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Clearcuts, Moonies and right-wing death squads.

NANAIMO--Connecting BC's favourite forestry pastime to those flower-selling zomboid proselytes at airports plus a Latin American death squad thrown in for good measure may seem like a long reach. But New Democrat MP Bob Skelly managed to join the dots earlier this year, thereby earning himself the wrath of more than a few constituents in his milltown riding of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Here's how....

Three years ago, when the eco-wars over BC's timber accelerated to the point where corporate execs realized they might need more than a flimsy tree farm licence to continue levelling the province's irreplaceable old growth forests, they looked south for a solution.

What they found was Ron Arnold, executive director of the Centre for the Defence of Free Enterprise based in Bellevue, Wash., an all-round guru of the American 'wise use movement,' a euphemistic cover for continued corporate plundering of natural resources.

BC's metastasizing "Share" groups (Share the Forests, Share Our Resources, Share the Stein), comprised mainly of woodworkers and their families, have become industry's front-line troops in the eco-wars against environmentalists and native Indians. The Share groups and corporate bosses have all made pilgrimages to soak up Arnold's wisdom, and they frequently invite him to address their meetings.

When he's not bashing environmentalists, Arnold occupies himself with his duties as a registered agent of the American Freedom Coalition, the political arm of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Ironically, Arnold commonly warns the clearcutting magnates that environmentalists are driven by a 'cult' kmentality: "Once newly committed people have joined an environmental group, they become True Believers who will fight and die for the cause." I guess it takes one to know one.

Arnold and the Unification Church are tied to the Confederation of the Association for the Unification of the Societies of the Americas (CAUSA). Which brings us to the right-wing death squads.

"When the military government took over in Uruguay in the late 1970s, the Moonies went in and provided information to the government and the death squads," Skelly told The Vancouver Sun in May. A couple of months earlier, Skelly made a passing reference to this Byzantine amalgamation of BC forestry malpractice, Share groups, Moonies and right-wing politics at a Port Alberni constituency meeting attended, naturally by Share members.

The former leader of the BCNDP wasn't actually the first to unveil this disturbing linkage. But he may pay the highest price for his candour if enough Port Alberni members of IWA-Canada deliver on their threat to round up another NDP candidate for the next federal election.

The tragic irony is that so many rank-and-file union members have been duped into doing industry's dirty work and are body-checking environmentalists at every opportunity in the mistaken belief this will save their jobs. Yet their corporate employers have demonstrated time and again they couldn't care less about protecting woodworkers' jobs. Automation in mills, overcutting, raw log exports and inadequate replanting and silvaculture have cost thousands of workers their jobs in this province while simultaneously enhancing corporate profitability.

In another move, it appears the forest companies looting BC's wilderness and fouling BC's waterways don't want to entrust fiscal fate entirely to Moonie advice. In April, the BC Forest Alliance was hatched in response to rumours of a possible European boycott of BC forest products for environmental reasons.

Brought to you live and direct from the New York boardroom of the Burson-Marstellar public relations firm, the Forest Alliance is gunning for anyone badmouthing clearcuts, kraft pulp mills, dioxins or other ecotastrophes that define BC's forest industry.

Burson-Marstellar earned its stripes in the last decade managing damage control for Union Carbide's corporate image after the company's 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India, then moved onto polishing Exxon's tarnished rep after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound in 1989.

To the embarrassment and ire of at least some woodworkers, the BC Forest Alliance's 'citizens' advisory board' is chaired by IWA-Canada president Jack Munro, the only labour representative on this company-funded PR picnic.

To get the ball rolling, the alliance bought half an hour of prime-time television so Munro and a few industry cronies could proselytize British Columbians on the joys of clearcutting. (And I thought the retired Man from UNCLE and his half-hour hair growth ad was bad.)

A way is underway in this province. And due to crafty image handling and information management, allies are mistaking one another for enemies, and the only beneficiaries are a handful of CEOs.

Freelance writer Kim Goldberg is a regular contributor to Canadian Dimension.
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Title Annotation:clearcutting forest land
Author:Goldberg, Kim
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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