A large crowd gathered outside Qualicum Beach Town Hall on Saturday (July 3) with protest signs ranging from anti-logging to anti-5G cell phone towers.
It was the second annual March for Our Future, organized in part by the Qualicum Nature Preservation Society (QNPS).
“The state of our home should be frontline news and you people, you are not extremists,” said Ezra Morse, QNPS president to the crowd. “We are all the heroes that this world needs and it’s only through raising our voices together and demanding justice for our environment that we can usher in that better world.”
Ray Woroniak, vice-president of the QNPS, led a march from town hall with a chant — “in our future, we want trees!”
Drivers honked their horns as the crowd walked down the street past shop-owners, set up on for a sidewalk sale. Though the front of the line was dominated with Woroniak’s chant, other participants could be heard saying, “no vaccines,” “no masks,” and “no 5G.”
“I think what people are rallying for is a better tomorrow, a better future and one of the things that is required to have a better future is to have safe public spaces,” Morse said.
He said the recent heat wave set the tone for environmentalists to voice concerns. The QNPS has spoken against a proposed development at 850 Eaglecrest Drive, but Morse said the protest was only partially to do with it.
“When you have an extremely rare old-growth forest, like the estate residential properties, it’s going to catalyze the activity that is in the neighbourhood. We did this last year and we did this this year, so it’s just not all about that.”
According to the Town of Qualicum Beach, few trees are standing in the area proposed to be developed. A tree management plan for the proposed development done by Viking Tree Care for Todsen Design and Construction in January 2020 makes no mention of old-growth.
A second public hearing will be held for the proposed development on Wednesday. Town council requested staff commission an independent review of the land lift analysis for the property, which sparked the need for an additional public hearing.
The review estimated the land is worth between $320,000 and $640,000 with current zoning and could be worth between $2.2–2.5 million after rezoning. This could mean the town would receive between $780,000 and $1 million for a community amenity contribution (CAC), based on current policy.
Protests, such as the one Saturday, provide residents with a safe space to voice concerns, according to Morse.
“Within the last year I think there has been examples in our community of intimidation, harassment and bullying, both from private people and the government,” he said.
Last year, after the first public hearing for the Eaglecrest development, Morse said he had his property vandalized and it was a result of expressing his opinions.
“From what I see and what I believe, there has only been environmental activists whose homes have been trespassed and whose property has been vandalized,” Morse said. “There has only been those peoples’ names who have been targeted by members of council and defamed multiple times in public records and it’s only been those people who have spoke for the trees who are at the end of lawsuits.”
Morse and the QNPS are facing a civil claim for defamation filed by Todsen Design and Construction. Richard and Linda Todsen, the developers behind the 850 Eaglecrest project, said Morse disregarded COVID-19 protocols at a public information session last year and attempted to gain access to their property, carrying a protest sign.
“He was very aggressive,” Richard said. “I had to go up there and say, ‘this is as far as you go.’”
Linda said she felt intimidated by behaviour on social media leading up to the information session and the town told them they could hold it virtually.
Morse has not filed an official response to the civil claim.