Be bold: Stories from the women who inspire us

By Sue Elrington, Sierra Club BC

April 2017

(L-R) Songhees Elder Joan Morris, Rachel Vincent, Casey Camp-Horinek, Helen Knott, Caitlyn Vernon, and Sue Elrington.

We stand at a moment in time where we are witnessing clear threats to our environment and our social structures. It is a moment that demands action, whether that be action to defend our civil liberties, our rights to security, our rights as women, or simply the planet.

Women are at the forefront of resistance to these threats. Earlier this year, more than 4 million people took part in women’s marches around the world. Women are inspiring and being inspired.

Some of their stories have been captured in Rachel Vincent’s When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right. To encourage new and longtime environmental activists, in March Sierra Club BC invited Rachel to anchor an evening of storytelling based on the book.

Helen Knott on protecting her ancestral lands from the Site C dam.

Joining Rachel Vincent were Casey Camp Horinek, a Ponca Elder in the midst of the Standing Rock battle, Helen Knott, a Treaty 8 poet and activist against the Site C megadam, and Sierra Club BC’s director of campaigns, Caitlyn Vernon.

Rachel opened the evening talking about why so many women become environmental activists. In her work around the world, she repeatedly she sees women forced into activism to protect their homes, their water, and their agricultural land from extractive industries. That was certainly the case with Berta Cercares, the Honduran activist whose resistance so threatened the powerful that they murdered her in 2016.  (Rachel read from a story by Berta’s daughter that is featured in When We Are Bold).

Helen Knott clearly feels she has no choice but to be an activist in the struggle to save her ancestral land and cultural home from the destruction of the Site C megadam. One of the hardest things about being an activist is persisting in the fight when you feel outgunned by the powerful who have no respect for the world you want so passionately to protect. Helen brought much of the audience to tears are she explored the emotions that can overwhelm us in “For The Mamas on Frontlines with their Fists Raised up High,” a poem written to speak to us as activists. (Read Helen’s poem here.)

Caitlyn Vernon, Rachel Vincent and Casey Camp-Horinek.

Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC’s director of campaigns, has never known a time when she wasn’t an activist. She felt Helen’s poem deeply, sharing her very personal experiences in her journey as a fierce advocate for the environment. In speaking of the condescension, ignorance, touching and groping from men who were supposed to be working with her, Caitlyn shone a light on the dual struggles of most female activists: the primary one—in her case, defending nature—and the second one, usually hidden from view, where women battle the very people we should be able to trust to have our backs in the big fight. But we persist. As an activist, you keep your eyes on the goal.

For Casey Camp-Horinek, this has meant taking on new roles. Casey is a Elder from the Ponca Nation who describes herself first as a matriarch of her clan. She followed her sons to join the encampment at Standing Rock where she was arrested for nine days. Casey spoke eloquently about moving beyond inertia by finding new ways to act for the planet. She wants municipal governments to give nature the same standing and and the same rights in law as humans have. She has become a Council member to push this dream into reality.

There was much talk throughout the evening regarding how, for so many women, their activist journeys started with conversations. Conversations around kitchen tables with neighbours that led to decisions to act. There is no act too small, no vision too big to take on. We just have to BE BOLD.

“If we all stand together, there’s a beautiful way forward.” Casey Camp-Horinek shares about her experiences at Standing Rock and the importance of alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Special thanks to Kirk Schwartz, MediaNet and Pacific Peoples’ Partnership for producing these videos.

Casey Camp-Horinek on defending land and water

“If we all stand together, there’s a beautiful way forward.” Native rights activist, actor and Councillor of the Ponca Nation Casey Camp-Horinek on her experiences at Standing Rock and the importance of alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to protect the land and water we all depend on.Special thanks to Kirk Schwartz, MediaNet and Pacific Peoples' Partnership for videography, production and technical support.

Posted by Sierra Club BC on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

“It’s crucial to start honouring those promises that were made.” Watch and share this powerful interview with Helen Knott to learn why stopping the Site C dam is critical for Canada’s relationship with First Nations:

Help Helen stop the destruction — tell Trudeau to honour his promises to First Nations and suspend approval of Site C:


Feature image by Kat Zimmer.

When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn our Upsidedown World Right

Monday, March 13, 2017

6:30 pm (Doors 6:00)

Gibson Auditorium, Camosun College (3100 Foul Bay Rd. Victoria, Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories)

TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR – $25/$12 students & low income

Facebook event

The Trump presidency, rising discrimination and intolerance at home and abroad, and our destructive addiction to fossil fuels have ignited an activist fire within millions of women. These women are determined to defend their autonomy, their health, and the health of our planet from governments and corporations that seek control and disempower them.

Join four bold, persistent women who are fighting for the land at Standing Rock, to stop the Site C dam and to keep our waters free from oil tankers for an evening of storytelling, inspiration and conversation.

Casey Camp-Horinek is a long-time Native rights activist, environmentalist, actress and Standing Rock activist. As traditional Drumkeeper for the Ponca Pa-tha-ta, Woman’s Scalp Dance Society, Camp-Horinek helps maintain the cultural identity of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma for herself, her family and her community. She has been at the forefront of efforts to educate and empower Native and non-Native community members on environmental and civil rights issues. In 2008 Camp-Horinek was chosen to speak to the United Nations Permanent Forum on indigenous issues and present the Indigenous Environmental Network’s platform regarding the environment and Native rights.


Rachel M. Vincent is the editor of When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our UpsideDown World Right, a collection of 28 short profiles of women who boldly work for change by the women writers, thinkers and doers they inspire. She has worked in public affairs and communications for more than 20 years, with a strong focus on social justice and global issues. Rachel is the Director of Media and Communications at the Nobel Women’s Initiative in Ottawa, Canada.



Helen Knott is of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and Euro descent living in Fort St John, BC. Helen is a writer, poet, mother, and masters degree in First Nations studies student who is involved with land defence work regarding Site C dam.




Caitlyn Vernon is Campaigns Director for Sierra Club BC. Her work involves promoting climate solutions and green jobs, keeping fossil fuels in the ground, and protecting BC’s wild places. She brings to her work a deep love of this coast and a commitment to both environmental and social justice. Caitlyn’s award-winning non-fiction book Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest encourages young readers to pay attention to what is happening in the world around them, and inspires them to take action and speak out for the future they want to live in.


A benefit for Sierra Club BC


This event is being hosted on the traditional territories of the Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. A welcome and blessing will be offered by Songhees Elder Sellemah (Joan Morris).

“When We Are Bold is not only a celebration of women peacemakers and the activists they’ve inspired, it is a call to courage.”

—Brené Brown, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Rising Strong

Accessibility: There is a ramp on the side of the Young Building to the first floor with an elevator leading to the second floor. The auditorium is wheelchair accessible.

Parking Map

Why my brain injury makes me fight to save whales

When a serious concussion forced Sierra Club BC’s Campaigns Director to escape from noise, she realised she had more in common with the threatened orcas that she thought. And that knowledge makes her more determined than ever to stop Kinder Morgan’s pipeline. Hear Caitlyn’s story and please make your gift to protect BC’s orcas.


Sierra Club BC Releases The Future Is Here—A Reality Check on B.C.’s Climate Leadership Aspirations

VICTORIA, B.C.— Sierra Club BC today released The Future Is Here, a report that provides a reality check on the climate challenges B.C. faces and a measuring stick for how well the B.C. government’s plan meets those challenges.

The Future Is Here was released with the B.C. government about to reveal its draft Climate Leadership Plan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meeting today with Premier Christy Clark and other provincial leaders in preparation for the Paris climate talks.

“The world turns its eyes to Paris at the end of this month and British Columbia has a chance to show that it understands the true meaning of climate leadership,” said Sierra Club BC executive director Bob Peart. “British Columbians expect to see a climate plan that recognizes the scope and scale of the challenge before us. If we see slickly packaged half measures, British Columbians will know that the oil and gas industry exercised its influence on this government to thwart meaningful action.”

Informed by the latest climate science, The Future Is Here is an urgent call to defend nature, stabilize the climate and transition to post-carbon prosperity. It shows that a radical transformation of B.C.’s natural landscape and biodiversity is already underway due to climate change, which will only intensify in coming years and increasingly impact B.C.’s communities and economy.

As one of its key recommendations, The Future Is Here calls for environmental reviews to include a climate test that assesses the upstream and downstream climate impacts associated with each proposal. LNG development would fail a climate test, as it is incompatible with any serious approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“If a proposed project would make climate change worse, it has no business being built,” said Sierra Club BC campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon. “Climate impacts are already hitting B.C. communities, our economy and jobs in the form of drought, wildfires, snowless ski hills and bark beetle infestations, yet the B.C. government continues to add fuel to the fire by pushing LNG expansion.”

The Future Is Here calls for B.C. to:

  • Stabilize the climate, by setting aside unburnable carbon, reducing emissions, putting a meaningful price on carbon and including a climate test in environmental assessments;
  • Defend intact nature to preserve biodiversity and natural carbon banks, and protect the ecosystem services on which our economy and human health depend; and,
  • Rapidly transition to an equitable post-carbon economy that leaves no-one behind.

B.C.’s current patchwork of isolated protected areas, fragmented wildlife habitat and management zones will be overwhelmed by the sheer scale and pace of climate-driven changes. Fifty per cent of the land must be protected or managed to ensure animals, plants and ecosystems can adapt, and that the drinking water and the soil base on which we depend will be protected.

“Any climate leadership plan worthy of the name needs to demonstrate a clear, rapid and achievable transition to a post-carbon economy,” said Peart. “But we cannot shift to a new economy while perpetuating patterns of inequality and injustice. First Nations must be full partners in this shift, and workers and communities provided meaningful opportunities and transition support.”

Clean, renewable energy sources are better for our climate and better job creators than fossil fuels. For every $1 million invested in fossil fuels two jobs are created, whereas fifteen jobs are created by the same investment in clean energy sources. By shifting fossil fuel subsidies and directing revenue from an expanded and increased carbon tax, the B.C. government can kick-start the transition to post-carbon prosperity.

Food security must also be addressed in any credible climate plan. With food supplies already disrupted by drought in California and elsewhere, B.C. needs to identify and set aside current and future farmland to ensure B.C.’s future food security. Step one in this process is cancelling construction of the $9 billion Site C megaproject, which would flood prime farmland capable of supplying fruit and vegetables to one million people.

The Future Is Here recognizes that much of B.C. is unceded land, subject to Aboriginal title and rights, and that land use decisions cannot occur on First Nations territory without free, prior and informed consent.

The Future Is Here can be downloaded here.



Tim Pearson
Director of Communications

Caitlyn Vernon
Campaigns Director

Additional quotes:

The Future Is Here takes an important stand by insisting that, in a world increasingly disrupted by climate impacts, ‘nature needs half.’ That’s what the science tells us, and we ignore it at our peril. If we are to stem the frightening rate of habitat and species loss—which is undermining the very life support systems on which we humans depend—we must defend nature’s ability to adapt and to provide for us. The Future Is Here is a far-sighted rethink of conservation approaches, reflecting the need to adapt to climate change and transition into a post-carbon world.”

Dr. Philip Dearden, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Victoria

“Sierra Club BC’s The Future is Here report is a visionary document that outlines a clear plan. The City of Victoria also believes that working towards a stable climate means urgently protecting intact nature and transitioning to a prosperous post-carbon economy.”

Mayor Lisa Helps, City of Victoria

“Indigenous Peoples around the world are already living with the devastating impacts of climate change, affecting our deep relationship to our respective territories – the land and waters – that have sustained us for generations. The climate crisis is a frank and honest opportunity for all of us to rethink our relationship to the land, but also how we relate to each other. Perhaps the greatest contribution of The Future Is Here is how it shows that caring for our environment and caring for each other are so deeply intertwined and that environmental justice and social justice must go hand in hand. I am hopeful we will come together to reconcile Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights at the same time as we find environmental solutions that work for us all now and for the generations to come. I urge everyone to read this document and ask how you can contribute.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs

“This report summarises how climate is changing in British Columbia, what the current and projected future impacts are, and how B.C. can contribute to climate stabilisation. It also clearly lays out what we and our governments must do to defend nature, enhance community well-being, and shift to a climate-friendly economy.”
Dr. Jim Pojar, Forest Ecologist

“The Sierra Club BC vision is spot on: governments must respond to global warming with urgency and holistically. This means we have to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels while transitioning towards a post-carbon economy. At the same time, we must ramp up our efforts to protect and restore nature and vital environmental services such as carbon storage in healthy forests.”
Kirsten Zickfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University