said he would investigate why that procedure was not followed.

At the time, Langford administrator Rob Buchan told reporters that the city had taken legal possession of the property earlier in the week and then called in a complaint to have the camp and the treetop platforms removed. RCMP spokesperson Cst. Tasha Adams made similar statements to the media on February 13, 2008. Acheson agreed with the complainants that given the size of the operation, this scenario was extremely implausible.

Other procedures may have been disregarded as well. "At least one other complaint to the West Shore RCMP was 'lost,'" Powell says. "That's sad and that’s wrong. They invite people to come forward but when they do, the police conveniently lose the complaint."

The RCMP Public Complaints Commission initiated the current investigation, Powell notes. "I took my complaint to the right entity, the Complaint Commission, instead of the West Shore detachment."

Acheson said all complaints brought to him will be investigated, including anonymous complaints. He encourages witnesses to describe what they saw on February 13 and February 29, 2008. Acheson can be reached at

Stacks of Canadian Forces ration boxes left at the scene raised questions about possible Department of Defense involvement, although a spokesperson denied that Armed Forces personnel were present.

Acheson stated that he will file a report in March detailing who ordered the raid, who participated, and the final cost to taxpayers, which is estimated by some to be $300,000.

The Joy of Dissent, a celebration and commemoration of the Bear Mountain Tree Sit, is planned for Friday, February 13 at 5 pm at Camas Books, 2590 Quadra Street in Victoria.

Remembering SPAET Cave, Langford Lake Cave, and the Tree Sit

Below, Langford Lake Cave after the entrance was filled with concrete. On November 16, 2008, a memorial was placed at the site and the concrete-filled cave mouth was outlined with red paint.

Small Victories

For almost two years, we’ve documented and publicized the impact of resort development on wetlands, rare species, watercourses, recreation sites and First Nations heritage.

As a result, land-use decisions on southern Vancouver Island face greater demands for due diligence on environmental preservation and democratic accountability, among other long-term effects of the campaign. The fallout is still coming down on the interchange, First Nations sites, and future resort development.

In August, Langford residents reported on changes to the city’s plans for the Bear Mountain Interchange (also known as the Spencer Road Interchange). Construction of the interchange connecting the Trans Canada Highway and Bear Mountain Resort commenced and then stalled for lack of funding. The project is now going forward (with TD Bank’s funding, which has angered many), but it appears to be scaled back drastically. The overpass will be built, but cloverleaf on-ramps are on hold until the second phase of construction, beginning at an unknown date in the future. It is still possible that some of the groves of Garry Oaks and wetland habitat for Red-Legged Frogs may be spared, depending on the municipality’s future direction on environmental policy.

It seems clear that well-documented public outrage, coupled with financial agencies’ concerns about Langford’s process and diligence, contributed to the downsizing of the interchange.

Meanwhile, a movement to strengthen First Nations heritage protection has led to a historic agreement in the Gulf Islands. The agreement may eventually extend to places like Langford, where Bear Mountain development and interchange construction irreparably damaged Langford Lake Cave and Spaet Cave, despite legislation and government agencies dedicated to preserving cultural sites. The loss of the two caves and nearby indigenous burial grounds shocked the conscience of the community and especially angered First Nations people across British Columbia.

Now, according to the Victoria Times Colonist, “the Islands Trust council has approved in principle a protocol developed with the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group that goes far beyond the protections offered in the provincial Heritage Conservation Act and could become a template for similar agreements all over B.C., according to archeologist Eric McLay.”

“Such an agreement could have prevented the destruction of spirit caves at Bear Mountain resort.”
(Times Colonist, Sept. 17, 2008)

Our report The Langford Rebellion recounts how municipal plans to pave over the caves and heritage sites triggered a groundswell of criticism that grew to include a wide range of other public policy and environmental issues.

We have done much more than shine a light on conservation concerns. We have contributed to public policy changes that will reverberate far beyond Langford for many years to come. Thank you for speaking out, and stay strong – there is much more to do!

And don't forget to Boycott Bear Mountain!

Six Months Behind Schedule

August 14, 2008 - Word on the street says Bear Mountain Resort condo sales have plummeted to zero in the past three months and new tower construction has been abandoned. Construction of the Bear Mountain Interchange is now six months behind schedule, a situation that people warned could happen when they met with City of Langford staff in August 2007. The delay appears to be the result of problems securing funds for the project without driving the city in unmanageable debt.

Mayor Stew Young repeatedly promised that "the developers would pay all of the cost," but the city is now reduced to issuing an unsecured letter of credit, scaling construction back dramatically and postponing portions of the interchange. Below is the original construction schedule, issued in October 2007.

Click here for the full size image

The tree sitters and the Boycott Bare Mountain campaign can't take all the credit for this fiasco. Poor financial planning, massive community opposition, the US foreclosure crisis and the price of gas all contributed as well. No doubt those who promoted this project thought they could bully their way to success. Not turning out that well, is it? Well, we told you so. 

Crown drops all charges against tree sitters

Looking south at the interchange site. The former tree sit is at the top centre.

Crown drops all charges against tree sitters

Foes of interchange were arrested during massive February raid

Richard Watts, Times Colonist

May 14, 2008

Protesters arrested for mischief over demonstrations against Langford's Spencer Road interchange have been set free of all charges.

Criminal Justice spokesman Stan Lowe confirmed yesterday that the Crown, after review, decided not to proceed with charges against those arrested during the protest.

Lowe said that decision might change, however, if circumstances become different.

The five, Luke Woodyard, Noah Ross, Ingmar Lee, Nancy Powell and Ben Isitt, were arrested in February after a massive police raid broke up a year-long protest.

People opposed to the interchange had staged a tree-sit and campout to block work crews set to begin clearing ground for the multimillion-dollar traffic project near Spencer Road on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Protesters complained the project encouraged urban sprawl, destroyed diminishing forests and endangered rare caves.

The municipality, however, has insisted the project is necessary to ease congestion on the highway and provide a secondary access to the Bear Mountain development.

Protest supporter Zoe Blunt said while it was a relief to have the charges set aside, many are still feeling angry and bitter over the treatment they received.

For example, Blunt said the initial police raid, with about 50 officers complete with SWAT team and crowd-control units, seemed like overkill to break up a camp of about five people. "What are the RCMP doing?"

An official complaint has been filed in connection with Mountie conduct.

Blunt also said the protest was part of a larger effort that made it all worthwhile.

Opponents of the project are now talking with bankers asking them to take a second look at Langford's request to borrow money for the project. And the bankers are listening.

"The financing is not a done deal, and the interchange is way behind schedule," Blunt said. She said people in the community are now asking some hard questions of Langford councillors while an election is looming this November.

"Even if they get their interchange, they are going to wear it around their necks for the rest of their political lives," Blunt said.

"We've mobilized thousands," she said. "We have so much support in the community we have really showed people, 'You can fight city hall.'"

Why Boycott "Bare" Mountain?

Would you support a corporation that destroys the environment and tramples on people's rights – in your own backyard?

Developers for Bear Mountain Resort and the Bear Mountain Interchange have desecrated two First Nations caves near Victoria, BC. They demolished irreplaceable karst formations hundreds of thousands of years old for the sake of profit and convenience. The City of Langford promised the Langford Lake Cave would be protected. Instead, it has been mutilated.

Construction is killing vulnerable species and rare ecosystems. Bulldozers and excavators have trashed the watercourses. Mud and silt are suffocating red-legged frogs and pacific tree frogs in Spencer's Pond and Florence Lake. Garry Oak and arbutus ecosystems are reduced to rubble. Orange sludge is polluting watercourses downstream from Bare Mountain.

The project - and its funding - was not approved by voters in Langford. The city has aggressively promoted the expensive and short-sighted Bear Mountain Interchange and continues to pursue funding on behalf of developers in spite of over 2200 petitioners demanding an open vote and full disclosure of financial estimates and repayment terms.

The province collaborated in Bear Mountain's land grab. Crown forest land ended up in the hands of Bear Mountain Resort and Len Barrie's consortium after it was flipped twice in 2001 for just over a million dollars. The end result is trashed ecosystems and billions of dollars pocketed by developers while the province looks the other way.

Is this ethical business practice? Is this sustainable development?

Why would anyone do business with "Bare" Mountain Resort?

Get more info at the Boycott Bare Mountain blog.

"Mischief" Delays Blasting
April 10, 2008 - Blasting near the Langford Lake Cave was scheduled to start this morning at 9 am, but instead workers at the controversial interchange project got some time off.

A small crowd rallied on the Trans-Canada Highway while seven people and a dog occupied the Bear Mountain Interchange site for most of the morning. The action forced contractors to postpone blasting for an hour and a half while police negotiated with trespassing neighbours and local environmentalists. West Shore RCMP arrested one man for “mischief” and released him without charge. The rest were threatened with arrest and escorted out of the area, and around 11 am, the first explosions rocked the bluffs on the north side of the highway, 200 meters north of Langford Lake Cave.

Today’s delay likely cost the project thousands of dollars in extra wages for the blasting crew and security personnel. A recent news report quoted Langford Mayor Stew Young as saying that even though the municipality hasn’t set up the funding for the interchange, developers had kicked in around $200,000. That’s why the work is going forward without financing. It remains to be seen how much work they can do for $200,000, especially if people keep interfering.

It also makes us wonder – if the developers are so flush with cash, why don’t they fund the project themselves? Why is Langford acting as the bagman and making taxpayers liable for this colossal mistake?

The Canadian legal system contains little or no protection for endangered species and First Nations heritage. Sites used for spiritual practice for generations, like the Langford Lake Cave, are routinely bulldozed and blacktopped. In British Columbia, an individual or group needs to prove legal standing in order to take a rogue developer – or a rogue municipality – to court. We have not ruled out a last-minute miracle to save the cave and wetlands, and stop the destruction.

The environmental damage has left a huge scar on the landscape and much worse is planned. Even if Langford and Bear Mountain “win” this battle, they will lose in the long run. Tree-huggers have long memories, and folks in Langford never forget. The developers and the City Council will be saddled with this concrete monstrosity forever. Their legacy is an albatross that will hang around Len Barrie and Stew Young’s neck for the rest of their lives. If it’s completed, the Bear Mountain Interchange will stand as a hideous monument to ego, ignorance, and greed. Len and Stew will eventually get what they deserve – in hell, if not sooner.

It is our job to witness, grieve, and organize so this devastation can never happen again!

Thank you to all the brave and heartbroken souls dedicated to this cause.

Ecosystem Update

Warning: Destruction Ahead!
Trees, bushes, shrubs, wildflowers, and every living thing has been stripped away by bulldozers. The tree sit is gone but the fight continues.

Below, Langford Lake Cave is still intact under a rebar grate and several tons of boulders. The cave is in danger from blasting of the interchange site, which could happen at any time.

Red Alert for Red-legged Frogs Construction is dumping silt and mud into Spencer's Pond and Florence Lake and suffocating Red-Legged Frogs, a blue-listed species at risk. The city Of Langford has no plan to deal with runoff and contamination until after the construction is finished. By then the frogs may be wiped out, and it could be years before they return to what's left of their habitat.

Stand Up for Garry Oaks
Garry Oak meadows are the most endangered ecosystem in Canada, and they need your help. Developers are finalizing their proposal to the City of Langford for a large development between the Bear Mountain development and Hwy No.1. If allowed to proceed as is, this development will build on and destroy part of the endangered Garry Oaks Ecosystem and habitat for threatened species, like the sharp-tailed snake and the red-legged frog.

The city wants the development to go ahead but there is another option. The developers don’t need to build on the endangered Garry Oaks ecosystem. Within their development boundaries there is sufficient non-endangered land on which they can build. The developers have promised to give almost half of the total land away as protected, undeveloped parkland, but they have neglected to protect all of the Garry Oaks areas on their plans.

Help protect the Garry Oaks and Red-legged Frogs. Demand that the City of Langford force the developers to build only on non-sensitive land and protect the Garry Oaks Ecosystem. The mayor and city will be reviewing the final development package over the next couple of weeks. The only way to stop the destruction is to put pressure on the city of Langford to force the Skirt Mountain developers to amend their plans to protect the Garry Oaks Ecosystem. Don’t let the mayor give in to the developers with a clean conscience. Hold your elected politicians to account.

Email Langford's mayor and council:
Email Langford's project engineer:

Mayor Cardinal and Bear Mountain
Last week, I sent a press release about Highlands Mayor Mark Cardinal and the stump grinder that is currently making sawdust from cedar and fir stumps at the site of the Bear Mountain Interchange in Langford. I asked: “if [Cardinal] is not doing anything illegal or unethical, why did he go to the effort of covering up the Eco Pro logo on the machine’s cab?”

It turns out Eco Pro doesn’t own the machine any more. The mayor tells me he is no longer a partner in the company, and the red stump grinder belongs to him alone. Cardinal says his last day on the job with Eco Pro was December 31, 2007. He doesn’t specify the reason for his departure from the company. However, he does add that he and his fellow Highlands councillors have been found “not guilty” of conflict of interest charges in the past.

Conflict of interest arises when a public official votes to provide a benefit to a money-making venture without disclosing private connections to that venture. Mayor Cardinal did not excuse himself from a vote to grant Bear Mountain permission to expand its development to within 10 to 20 metres of Osborn Creek and other small waterways. In December, he also voted to allow a sewer pipe to cross through Highlands territory from the resort to the City of Langford sewer main.

The stump grinder owned by the mayor is on the south side of Highway 1 west of Spencer Road in Langford. It is only a few meters from Langford Lake Cave, a First Nations traditional site threatened by the ongoing construction of the Bear Mountain Interchange. An observer said Cardinal is likely charging the City of Langford in the neighbourhood of $500 an hour for the service.

Cardinal denies that he is guilty of conflict of interest. “You make reference to past conflict charges of interest [sic] tainting myself and other Councillors,” Cardinal writes. “After a full review by a learned judge, those charges were determined invalid [sic] by the court.”

To date, no new conflict of interest charges have been filed against Cardinal or any of his fellow councillors.

Cardinal is right to bring my attention to “this unnecessary chain of events that may have caused irreparable damage to my credibility within the greater CRD community and especially with my local political colleges.” [sic – I think he means “colleagues.”]

I would like to commend Mayor Cardinal for his honesty in coming forward and setting the record straight, and I apologize for any confusion my initial press release may have caused.

Stew's Mulligan
The past week has been rough for Langford mayor Stew Young. First he was roasted by the newspapers and TV stations. Then came his public spanking by the BC Civil Liberties Association, and finally the Municipal Finance Authority smacked down the loan for Stew’s pet highway project.

Despite the mounting pressure, the blustery mayor has not backed down from his threats to sue us for the cost of the massive police raid on tree sit camp last month. Nor is he reconsidering the destructive highway project that will demolish a First Nations cave and rare species, although the MFA’s rejection will force him to seek new financing.

In a surprise move, Young and his staff expanded the crackdown on free speech in Langford last week. This time, they targeted a young mother who put up letter-sized signs (and a small banner on her porch) that read Get the Facts: On Monday, a municipal enforcement officer arrived on Jennifer Andison’s doorstep with an order to cease and desist or face a $100 fine. Jen was astonished. Political speech is protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but not according to Langford’s restrictive sign bylaws.

Next week promises to bring more drama.  Stew Young may face worse than another public spanking - he may be fighting for his political life.

Ride On! Critical Mass takes to the streets

The Critical Mass bike ride was a rousing success, with three dozen bikers and many more supporters converging on the Ministry of Environment on Friday, March 7. We presented our demands at the Minister's office, and CHEK News gave a live report from the rally while we chanted, sang and marched.

Bear Mountain Madness Fund Drive is on now!

Hundreds of people have pledged to support the campaign for environmental justice in Langford. They are helping by lobbying the government of BC, contributing to our legal defense fund, and getting involved on the ground. Here's how:

Contribute to the legal defense fund, care of our lawyer Irene Faulkner. We have already raised over $2000 to defend the campers and potential lawsuits. Cheques can be made to "Irene Faulkner in trust" with a note directing the funds to the Bear Mountain legal fund, file #10138.

A second campaign fund for the next round of action is now open as well. Cheques for the campaign fund can be made out to VIC FAN (Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network) Please send contributions to:

Bear Mtn Campaign
c/o Irene Faulkner, Barrister
1124 Fort St.Victoria, BC
V8V 3K8

Let us know you contributed, and we'll send a letter of thanks and recognition!

"Never doubt that a small, committed group of people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

For more info and to get involved, contact Zoe Blunt
250-885-8219 (Victoria)

More photos, analysis, maps, and videos:
Inside Langford blog
Spencer's Pond and Langford Lake Cave
Langford Protest (new site)
First Nations and Development

Thank you! Pass it on!

A quiet moment at the tree sit camp, January 2008. Photo by Jody Rogac.

Sat. March 1 - A Great Day for a Hike up the Mountain!

Over 60 Langford citizens and supporters joined the Communiy Hike up Spaet Mountain (Skirt Mountain). Beginning at the Florence Lake boardwalk, we hiked along the unpaved Bear Mountain Parkway right-of-way through threatened Garry Oak, Arbutus and Douglas Fir forest. Participants included infants and Raging Granies and members of the print and television media. Thanks to Victoria City Councillor Sonya Chandler for coming out today.

We looked down through the 20-acre clearcut of the proposed Bear Mountain Interchange, and then walked past hundreds of acres of healthy mature forest on the southern slopes of Skirt Mountain. We looked across the canyon to the undeveloped lots of the new Echo Valley subdivision -- an area to be serviced by the interchange. We lunched in a pretty Garry Oak meadow overlooking the Capital Region and Juan de Fuca Strait.

The hike rounded the Skirt Mountain summit above Goldstream Watershed and then entered the Bear Mountain property. A land excavator stopped work as the hikers passed, amid burning slash piles for million-dollar homes. We passed the 7th, 8th and 9th fairways of the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course and then hit freshly paved asphalt -- the Bear Mountain Parkway to the Whistler-esque Village Centre.

It was an empowering and intriguing day. A sunny hike through some of the most endangered ecosystem in British Columbia and then defiantly emerging into the epicentre of destruction.

We are determined to stop Bear Mountain and protect the Goldstream River Watershed and surrounding ecosystems!

-- Coalition to Protect Goldstream Watershed

Bear Mountain Contractors Are Such Nice Guys!

A group of construction workers throw a math professor to the ground. The man escaped unhurt. (Video still from CHEK News.)

This week, construction contractors organized a “welcome party” for folks rallying against the interchange. Around 200 men (and two women) showed up to our small rally Friday on Highway 1. It was a lovely gesture but somehow we forgot to get their names and addresses to send thank-you notes. Please help by forwarding this message to all your friends!

It’s great to see all these fine people engaging in an intelligent and open democratic dialogue. We would like to thank these gentlemen (and ladies) for bringing so much attention to the cause!

This past week was proclaimed Anti-Bullying Week, and the RCMP would like to commend the upstanding citizens who came out Friday for their commitment to human rights, free speech, and defusing conflict. Those involved in Friday's event can visit the West Shore RCMP station on Atkins Road in Langford or call 474-2264 for a personal commendation and thanks for presenting such an excellent example to young people.

We realize some of these heroes may be too modest to step forward, and that's why we are asking you to take a look at the videos linked below. Every one of these samaritans deserves public recognition! And since they were not camera-shy, their faces are up on Youtube for everyone in the world to view. We already know several of these individuals, but we are asking for help to identify the rest, so we can invite them to our next party!

Thank you in advance for your help!

Raw Video of February 29 Rally (Warning: foul and abusive language)

(More foul language)

(Obscenities and abuse)

All our friends are free again!

Both of the people arrested yesterday for defending Garry Oaks in Langford have now been released on a promise to appear and other conditions. They will have to appear in court again in May.

This Week's Forecast: More Peaceful Action

A large meeting at UVic on Monday was brimming with creative energy and enthusiasm for the campaign to stop destructive urban sprawl and the Bear Mountain development/interchange. Clearly, the time of uncontested big development at the expense of our local native ecosystems, is over. With diligence and persistance the will of caring, compassionate citizens can prevail. Two actions are flowing out of this meeting...

1. Direct Action on Friday, February 29th, 7 am.
Meet at Shell Station at Spencer Road and Trans-Canada Highway
Spaet (Skirt) Mountain defenders are meeting at the Shell Station and will proceed to the site of the interchange where work crews are currently yarding and loading fresh cut trees onto trucks.

There are many opportunities to stop work, slow the process of ecological destruction and galvanize more opposition to this hideous development. Please remember that everyone is responsible for their own actions and that we are exercising our civic duty to defend the natural landscape from needless destruction of habitat, watercourses and biodiversity, putting the planet before mega-profits.

We are all free to add creative twists, keeping in mind how they impact the larger campaign and making sure they reflect the commitment to the non-violence code. As well, there are numerous capacities in which people can participate in action, many of which do not involve risking arrest.

They are:

-Media contacts
-Police liaison
-Calling to contacts in town
-Jail support
-Making speeches
-hanging banners
-distributing leaflets
-holding signs for passing traffic
-street theatre
-artistic installations
-taking video footage

Email if you need (or can offer) a ride to Friday's action.
Please include a telephone number where you can be reached.

2. Community Hike up Spaet (Skirt) Mountain

Saturday, March 1st, 12 Noon
Meet at Shell Station at Trans-Canada Highway and Spencer Rd

Join this community hike up Spaet Mountain, to view the magnificent wild places: oak meadows, bogs, streams and productive Douglas fir and arbutus forests threatened by the mountain-top removal madness of the Bear Mountain developers.

Bring good footwear, appropriate clothing and raingear, lunch, water, a camera, and friends.

3. Garry Oak Tree Defenders Arrested

Tree-sitters and other protestors arrived at the Oak grove in front of Florence Lake this morning to find a work crew cutting the limbs off a mature Garry oak tree in the widening of the highway at the proposed on-ramp to the interchange. Two people were arrested while defending the tree. They succeeded in stopping further cutting. One arrestee was released on condition of staying out of the designated red zone and the other is still in jail, choosing to not co-operate, sign release forms or identify himself. By-law officers returned later in the day and confiscated a large banner and ordered the protestors to leave the site, claiming that the police would return in 45 minutes to make arrests. Refusing to be intimidated many of us regrouped on the shoulder of the highway which is public land and upheld our constitutional right to protest and were ready to go to jail for our rights. The police never showed and the Garry oak tree is still alive as of tonight [Tuesday, Feb 26].

~ Hundred Voices of Conscience ~


Click on the image to view a larger version. The dotted lines show two additional ramps that are planned for the future. The new overpass is in the centre of the image, flanked by four new on and off ramps. The existing intersection at Spencer Road (right side) will be partly closed off and the traffic light removed. (A new traffic light will go in at the West Hills development two kilometers west.)

Photos of the destruction

All the trees in the interchange right-of-way have now been felled, and crews are taking the timber out. Nancy kept a vigil on Highway 1 for three days. (Photo: P. Rockwell)

Langford Lake Cave - a site that has been used for traditional practices by First Nations since time immemorial - is caged with a welded rebar grate. The ferns and oregon grape leaves were left later as  offerings to the four directions. (Photo: R. Bowen)

North side of Highway 1, just west of Savory Rd and Spencer Road. (Photo: P. Rockwell)

Looking from the cave to the kitchen site. (Photo: C. Knight)

Looking from the cave all the way across the highway and up the hill - the entire interchange/parkway route has been cleared. (Photo: C. Knight)

Civil disobedience stops the chainsaws

Ben Isitt stops a yarding machine from taking timber out of the Bear Mountain Interchange right-of-way. (Photo: C. Knight)

A small but spirited group put their freedom and safety on the line today to stop the work crews that are destroying rare ecosystems and First Nations sites on Vancouver Island.

About 40 people turned out at noon in Langford, BC and marched up the highway to view the destruction. Two dozen or so were inspired to scramble over the fresh-cut trees and stand in front of the yarders and excavators that were working. All four machines had to be shut down. The handful of police on the scene made no arrests and issued no warnings.

After stopping the machines, many of us made our way through the stumps and slash to Langford Lake Cave, which has a huge mass of rebar crisscrossed over the entrance like a drunken spider web. The second entrance has a triangular steel cap welded over it. The forest was cut to within a few meters of the cave entrances.

(Photo: Pete Rockwell)

We found the spot where the camp kitchen had stood, and we were able to salvage much of the food, camping gear, and personal belongings that were piled up and left on the site.

Without a medium-sized army of RCMP and special forces to back them up, the contractors had no choice but to give up and go home. The police forces withdrew on Friday evening, and one officer said the operation had required 300 officers in rotating shifts on patrols, command and communications. We estimate the operation cost $5000 an hour for the 60 hours or so the officers were on the ground. The question of who is picking up the tab has not yet been answered.

We have raised the cost of aggressive development on the Island. If the greedy thugs want to force through this kind of horrific, destructive project, they will have to call in the army. Otherwise, we will stop them.

Today’s rally was organized in part by the Hundred Voices of Conscience, and here is their announcement.


Citizens scored a big victory in Langford today, re-occupying the site of the proposed Bear Mountain Interchange and forcing RCMP and “feller-bunchers” to retreat! Let us build on this victory by taking a new step…

Hundred Voices of Conscience
Call to Mass, Peaceful, Direct Action Against the Bear Mountain Development and Further Construction of the Interchange

This past week’s paramilitary-style police operation sanctioned by the City of Langford, to circumvent the growing legitimate public opposition to the Bear Mountain interchange, was a heavy-handed assault against land, local democracy and current, widespread ecological consciousness.

At a time of unprecedented ecological crisis, it is the moral obligation of the entire human community to take immediate action to prevent unnecessary harm and destruction to the natural world and all its inhabitants; and to reverse developments that systematically destroy the life-support systems of the earth for profit.

Hundred Voices of Conscience, inspired by the Gandhian tradition of mass civil resistance, is a call:

1. To gain the pledge of a minimum of 100 conscientious citizens who will peacefully, simultaneously and with dignity, incur the risk of arrest, to cross police lines surrounding the forest of the proposed Bear Mountain interchange;

2. To intervene between the land and earth-moving machinery;

3. And to act on our civic duty to prevent unnecessary harm to the delicate ecosystems around Spencer’s Pond and the Langford Lake caves; and to prevent further build-out of the Bear Mountain development on Spaet (Skirt) Mountain, shared traditional territories of Coast Salish peoples.

We seek solidarity with like-minded individuals willing to make a commitment to a community initiative of mass non-violent direct action at an undisclosed time and place. Legal training and support will be provided.

If you wish to be one of the Hundred Voices of Conscience, please sign the pledge and arrange to return it by emailing as soon as possible.


I pledge to participate in the Hundred Voices of Conscience to peacefully take a stand of non-violent civil resistance to the unwise, destructive and unjust construction of the Bear Mountain Development and interchange.

By so doing, I agree to the Hundred Voices of Conscience Code of Conduct.

Hundred Voices of Conscience Code of Conduct

1. I refrain from any action that harms or damages nature or property.

2. I treat everyone I meet with friendliness and openness about my intentions and motivations for participating in this action.

3. I look after the safety of my fellow resisters.

4. I expect to be treated with dignity and respect — free from harassment, harm and injury by all who I encounter.


Date _____________________________



RCMP Raid - Three Arrested

Here is the bad news: On Wednesday, February 13, everyone in the tree sit camp was arrested. Three people, including two tree sitters, were held and charged with mischief and obstructing a highway. They have now been released.

The massive attack by police had as many as 70 RCMP officers, dozens of them with assault rifles drawn and pointed at the campers, surrounding the camp before dawn.

The area is sealed off by police tape and RCMP patrols. Heavy equipment was moved in and the destruction has begun. From Leigh Road, we could see trees falling to a feller buncher – a giant tree cutting machine.

We also saw welding equipment being moved in behind police lines. It’s possible that one of the first acts of destruction today was welding shut the entrance of the Langford Lake Cave.

Here is the good news: It is not over yet. This act has outraged the community and people will not give up resisting this hideous development. We have arranged for top-notch legal representation for our defendants. They are heroes.

The Return of the Friday Afternoon Picnics!

Announcing the return of the Friday afternoon potluck picnics at the Bear Mountain Tree Sit! Celebrate the return of the sun and other signs of the coming spring: snowdrops flowering, cherry trees budding, fiddleheads sprouting, and more forest defense heroes camping in the treetops!

Please join us in Langford at the north end of Leigh Road this Friday, 2 to 8 pm, and every Friday until Spencer's Pond and Langford Lake Cave are safe from development.


  • Bring a dish to pass, barbeque, shish kebab, snacks, munchies, veggies
  • Bring a cup, bowl and spoon
  • Bundle up in warm warm warm clothes (extra socks, gloves, hat, scarf).
  • Bring kids, dogs, friends, musical instruments, songs, and your happy self

The camp is also seeking donations of firewood. Thanks so much to our hundreds and hundreds of visitors who are keeping the camp stocked and enjoying this beautiful forest.

Potluck and Work Party, Sunday Jan. 20

Please join us at the Bear Mountain Tree Sit this Sunday as we begin to expand and renovate the camp! A community member donated a truck load of recycled building materials this week, and we are making great plans, including a sound stage for a live music event. Other supporters have been brainstorming ways to either stop the interchange or delay it while we try to resolve the conflict by legal and political means.

Folks can bring a dish to pass, new ideas, great energy, friends, kids, dogs, musical instruments, and donations if they wish.

What: All-day work party, potluck and evening social
When: This Sunday, January 20, 11 am til moon rise
Where: Bear Mountain Tree Sit (scroll down for directions)
Why: To preserve a sacred cave, wetlands, and rare species
Who: All ages welcome!

The camp has a wish list, if anyone has these items to donate:

  • Good climbing rope!
  • A two-burner camp stove (propane or white gas)
  • An alternator with a diode (to be used with a stationary bike to charge phones and laptops)
  • A car or marine battery
  • A metal bathtub (for taking baths!)
  • Tobacco
  • Tarps
  • Volunteers
  • A truck to drive around for a day

"Come for the work, stay for the party!"

Video Journal of Dec.29 Rally

For an in-depth look at the Spaet Mountain crisis, including links to more video and media articles, follow this link.

Treesit Now on High Alert!

As many of you may know, the city of Langford had publicly declared on their website and in at a November Open House that they intended to begin development this December. There have been two events at the sit recently that lead us to believe that THIS IS NOT A BLUFF! Two uniformed RCMP came by the camp to assess what and who is there, and to gather the intelligence necessary to have the sit removed. Within days of that a work crew showed up with chain saws and tried to remove a banner from the side of the highway. They were stopped by the sitters and gave up easily but they documented the process and thus gathered evidence that they will likely need in order to have an injunction granted for them to have the sit removed.
Shortly after that first visit, 8 RCMP officers and two Langford by-law enforcement officers returned to take more pictures and GPS readings. Since then survey crews have arrived at the tree-sit on two occasions, only to be turned away peacefully by treesitters who would not allow them to do their work.
We are now over a month past the date that the city announced that it would begin clearing land on. As yet, the city has not applied for an injunction to remove the tree-sit. A recent closed door meeting of city council pushed through all three readings of a by-law that would allow the city to borrow $25 million for the developers to begin the interchange. Langford residents responded quickly to this underhanded tactic and took to the streets with a large and well-organized petition campaign to demand a non-binding referendum.
We must still assume that the city is preparing to move SOON to have the sit taken away and construction begin. THIS MEANS THAT ANY TIME WE MUST PREPARED TO FACE THE REMOVAL OF THE SIT. We need your support now more than ever. Come on down and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL TREESITTERS! If you've ever wondered what it's like to sleep 140 feet up the side of a douglas fir or red cedar, then this is your chance. Food, gear, tree-climbing lessons and civil disobedience lessons will be provided.
Even if you can't spend any time at the tree-sit, consider coming out to join the crowd if and when the city gets an injunction and the RCMP come to enforce it. Civil disobedience trainings have been happening in several places around the region, and there are many people who will not sit quietly by if attempts are made to remove the tree-sit.

Welcome to the Bear Mountain Tree Sit!

Local residents and area environmentalists raised this tree platform in April 2007 to defend a sacred First Nations cave, a unique Garry Oak meadow, and habitat for federally listed rare species. This pocket of lush forest in Langford, BC is home to Western Screech Owls, Pileated Woodpeckers, Pacific Tree Frogs and hundreds of other creatures, and it is threatened by a proposed highway interchange designed to serve the massive Bear Mountain Resort development.

Visit the tree house! Climbing trainings will continue on-site this month. Big thanks to all the folks who are helping out with food, water, tents, and tarps, and donations to our legal defense fund!

Want to join in the fun? Get in touch by email: treesit (at) gmail (dot) com.

There is an amazing variety of bird species at the site of the proposed interchange. Here's a list of the birds we've seen since April.

Red-tailed hawk (nesting)
Great horned owl
Barred owl (pair)
Western screech owl
Bald eagle
Pileated woodpecker
Common nighthawk
Stellar’s jay
American robin
Cliff swallow
Sparrows (many kinds)
Oregon junco
Red-breasted nuthatch
Brown creeper
Black-capped chickadee
Winter wren
Rufous Hummingbird

The proposed interchange would destroy Garry Oak meadows and rare species. Help us stop the destruction.

Thanks to Rob Bowen for the map.

What happens next?
Local citizens are calling on all levels of government to protect environmental and cultural values
– Survey rare wildlife, plants, and ecosystems in the interchange area
– Conduct a full public consultation to determine whether this project benefits the community

– Hold a meaningful First Nations cultural use study
relying on testimony from elders
– Disclose all documents
relating to the environmental and social impacts of the project
No more secret deals

Bear Mountain by bus from downtown Victoria

It's true - the tree sit is only a 10-minute walk from the bus stop in Langford. There is also room for several cars to park at the end of the road. Here's the map and directions (make sure to consult an area map and bus schedule to avoid getting lost.) The green arrow points to the intersection of Leigh Road and Goldstream Avenue in Langford.

By Bus
From the southeast corner of Douglas and Fort Street, downtown Victoria: Catch the #50 Langford via Goldstream bus on Douglas St. It is around a 40-minute bus ride to Langford. From Goldstream Avenue, the bus turns onto Carlow Road. Get off at the stop at the corner of Carlow Road and continue west on Goldstream Avenue past the Spencer Middle School on the right and the Little Elf Garden Centre. Turn right on Leigh Road and walk up to the road's end. Follow the informal trail into the forest and take the well-used uphill left hand path. (Flagging tape marking the trail keeps getting removed, darn it.) The trail follows a slight ridge past the Langford Cave and the white tarps in the trees are visible almost immediately. The hike is about 200 meters into the woods. (Don't cross the highway.)

Click here for the schedule for the #50 Langford via Goldstream bus

By Car
From the Trans-Canada Highway in Langford, take the Spencer Road exit south to Goldstream Avenue. Turn right (west) on Goldstream, go 300 meters to Leigh Road (automotive shop on corner.) Turn right on Leigh Road and go 100 meters to the end of the road. Follow the informal trail into the woods and look for the white tarps (see above.)

See you there!

Tree Sit Diary: the first days

April 11 - I’m standing at the base of the tree leaning back on my harness and peering at the platform sixty feet above. Ingmar is encouraging me to get up there. The press conference is supposed to start in forty-five minutes and we need to get into position. Ingmar’s fully informed about my slightly spastic condition and I can tell he’s not sure if I can still do this. I give him a thumbs up and start up the rope.

By the time the camera crews arrive, we’re both up on the platform with our feet dangling down. The cameras focus in as Ingmar rappels down the rope. I stay up in the tree. The CH TV guy comes over with a microphone and battery pack and attaches them to the end of the rope. I haul the rope up and clip the mike to my coat collar. The reporter calls her questions up to me and I shout back down at her, forgetting about the mike.

The reporters and cameras finally leave and I’m alone up in the tree. The platform is a pair of four by eight foot plywood sheets reinforced with two by fours. It looks like a raft on the open ocean. Ropes and rigging are everywhere and the white tarps billow in the wind like sails. The plywood planks are not quite level and they creak and sway as I move around.

It’s a two-room platform: one plank is the bedroom, with a tiny tent nailed to it. The other serves as the living room (a folding chair) and kitchen (a camp stove and a pot). The bathroom is a bucket hanging below the tree-sit. Everything is lashed down or clipped in, but things fall overboard anyway: two pens, my lighter, the lid to my thermos.

I’m tied to the tree on a ten-foot leash tethered to my harness that stays on every moment, even when I’m sleeping. The thing wraps itself around my legs every time I turn around and threatens to knock small untethered objects off the platform.

I’m afraid of falling. Everyone is; people are hardwired that way. Even though I have total confidence in the platform and the safety line, that giddy feeling comes and goes, especially when I’m moving around close to the edge or getting ready to descend down the rope.

There’s a constant wind up here and the roar of traffic is louder. Through the trees to the south I can just make out a bare knoll and the entrance to the Langford Cave, a 40-meter-long karst cavity that draws cavers from all over the region.

The Songhees First Nation named this place Spaet Mountain. The city of Langford calls it Skirt Mountain. The developer has re-named it Bear Mountain to go along with the marketing of their resort and property sales.

A pileated woodpecker flies into the grove of dead snags next to the platform and lands on a trunk at eye level. It hammers away at the wood for a few moments and then swoops over the trail and up a rotten stump. A hummingbird zips by, flashing green. The forest floor is carpeted with trillium and lilies.

As night falls, the traffic dies down and the frogs start up. The tree sways slightly in the wind and the thrushes sing their evening songs. I crawl into the tiny tent and curl up in my sleeping bag, tugging at the tether every time I turn over. Waking up in the middle of the night, I hear an owl hooting.

Thursday morning, the sun is rising through the trees and a winter wren is scolding me nearby. I crawl out of my cocoon, bleary-eyed, and go through the routine of making a pot of tea, taking a shit in the bucket, rolling a cigarette and surveying the forest. I feel wonderful.

People come to visit: local supporters, more journalists, and curious neighbours. Food donations are piling up under a tarp Ingmar tied up for a base camp. The food has to be dealt with because there are raccoons (and possibly bears) in the area, so I haul it up to the platform and make a space in a gear bag for cans of soup, noodles, oatmeal, and cookies.

Cheryl Bryce, the lands manager for the Songhees First Nation, stops by to lend her support and videotape the tree-sit. She’s disturbed that some members of the band council are supporting the development rather than voting to protect the environmental values of their traditional territory. I come down the rope and we chat for a half an hour.

The clouds gather and an icy wind picks up. I go to bed early, snuggled down in the bottom of the sleeping bag with an extra fleece blanket.

Friday dawns with threatening clouds. Then a threatening little man with a mustache: the lands manager for the Provincial Capitol Commission. He’s been sent to determine whether I’m on PCC land, and to grumble at me about the commission’s liability if someone gets hurt and sues them. I promise I won’t hurt anybody and I won’t sue anybody. He suggests if I’m trespassing, he may get the police involved. I invite him to the salmon barbecue scheduled for later tonight. He studies me for a minute without responding and then marches off into the forest with his maps in hand.

I don’t know if he’ll call the police, but even if they show up, they won’t be able to arrest me because I’m sixty feet up in a tree. The RCMP in Vancouver has a special climbing team for these kind of situations, but it takes a few days to assemble. I contemplate the legal implications of criminal trespass charges and court injunctions.

Later: I’m bored, so I use my borrowed cell phone to call the developers’ head office. Bear Mountain Resort and Bear Mountain Properties are the forces behind this project and I figure it’s only polite to introduce myself. But it seems no one is available on this Friday afternoon, not even a receptionist, so I leave a cheery message in the general mailbox describing the wildlife in the area and inviting them all to the salmon barbecue.

The rain holds off, miraculously. At dinnertime, three dozen tree-huggers are gathered around a small campfire devouring barbecued salmon, roasted weiners, mashed potatoes, and bags of fruit and cookies. Mary Vickers, a Nuxalk Nation woman from Bella Bella, provided the salmon, and she gets us all to join hands while she says a prayer to the spirits and the ancestors to bless our work here. Ingmar stands up on a stump and lays out the plan: seven people are needed to take charge of the tree-sit for one day a week. Each person would either sit in the tree for twenty-four hours or find another person to do it. He’ll provide the training.

By Saturday, I’m a little weary of the tiny platform, the harness, and the shit bucket. My legs and arms are shaky from climbing up and down the rope. I’m longing for a hot shower and a soft bed. But still I sit for hours mesmerized, staring out into the forest, listening to the birds, and feeling my senses expand to the limit of hearing and vision.

On Sunday morning, the relief shift arrives. Keith lives nearby and he has no idea how to climb a tree, but he’s willing to learn and Ingmar’s willing to teach him. I rappel down for the last time. My man Dan is there to give me a ride home.

I don’t want folks to get the idea that I’m some kind of action hero. I’m retired from all that now. This was just a one-time special event – more of a vacation than an action; more of a cameo than a comeback. I joked with the folks watching me climb that I’m living proof: almost anyone can do this shit. And it’s true – the biggest obstacle is conquering the fear of falling, the fear of failing, the fear of powerlessness. The campaign is just now beginning, but folks are digging in for the long haul. Cheers to the Spaet Mountain defenders!