Our History and Values
In 2019, Sierra Club BC celebrates fifty years of bringing British Columbians together to defend the lands, waters and wild species we all depend on.
Indigenous peoples have stewarded these ecosystems with great care and sophisticated knowledge for millennia. It is with deep gratitude for their efforts that we have had the honour of benefiting from—and taking responsibility to help protect—these places we call home.
Our roots were formed in 1968 when a group gathered in the Lower Mainland over concerns about logging in Cypress Bowl on Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territory (West Vancouver). Public outcry over the proposed logging eventually led to the establishment of Cypress Provincial Park.
This group called themselves the Sierra Club of British Columbia, registering as a BC Society in 1969 despite not having permission from the US-based Sierra Club.
The same determined volunteers launched a 14-year campaign opposing the building of the High Ross Dam in Washington and the flooding of the spectacular Skagit Valley in Nlaka’pamux territory—a plan which was eventually halted.
Today’s Sierra Club BC is entirely BC-based and independent of Sierra Club Canada and Sierra Club US (though they’ve long since forgiven us and we remain close friends). From our scrappy roots, we are now the longest running and one of the most well-respected organizations at the forefront of BC’s environmental movement.
Over twenty years, Sierra Club BC has provided nature-based learning experiences for more than 140,000 students and supported hundreds of teachers across the province, helping foster healthy childhood development and cultivate the environmental leaders of tomorrow.
From Pacific Spirit Park and Cypress Bowl in Musqueam territory, to the Kitlope in Haisla territory, to the Stein Valley campaign led by the Lytton Nlaka’pamux Indigenous Nation, Sierra Club BC supporters have since helped achieve nearly every major conservation victory in BC.
On Vancouver Island, we’ve led the way in public education about ancient rainforests and produced critical mapping inventories. Our supporters were instrumental in campaigns to stop the proposed Raven Coal mine within K’ómoks territory, defend Victoria’s watershed within Coast Salish territory and help protect areas known as Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park, the West Coast Trail and the Nitinat Triangle in Nuu-chah-nulth territory.
We worked collaboratively with Indigenous Nations seeking lasting conservation solutions for ancient rainforest valleys in Clayoquot Sound and supported the creation of Gwaii Haanas and the Coastal Guardian Watchmen Network, an Indigenous training program focused on land and water-based resource activities.
We helped defend mountain caribou habitat in northeastern BC, supported the Tsilhqot’in and Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nations to halt mining proposals in their territories, and helped stop energy and mining development in the Flathead River Valley within Ktunaxa territory.
In 2016, Sierra Club BC signed the historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreements with Indigenous Nations, logging companies and the BC government, which protected 2.1 million hectares of old-growth forest after a twenty-year campaign. Together with our partners, we received two prestigious international environmental awards, the Buckminster Fuller Award and the EarthCare Award, for this precedent-setting collaboration.
With our partner RAVEN Trust, our Pull Together initiative has raised more than $1.2 million for Indigenous legal challenges that quashed approvals of the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipelines. We’ve also stood behind Indigenous Nations through multi-year battles against oil tankers, fracking and LNG development and the Site C dam.
However, many of our campaigns, particularly in earlier decades, were not based in the same understanding that we have today of Indigenous title, rights and governance and the ways Indigenous peoples have stewarded their own lands and waters for millennia.
We’ve come a long way in our awareness of the histories of the places we’ve helped protect and the ways in which our campaigns ignored Indigenous knowledge and jurisdiction, sometimes leading to harmful consequences.
Today, we’re in the process of coming to terms with and learning from our mistakes, so we can do better now and in the future.
In 2019, we’re celebrating the next chapter of fulfilling Sierra Club BC’s mission. We’re continuing to evolve our work to respond effectively to the changing environmental landscape in BC.
While our commitment to helping defend wild rivers, ancient rainforests and beings like whales, grizzlies and salmon has not changed, our tactics have shifted with the recognition that climate change is affecting the habitat of these species drastically and permanently.
The harsh reality of climate change means our responsibility to make an impact is greater than ever. Over the past decade, we’ve helped persuade the BC government government to adopt stronger targets for reducing carbon pollution and educated the public about the impacts of climate change for BC communities.
We know vulnerable communities suffer the worst consequences of climate impacts and pollution, which means our work must be grounded in principles of justice and anti-racism. Conservation in a changing climate must also uphold Indigenous rights, title and jurisdiction.
Without social justice and respect for Indigenous rights at the forefront, there can be no lasting conservation solutions or transition to a sustainable economy that includes everyone.
It is within this context and commitment that we situate our work.
We’re committed to the next fifty years. And we’re so glad you’re in this together with us.