Saving trees became a sacrifice for one grandmother
By Ingmar Lee

In January, I visited Betty Krawczyk at the Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women. She had served nine months of her 10-month sentence for blockading Weyerhaeuser from destroying the public forest in the Walbran in B.C..

Betty is Canada's most famous political prisoner. Despite being British Columbia's environmental newsmaker of the year, Betty is unable to pay for the generous services of her pro-bono lawyer, Cameron Ward.

Although she was busy in jail attending to a massive international correspondence, she was yearning more desperately for her release as she had learned the tragic news that another of her children has been diagnosed with cancer. Having already lost a daughter to breast cancer, Betty made a formal request to be granted compassionate leave to attend to her son. Although she has been a model prisoner, on the verge of release after serving a lengthy sentence, this request was denied.

It broke my heart to see the tears welling up in Betty's eyes as she told us about a desperation plan to hunger strike, and even her thoughts about an attempt to escape. Betty said that she had been finding some peace and solace during her incarceration by participating in the drum and singing circles of the dispro-portionally large First Nation prisoner population.

Betty spoke on tape at length on her thoughts about direct action civil disobedience. She says there's incredible power in ordinary citizens when they make a commitment to their cause and pull out all the stops to stand up for their beliefs. She said that there is nothing more powerful than the power of the moral upper hand, and that people are ready to fight for the environment. She said that all good actions, no matter how small, contribute to the collective evolution of human consciousness.

Being in jail was not about bravery, she said, but had everything to do with unswerving commitment to her cause to save British Columbia's forests for the benefit of future generations. She advocates that giant transnational logging companies must be banished from B.C. forests, and that forestry should be handled by community co-operatives.

Most adamantly, she insists that "not one more stick of old growth should be cut."

Despite the hardship of her imprisonment and the dreadful deterioration of prison conditions under the
latest regime, Betty remained optimistic that there is a growing momentum around environmental issues, and that people have never really lost interest but are just on stand-by, awaiting the catalyst which will drive
them to action.

It was a most poignant and inspiring experience to listen to her softly-spoken words of wisdom. Those who have not met Betty would do well to arrange an appointment with this living, breathing and loving Gandhi-like figure.

In response to a question about how she has been supported by the environmental community, she discussed the vast range of international encouragement she receives through her correspondence. As for support from B.C.'s largest environmental organizations: Forest Ethics, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club -- donations? moral support? advice? anything?

Betty's answer was, "Absolutely zero."

This article was brought to the attention of the alternative press by a member of Amnesty International. Visit www.freebetty.org to view more about this remarkable 75-year-old grandmother.