Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate our 50th Anniversary at the Victoria Gala! The event was a huge success because of you!
By Elisabeth Hazell, Manager of Donor Engagement
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT), Sierra Club BC is one of 21 dues-paying member organizations that make up this broad coalition. We represent a diverse cross-section of society and our fellow members are comprised of faith groups, unions, nonprofits, charities and community organizations.
Our method of organizing is via “listening campaigns” where we build strength in our own organizations through listening to each other and collecting powerful stories that can help shape the priorities for the larger coalition.
Beginning this summer and continuing through the fall, I personally hosted multiple potluck parties and listened to nearly 100 Sierra Club BC members, including most of our staff. We asked each other four things in order to gather information about what is genuinely going on in our lives:
- What do you value most about your life right now?
- What are the most pressing challenges facing you and your loved ones?
- Can you share a personal story about a specific memory you have about a time when you recognized or identified with the values that Sierra Club BC represents?
- What issues do you think you would have energy to work on if GVAT were to decide they were a priority?
After listening to many of you, these were the broad themes that I heard:
- You value your health, your friends and family, the access to the natural world available here, and the freedom and quality of life that comes with living in Canada and on the island.
- Many of you expressed deep concern about climate change and a sense of climate grief or stress. Many also expressed concerns about affordability and housing; racial, social and economic inequality; a spiritual disconnection from nature and each other; and challenges with health and family.
- I heard many stories about developing a strong connection to nature as a child, stories of grief and loss over favourite wild spaces, and feelings of awe and wonder at the universe and humanity’s relationship to it.
- The issues you felt like you could get behind were: climate change and related areas like transit, the urban canopy, renewable energy, and also affordability, inequality, spiritual disconnection and reconnection to nature.
On November 18, 2018 we gathered at the Cadboro Bay United Church to share what we had heard with each other and to vote on which two issues GVAT will collectively tackle together.
A video from Discernment Day. At 4:45, Elisabeth and Judy Lightwater share the stage.
The experience was incredibly emotional and powerful. The afternoon was spent listening to each other’s stories and building personal connections to individuals across a broad spectrum of society.
Six issues were brought forth to be voted upon. The top two issues – that all GVAT member organizations could get behind – clearly emerged as Mental Health/Addictions and Housing.
It had been pre-agreed by GVAT that whichever issues we tackle, they must hold the same two lenses that Sierra Club BC has adopted for our own work: a climate lens and an Indigenous reconciliation lens. This means that whatever solutions we propose to these problems, they must also address the issues of climate change and reconciliation.
When the voting was done, the individuals who had voted for climate change as their primary concern were clearly upset. For many “environmentalists,” this felt like the first opportunity they had ever been given to “reach beyond the choir” and to have the support of unions, churches, and social service organizations join the call for urgent climate action. The conversation immediately turned to asking if we could tackle climate change directly as a third issue. However, for the sake of unity and strength, it was agreed that we could not take this approach, but should instead commit to tackling one of the two issues in a manner that addresses climate change. (And in the future, GVAT may choose climate change as a top priority itself).
The next phase of action for GVAT is the research phase. I personally made a commitment to volunteer on the Action Research Team for mental health and addictions. I chose to volunteer my time here partly because of my personal experience with mental health and addiction, partly because I see society’s disconnection from nature as a contributing cause of mental health and addiction issues, and partly because I also see reconnection to nature as a solution/prevention for both mental health and the climate crisis. It has been said that the climate crisis is itself the manifestation of a deep spiritual malady, and I am personally very committed to exploring the intersection of these two issues.
However, after we ended the session, I was approached by a number of members who were clearly dissatisfied and wanted to do more. It is clear that Sierra Club BC has an amazing opportunity to engage not just with GVAT, but directly with these other member organizations who self-identified climate change as a priority for their members. These members are: BCGEU, Sisters of St. Ann, Camosun College Students Society, First Unitarian Church of Victoria, Cadboro Bay United Church, Victoria Shambhala Centre, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Indigenous Perspectives Society, Congregation Emanu-el, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and St. John the Divine Anglican Church.
To address these concerns, I invited delegates from each of these organizations to meet at my house on December 12. Many of us reconvened along with a few Sierra Club BC members who wanted to join and we began with a go-around allowing everyone to share their feelings about the discernment day. The meeting was an opportunity to reflect on the value of GVAT and our role as members for whom climate change is the most critical issue. It became clear that the top priority is to support GVAT around the “climate lens” so that the broad coalition does not lose its strength.
It may also be possible for opportunities to surface such as sharing important information about the work that Sierra Club BC is doing with the other members of GVAT and that we may invite members of unions and faith groups to join our existing campaigns. Further, it was acknowledged that by supporting the issues of mental health and housing, we free up individuals who do not yet have the capacity to work on climate change because they are facing homelessness or addiction issues.
We agreed that we are all committed to the next phase of GVAT’s action, which is the research phase. Trainers from GVAT’s parent organization, the IAF, will come from Seattle in January and we all committed to attending one of the training sessions.
Additionally, areas of need that were identified were:
- Determining a way to better disseminate information across our networks such as a digital hub;
- Providing more opportunities for our members to network in person and build connections;
- Strengthening the core operations of GVAT through financial support and not overburdening our only employee, Lead Organizer Flossie Baker.
Unquestionably, the climate crisis will not be addressed by environmental organizations alone – we do not have the power to make such drastic changes. The GVAT model of organizing is designed to build exactly such power – moving only at the speed of trust by building personal connections across diverse constituencies.
It is my sincere aspiration that Sierra Club BC members will continue to attend and support GVAT in building its power and strength. I have found my experience with GVAT both personally enriching and professionally beneficial for Sierra Club BC. New leaders have surfaced from within our organization and new members have joined us. In 2019 I will actively seek opportunities to invite GVAT members to learn more about the incredibly important work that Sierra Club BC is doing, building both our individual strength, and that of our coalition.
– Elisabeth Hazell
By James Davis, Education Program Manager
Sierra Club BC’s Education Program wrapped up another year of our school-based programming last week, with Kirsten delivering workshops at schools in Terrace and Kitimat and Amira facilitating our new French language workshops for kindergarten and grade 1 and 2 students in Victoria.
Over the past nine months, Amira and Kirsten have worked with over 7,300 students across the province. They facilitated 334 workshops at 116 schools in 25 different school districts. Pretty incredible!
Kirsten and I facilitated professional development training for teachers in Vanderhoof (School District 91), Victoria (School Districts 61, 62 and 63) and Chilliwack (School District 33). We also supported teachers in the Capital Regional District to take their students outside more often for meaningful learning experiences through our monthly after-school teacher gatherings and the mentorship sessions that Kirsten facilitated with teachers at 13 different schools.
We are grateful to the Victoria Foundation, the Greater Victoria Savings and Credit Union Legacy Foundation and NSERC for funding this pilot project and we hope to be able to continue some iteration of it during the 2018/2019 school year.
It’s been a pleasure for all three of us to work with students and teachers across the province and we are thankful for all that we have learned from them. We look forward to helping more students get outside and learn in the fall.
And some awesome photos of our team in action from this year:
Photos by Brynne Morrice
Since Kinder Morgan’s announcement on April 9th to halt all “non-essential activities and related spending” on the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tankers project, we have been on a wild ride.
May 31st became the highly anticipated deadline for the federal government to provide Kinder Morgan with certainty that the pipeline could be built without further delays or additional costs to shareholders. The alternative? Kinder Morgan walks away.
The reality? Kinder Morgan did walk away, but with a cheque for $4.5 billion after selling their leaky, 60 year old pipeline (which they purchased for $550 million in 2007) to the federal government. Kinder Morgan’s top executives walked away with a $1.5 million bonus each, and Canadian taxpayers are left to foot the bill. What a deal.
Trudeau says his cabinet decided to use $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy Kinder Morgan’s pipeline after the company told his government that the project was a “risky” investment. So now we own it. Makes sense right?
Canadians are financially responsible not just for a pipeline and tankers project many opposed in the first place, but for the costs of cleaning it up when an oil spill happens…and this pipeline has a history of spills.
Folks all across Canada are outraged -and it’s gaining international attention. Trudeau has betrayed the public’s trust by breaking multiple campaign promises. What of his commitments to reconciliation? His international commitments to address climate change? His promise to stop government support for fossil fuels?
Trudeau is frequently quoted saying: “it’s the communities that grant permission — the government can only grant permits.” But there is a gaping lack of permission from communities who oppose this pipeline and tanker project, as it threatens the vitality of BC’s coast, its communities, endangered species such as the southern resident orca whales, and tramples Indigenous rights and title.
In response to the $4.5 billion announcement, crowds gathered at the Inner Harbour on Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territories on May 31st to protest the federal government’s pipeline and oil tanker buyout.
Sierra Club BC’s Caitlyn Vernon had the opportunity to speak, and addressed the crowd with an animated and informative speech, which you can both watch and read below!
We would like to extend our gratitude to all of the organizers, speakers, Elders, and community members who came out to voice their opposition and remind Trudeau that this pipeline will not be built.
We would also like to thank everyone who participated in the National Day of Action against the buyout on June 4th. United, we are stronger, and we aren’t backing down.
No means no.
Sierra Club BC's Caitlyn Vernon Speaks at Victoria Rally to Stop the Kinder Morgan Buyout
Posted by Sierra Club BC on Thursday, May 31, 2018
What a crowd. It seems that prime minister Trudeau may have underestimated the degree to which we love this coast and will protect it!
Let’s talk about what the heck is going on? This week there have been tears. And anger.
And also this: We sent Kinder Morgan back to Texas! We were too much for them, so Kinder Morgan wanted out. They knew we were going to stop this pipeline from ever being built, and stop these tankers.
Of course now they are laughing their way to the bank. KM bought the existing pipeline in 2007 for about $550 million. Trudeau just bought the same 60 year old, leaky, pipeline for 4.5 billion.
What a terrible deal. What an act of desperation.
It’s outrageous to use public funds to bail out a multinational corporation, when we could be creating more jobs by investing in a clean energy economy instead.
4.5 billion, when 3.2 billion could ensure clean drinking water in First Nations communities across Canada. Tells you where his priorities lie.
The govt says they will find investors to buy the pipeline. But KM couldn’t find investors, that’s why they wanted out.
Investors seem to understand what the federal govt doesn’t:
– the economics aren’t there for this project.
– It faces a BC govt standing up to defend our communities from the risk of bitumen spills.
– It faces multiple indigenous legal challenges, any one of which could overturn project approval.
– And it faces us.
Do you love this coast?! Will you do what it takes to protect it!?
I am with you. Take notice, investors. We aren’t going anywhere.
If the feds can’t sell the thing, we the taxpayers would be paying to build it, to the tune of 17 billion dollars!
Just imagine… 17 billion could implement a national pharmacare program, or $15 dollar a day daycare across Canada.
If you had any doubt that we live in a petrostate… well, the masks are off. Our prime minister is now CEO of an oil company.
The double speak coming from federal politicians is astounding.
They talk about indigenous reconciliation but then try to push a pipeline across unceded territories, without consent.
They talk about climate action but this pipeline would enable expansion of the tar sands and release so much carbon it would make it impossible to meet our Paris climate commitments.
They say 400 oil tankers a year carrying diluted bitumen past our home will somehow make this coast a safer place.
I call BS.
We are here today so the Coldwater nation in the interior can have clean drinking water. We are here for the salmon, and the endangered orca whales that would likely go extinct, even without an oil spill, just from the noise of the tankers.
We are here because indigenous rights are human rights. We are here for the 98,000 jobs that depend on a healthy coast.
We are here because a tanker spill of diluted bitumen would be impossible to clean up.
We are here because this year the wildfires started before the flooding had ended and I don’t know about you but I find climate change terrifying. This is about our very survival.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the KM pipeline or the Trudeau pipeline, the risks are still the same.
It doesn’t matter who owns it, or how much he smiles, no STILL means no!
We are not alone.
– First Nations are in court, saying no
– members of the Tsleil-Waututh nation are at the Watchhouse in Burnaby, saying no
– The Secwepemc women warriors are building tiny houses along the pipeline route, saying no
– All the hundreds who have been arrested, are saying no
– the youth in Vancouver who walked out of school and took to the streets, are saying no
– In the past couple weeks, there have been rallies in Quebec and in Seattle. Over 230 org’s from 44 countries sent a letter to Trudeau, opposing this pipeline.
The world is watching. The world is waking up to the fact that Trudeau’s actions are a betrayal of his words.
We know how to stop a pipeline. We stopped Enbridge, we can stop Trudeau’s pipeline also.
The game has changed, and it won’t be easy, but we can do it.
Remember all that we are saying yes to. Remember that stopping these tankers, and doing something about climate change, is an act of love.
Look after yourself. Stay grounded in this beautiful place we call home.
And then find your voice, get involved, do more. Step outside your comfort zone.
Let the federal govt know this buy-out, and this pipeline and tankers, are unacceptable.
Ask your friends and family across the country to join rallies at MP offices on Monday.
Are you with me, will you do what it takes to protect this coast and our climate?!
Will you stand together to ensure this pipeline is never built?!
Will you speak up to defend our home?!
I’m with you.
Let’s build the community we want to see, and start healing the earth that sustains us. A better future is possible.
December 6, 2017
5:30 pm – 1:00 am
Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad Street)
Tickets: $20 (includes 3 beer tickets)
Craft beer + Craft food + Good people + Good Cause = Good times!
Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project poses unacceptable risks to our oceans and waterways, our climate, local economies and communities. It must never be built. First Nations have vowed to stop it in court. People, businesses, & communities are raising funds to support their court cases and stop this pipeline, together.
All admission and beer sales go directly to Pull Together: a fundraiser for First Nations lawsuits against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.
The event will be held at the Victoria Event Centre, on 1415 Broad Street downtown. Doors open at 5:30 for after work drinks and an open mic. The event will keep rocking late into the night for dancing, munching, sipping and shenanigans!
Entry is $20 and includes THREE beer tickets!
Pull Together supports the Coldwater Band, Tkemlups-te-Secwe̓pemc, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and is organized by Force of Nature Alliance, RAVEN trust, Sierra Club BC and many passionate and dedicated volunteers.
This event will be hosted on the unceded territories of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.
*beer responsibly* arrange a ride or take transit.
November 27, 2017
Free event in Victoria BC.
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Victoria Event Centre (1415 Broad Street)
We all know water is sacred. But do we treat rivers and waterways with respect?
BC’s Flathead and Elk River Valleys in the Southern Rockies are a stark example of how human activities are putting important wildlife corridors and our river systems at risk.
Join community leaders, ecologists, activists and policy makers in a conversation on water quality, watershed management and the impacts of mining and forestry in BC. From the Flathead to coastal rainforest ecosystems, the way we treat our water is the way we treat our future.
Share a glass of wine or beer and nibbles with Sierra Club BC and the Flathead Wild Coalition in Victoria.
This event is being held on the unceded territories of the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.
For questions regarding accessibility, please see: http://victoriaeventcentre.ca/accessibility/