would take a book to do justice to the 20-year campaign to save
the ancient forest of Clayoquot Sound. But this is a pretty good
shot at capturing the highlights in 3500 words - if I do say so
myself. It was published in slightly different form in Homemakers'
Magazine in September '99.
The Weigh West Resort and Marina in Tofino, B.C., isn't exactly
the Hyatt, but then there is the view: looking out across Clayoquot
Sound, it is easy to see why so many people have fought so
long over these mountains, forests and fjords. A salmon jumps,
seal pops up, a pod of orcas pass by. The nearby islands are dotted
with eagles' nests. Behind them loom the dark green slopes of
beauty of the ancient Clayoquot rainforest makes it easy
to see why people have fought so long to save it. Photo
by Adrian Dorst.
June 16, 1999, the forest was hidden in mist, but the people gathered
in the Weigh West's conference room knew it was there. God or
Nature may have created the Clayoquot wilderness, but these people
had kept it that way, sometimes at great personal cost. Though
you would not know it from the way they were dressed - only Chief
Larry Baird wore a tie, and it sported a bald eagle and the words
"Harley Davidson" - this was an august gathering. There were a
dozen Nuu-chah-nulth chiefs and elders and half-a-dozen heads
of major environmental groups. Two vice-presidents from the forest
giant MacMillan Bloedel had helicoptered in.
A year before, this meeting was about as likely as peace in the
Middle East. As it was, the air was charged. Maureen, Adriane,
Tzeporah and Linda wouldn't have missed it for the world.
this afternoon in June, they were signing the deal that could,
at long last, save the ancient Clayoquot rainforest. When it was
her turn to sign, Western Canada Wilderness Committee director
Adriane Carr burst into tears.
It was Carr - and Maureen Fraser, Valerie Langer, Tzeporah Berman
and Linda Coady - who did it. Not alone, certainly; there were
others who played key roles in the Clayoquot campaign, men among
them. But the 20-year fight to save Clayoquot was led by women.
And there is no question that their womanly ways of doing things
did the trick. Feminist writer and broadcaster Judy Rebick calls
it "the feminization of politics" - the changes wrought by the
unique strengths that women activists bring to the table: patience,
flexibility, attention to relationships, good listening and the
ability to hold fast to principles without getting stuck in positions.
nearly two decades, an alphabet soup of government-mandated processes
and panels failed to solve Clayoquot; Adriane Carr and MB vice-president
Linda Coady succeeded. But they did so at the end of a chain of
women's efforts, many of which must have seemed, at the time,
hopelessly quixotic. Theirs is one of the most encouraging stories
since David smote Goliath: how ordinary citizens stopped one of
Canada's industrial giants in its tracks and then taught it a
wiser, more sustainable way to go about its business.
in 1979, Maureen Fraser stood on the porch of her Tofino bake
shop and watched the setting sun redden the green mountainside
of Meares Island. Though she was not a political person, Maureen
knew she was about to become one. MacMillan Bloedel had just announced
its plan to log Meares Island, the centrepiece of Clayoquot Sound.
on Canada's largest forest company and British Columbia's biggest
employer was a stretch for Maureen Fraser. Still,
she knew, if something wasn't done, the mountains that surrounded
her would be stripped bare. Industrial logging, circa 1980, was
an ugly affair, leaving behind mile after mile of stump and rock.
her Tofino neighbours, Maureen petitioned the B.C. government
to withold the cutting permit for Meares Island. The government
listened, or appeared to, but after a two-year public process,
it approved MacMillan Bloedel's plans, lock stock and barrel.
and her neighbours - by then they called themselves the Friends
of Clayoquot Sound - needed outside help. So in April 1983, they
invited press, public and the local native communities to an Easter
Festival in Clayoquot. To their surprise, several hundred people
came and along with them, a CBC TV crew. To their even greater
surprise, Chief Moses Martin told the crowd in the school gym
that the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations had declared Meares Island
Island a "tribal park"; the island that white people call "Meares",
he said, is the garden of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples; visitors
are welcome, but they must leave their chainsaws behind. The school
gym was stone silent. B.C. politics had just taken a sharp left
so it seemed to Adriane Carr, a young geography teacher and new
mother out from Vancouver for the festival. The next day, she
watched the raising of Weeping Cedar Woman. The 6-metre high carving
shows Cedar Woman crying long streams of tears as she points to
the earth. Her other hand is raised, palm out, to say, "Stop."
was a typical West Coast spring day," Carr remembers, "rainy and
miserable. But just when they got the pole upright, the sun broke
through and a rainbow formed around Cedar Woman's head. That was
it for me."
neither Cedar Woman's tears nor Chief Martin's declaration impressed
MacMillan Bloedel. That winter, MB sent fallers to Meares Island.
There they met 200 protesters. The loggers retreated and MB went
to court for an injunction. So did the Nuu-chah-nulth. Both injunctions
were granted, the natives' on appeal. Since then the green slopes
of Meares Island have remained just as they appeared to Maureen
Fraser 20 years ago, and for tens of thousands of years before
behind Meares Island, in the more remote valleys of Clayoquot
Sound, it was another story.
Langer was in her late 20s when, in 1988, she came to Tofino for
a holiday. "Like probably 500 people around here," she says, "I
came for a week and never left." Valerie's striking features would
soon became synonymous with the face of protest in Clayoquot -
particularly after a TV news crew filmed her blocking a line of
logging trucks by straddling the end of a pole laid across a bridge.
She was 15 feet out over the river and 20 feet up. As the cameras
rolled, the Mounties arrived. "C'mon kid, get off there," said
the sergeant. "I'm not a kid, I'm almost 30," said Langer. Back
in Ontario, a friend called Valerie's mother. "How time flies,"
she said. "Valerie is almost 30."
on a limb: Valerie Langer became Clayoquot's face of protest
after she blocked a logging truck by straddling the end
of a pole laid across a bridge. Photo by Adrian Dorst.
the courts had spared Meares Island, elsewhere in Clayoquot, clearcutting
continued. In the spring of 1988, loggers blasted a road along
a channel called Sulphur Passage. The road would open up the Megin
River, a pristine valley stretching from Strathcona Park, in the
centre of Vancouver Island's mountains, through Clayoquot to the
Pacific. Such unbroken wilderness corridors are, according to
wildlife biologists, necessary for the survival of large animals
like bear and cougar.
Fraser, by this time a director of the Tofino Chamber of Commerce,
called for a moratorium and a task force to study Clayoquot's
ecology and resources. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound called for
a blockade. Since, by law, blasting could not occur when people
were in the area, the Friends took up residence at the road site,
some on the ground, some in boats, some in trees. The blockade
lasted nearly five months. Valerie Langer was arrested four times.
"After you've been arrested once," she says practically, "the
other times don't really matter. You've already got a record."
request for a study of Clayoquot languished at the B.C. legislature
until fate provided an unlikely ally - Bill Vander Zalm, B.C.'s
erratic Social Credit premier. West Coast native artist Roy Henry
Vickers met Vander Zalm at a state dinner, at which one of his
paintings was to be presented. Vickers took the opportunity to
tell Vander Zalm about his favourite fishing spot, the Megin River.
He invited the Premier fishing, and Vander Zalm accepted. But
on the day of the trip, fog blocked the flight path to Tofino
and Vander Zalm had to drive. The highway, originally a logging
road, passes a gaping clearcut, known locally as "The Black Hole."
Burned-out stumps stretched to the barren horizon. Vander Zalm
stopped the car. Aides tried to reassure him of the efficacy of
clearcut logging, but Vander Zalm, who had made his fortune in
the gardening business, would have none of it. Within weeks, Maureen
Fraser had her task force, and the controversial logging road
stopped dead at Sulphur Passage, less than a mile from the Megin
next years were hard for everyone in Clayoquot. The Nuu-chah-nulth
land claim stalled. The loggers worried that MacMillan Bloedel
might one day close its whole Clayoquot operation, throwing hundreds
out of work. For those like Maureen Fraser, up to their necks
in public process, progress was slow, frustrating and often acrimonious.
Later, in 1996, when she underwent surgery for cancer, Maureen
was sure that the stress had contributed to her condition.
their part, Valerie Langer and the Friends of Clayoquot Sound
worked tirelessly, but in fact, they were played out. For all
their efforts, the ancient forest was still falling. But Clayoquot,
like a beautiful woman, continued to attract new lovers who would
come for a visit and wind up burning with an all-consuming passion.
One was Tzeporah Berman. It could be said that, when she left
a few years later, she took MacMillan Bloedel's Clayoquot division
the spring of 1992, 22-year-old Tzeporah Berman returned to Vancouver
Island to continue her university fieldwork studying marbled murrelet
nests. But she could not find the nesting area. The approach to
the site had been logged, and with the landmarks obliterated,
she could not get her bearings. Gradually, the reality dawned:
this was the nesting site. She found a ring of stumps that
had been the 70-metre-high Sitka spruce trees under which she
had camped. She found a trickle of water that had been a waterfall
and pool where she had swum. Eagles wheeled overhead, surveying
their fallen nests.
on a stump, in tears, Berman reconsidered her summer and her future.
She had planned to finish environmental studies and then go into
law. But by the time she did that, she decided, there would be
no marbled murrelets left. The next day, a van stopped on
its way to a blockade in Clayoquot Sound. Berman climbed in.
year the Clayoquot Sound task force finished its work, or, more
accurately, it gave up. The chairman reported to B.C.'s new premier,
Mike Harcourt, that it had failed to reach consensus. Harcourt
decided that he and his cabinet would themselves decide Clayoquot's
fate - something the previous Social Credit governments had avoided
for 14 years.
went by. Letters flooded Victoria. Demonstrators crowded the lawns
of the BC legislature. Behind closed doors, the powerful International
Woodworkers of America threatened to withdraw their support from
the NDP if logging was banned. In Clayoquot, exasperated greens
set fire the bridge over which MB's crews had to pass. A few days
later, an anonymous caller warned Maureen Fraser to keep the fire
insurance on her bakery up to date. Finally, on April 13,
1993, a crisp, sunny morning in Clayoquot, Premier Harcourt announced
the decision. The Megin River, and some smaller areas, totalling
26 per cent of the remaining forest, were off-limits to loggers.
The remaining 74 per cent would be logged by the latest and best
industrial methods. It was, Harcourt believed, a balanced decision.
But the message that went out to the world was that three-quarters
of Clayoquot would fall.
picketed Canadian Embassies across Europe. The Nuu-chah-nulth
complained to the B.C. ombudsman that they had been left out of
the Province's decision, and the ombudsman agreed. The Friends
of Clayoquot Sound called another blockade.
early July, they pitched camp in "The Black Hole." The first volunteer
to arrive was a young man named Chris Hatch. He asked Tzeporah
Berman, now an experienced blockader, what to do. Feigning more
certainty than she felt, she gave him a shovel and told him to
dig latrines. They have been together ever since.
10,000 people passed through the protest camp that summer, stunning
Tzeporah, Valerie and the other organizers. Nine hundred were
arrested for attempting to block the logging trucks. It was a
level of civil disobedience without precedent in Canadian history.
Tzeporah Berman was the chief spokeswoman. She was so effective
that, when Premier Harcourt flew to Europe on a damage control
mission, Greenpeace flew Tzeporah over to debate him at every
stop. The Premier, of course, traveled in limos with his entourage.
Tzeporah went alone and was shuttled to the debates in a local
Greenpeace volunteer's Volkswagon.
women who helped pull off one of the world's great environmental
victories included (from left): Valerie Langer, Adriane
Carr, Maureen Fraser and Tzeporah Berman. Photo by Bob Bossin.
at the Black Hole, feelings ran high on both sides of the line,
but there was surprisingly little violence. This was not a matter
of luck. Through the long, rainy Tofino winter, the Friends had
studied Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Greenham Common, the famous
women's anti-nuke camp in England. At the Clayoquot "peace camp",
attendance at a non-violence training session was mandatory. Raising
your voice in an argument was prohibited.
Relationships between the police and the protest leaders were
cordial, so much so that, one day, one of the Mounties took Tzeporah
aside and urged her to be careful. Berman was puzzled: she, Langer
and other leaders were conscientious about staying within the
law. "Well," said the policeman, "that's the word from higher
few mornings later, Berman was arrested for "aiding and abetting"
the commission of hundreds of criminal acts - the protests of
those who, each morning, sat in the road in front of the logging
trucks. The charge outraged such prominent lawyers as Ontario's
Clayton Ruby and B.C.'s David Martin, who defended Berman pro
the next year, Tzeporah Berman got a legal education she would
not have gotten at Osgoode Hall. Finally, when the case came to
court, the crown counsel spent a week submitting evidence of Berman's
criminal behaviour. When he rested his case, David Martin simply
asked that the charges be dismissed. With a few harsh words for
the crown, Mr. Justice Richard Low threw the case out of court.
the aiding and abetting charge, Berman found that she had herself
become a "cause". She could not go to a restaurant without being
hugged or harangued. She started receiving death threats. One
consisted of her picture, torn from the Vancouver Sun, with the
hand-written legend, "Die Jew bitch." Twice she was run off the
road. She stopped going out alone.
day, talking on the phone to the New York Times, with Reuters
on hold and a meeting waiting for her, Berman suddenly burst into
tears. She could not stop crying. Chris Hatch took her home and
within days, they were on a southbound plane for a two-week holiday.
While she was gone, Tzeporah's east-end Vancouver apartment was
destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected, but never proved.
she returned, Greenpeace offered Berman a sympathetic posting
in Europe, and later in their San Francisco office. There she
became the spokesperson for Greenpeace's "market campaign," a
new tactic focused on MacMillan Bloedel's customers. Did Pacific
Bell know, they would ask, that their phone books were made from
the ancient rainforest of Clayoquot Sound? Surely the company
would be alarmed at this, and if they weren't, certainly Pacific
Bell's customers would be. Alarmed, Pacific Bell called MacMillan
Bloedel; so did Scott Paper and the New York Times.
MacMillan Bloedel, people were stunned. Clayoquot had gone from
bad to worse, draining ever more of the company's time and resources.
Now it was costing customers. To stop the hemorrhaging, MacMillan
Bloedel's CEO, Bob Findlay, hired a Vancouver lobbyist named Linda
Coady as MB's first vice-president for Environmental Affairs.
Pretty much everyone - in and out of the company - figured it
for window-dressing: a woman to soften MB's image. Coady wondered
about it herself. At 40, she was skilled at public relations,
but of "environmental affairs", she knew nothing. She had scarcely
been in the forest since Brownies. Who, in or out of the woods,
would take her seriously?
Findlay did. He told Coady, "Do anything that might work. Nothing
has so far."
Bloedel's Linda Coady, signing the Clayoquot agreement.
Photo by Craig Paskin.
quickly disgarded the traditional tools of corporate public relations.
Instead, she sought out the company's critics, looking
for any opening. She bought gum-boots and set off for the native
villages of Ahousat and Opitsat, met with loggers in Ucluelet
and "greens" in Tofino. In many cases this was the first informal
contact between the sides in years.
went to see Tzeporah Berman. Neither woman liked the other. Berman
was, at that time, facing the possibility of two years in prison
- as she saw it, at the behest of MacMillan Bloedel. But the women
were at least speaking, and in time - to make a long story deceptively
short - they agreed to a truce. MB would stop industrial logging
in Clayoquot and Greenpeace would stop hassling MB's customers.
Within two years, MacMillan Bloedel closed down its Clayoquot
and Hatch held a bittersweet celebration in their home-in-exile
in San Francisco. In Port Alberni, laid-off loggers burned Linda
Coady in effigy.
truce with the greens was no small feat, but Coady knew a truce
was not a solution. Many at MB argued that the time had come to
simply walk away from Clayoquot. Coady argued for staying: what,
she asked, would prevent the same thing happening again, watershed
after watershed? Untangle Clayoquot, and MB could tackle the next,
inevitable, wilderness controversy. But how?
1996, Adriane Carr was a director of the Western Canada Wilderness
Committee. But, like Linda Coady, Carr was at a cross-roads. Though
it was environmental heresy to say it, she had come to believe
that the human complexity of Clayoquot ruled out a purely green
solution. What about the First Nations' land claim? What about
the poverty of the reservations? the out-of-work families in Ucluelet
and Port Alberni? In the real world, where wilderness and human
communities meet on the ground, what, Carr asked herself and her
comrades, would effective conservation look like?
Adriane and Linda finally met, in July 1996, they quickly recognized
their near-common cause. Though they subscribed to opposing religeons,
Environment and Economics, their own approaches were ecumenical.
Carr thought environmentalists could get into economics; Coady
thought MacMillan Bloedel could convert to conservation. There
was also a personal affinity. Both were working mothers in their
40s, surrounded by men who were long on power and short on process.
with native leaders and an expanding circle of curious colleagues,
Coady and Carr began to fashion a Nuu-chah-nulth/ MacMillan Bloedel
joint venture which would log according to the highest ecological
standards. Conversation became negotiation and negotiation became
memorandums of understanding, letters of incorporation and tenure
transfer applications. Eventually the whole stack of paper became
Iisaak Forest Products, owned 51 per cent by the Nuu-chah-nulth,
49 per cent by MB. Iisaak would log in Clayoquot (but not in its
pristine valleys) by methods negotiated with Greenpeace, Western
Canada Wilderness and other environmental groups who, in turn,
promised to help market the eco-certified products. It was a stretch
for everyone, demanding, underneath it all, a change of attitude
- what the Nuu-chah-nulth call "iisaak." In English, "respect."
was the deal being closed on June 16, 1999 at the Weigh West Resort.
Adriane Carr signed for Western Canada Wilderness, Tzeporah Berman,
up from San Francisco, signed for Greenpeace and Linda Coady signed
for MacMillan Bloedel. Linda looked surprisingly sombre for such
a celebratory occasion. But then she knew something none of the
others did. She had been told a few days before (and had promised
to keep secret) that MB, the biggest forest company in Canada,
was to be bought by an even bigger company, the American timber
giant Weyerhaeuser. The deal was unlikely to affect Clayoquot
- things had come too far. But what, Coady wondered, would it
mean for the policy changes for which she had worked so long?
And what would it mean for the forests of BC? That was anyone's
Langer looked glum as well. After much debate, the Friends of
Clayoquot Sound had decided not to sign the Iisaak deal. Her voice
catching, Langer explained the Friends' position: they would not
oppose Iisaak, but they were wary. Would Iisaak stay green when
it had a payroll to meet? What happens when the price for timber
goes up? If the logs aren't coming from Clayoquot, will they just
come out of some-one else's watershed all the faster? And when
will the laws change? The Harcourt decision remained, if only
officially, the law.
Valerie was not against Iisaak, and that made her, among the Friends
of Clayoquot Sound, a moderate. Others in the group say there
is so little ancient forest left, it is time to stop logging,
period. "I'm not used to being a moderate," Langer smiles.
Berman also realized that the road ahead would surely get rough.
But, on the other hand, she knew the length of road already travelled.
"Everyone's wilderness is someone else's home," she said when
she signed. "I used to think Clayoquot was an environmental problem,
but it's not, the environment is fine. It's a people problem.
The mountainsides weren't eroding by themselves, they were eroding
because people didn't share a vision. Now we do."
No one knew more about that than Maureen Fraser. After 20 years
in the Clayoquot Wars, Maureen watched the signing ceremony with
the kind of glow usually reserved for a daughter's wedding. Then
she rushed to a meeting of the Central Region Board. She is now
one of 12 people who oversee Clayoquot for the B.C. government
and the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. After her cancer surgery
in 1996, friends urged Fraser to let the CRB position and its
attendant pressures fall on other shoulders. But Maureen could
see no more important work to be doing, be her life long or short.
is convinced that the key to conservation is truly democratic
local control. How far have we come, I ask her. "If it was a football
game," I venture, "what yardline are we on?" She rolls her eyes
at the guy-ness of my metaphor, then pauses while she searches
for her own. "I see a tree," she says. "20 years ago, it was a
tiny seedling. But every year it has grown and branched out in
new directions. I can see it growing into a great spreading oak,
sheltering all of us."
Bossin and friends (including grey whale) at Sulphur Passage.