|| by Valerie Langer
Clayoquot Sound 1993
The most dramatic expression of Canadians’ determination to
safeguard their natural heritage was the Clayoquot blockade of 1993.
Ten years ago, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound set up the Clayoquot
Peace Camp. It became the organizing site of the largest blockade
in Canadian history. Twelve thousand people joined the protest to
stop industrial logging of Clayoquot Sound’s ancient rainforests.
By the end of the summer, 856 people had been arrested and charged
for peaceful civil disobedience.
The Peace Camp was situated in a clearcut infamously dubbed the Black
Hole by locals. Its backdrop was an equally devastated mountain scarred
to this day with landslides triggered by logging. The demonstrators
operated under a strict code of non-violence. The protests were controversial,
but effectively set in motion major changes towards protecting Clayoquot’s
old-growth temperate rainforests.
Each evening, the hundreds of people who arrived from all over Canada,
the US and other countries decided, by consensus, what the strategy
for the next day’s protest would be. Those who were willing
to risk arrest were asked to attend a brief meeting to make sure they
understood the consequences of their decision (trial, jail, etc.).
Volunteerism characterized the camp. Hundreds of people were fed three
meals a day and security and "camp beautification" were
provided by people who volunteered their services. Professionals,
laborers and grandmothers built the kitchen, did night shift security
and trained as peacekeepers. The small temporary village, operating
in a highly politicized atmosphere, ran generally smoothly for three
At 4 am every morning, a lone accordion player would walk the camp
with a serenading wake up call. Hundreds would carpool for the 20-minute
drive down a bumpy logging road to the now famous Kennedy River bridge,
site of the protests.
From the perspective of the police and the logging company, MacMillan
Bloedel, the days must have seemed routine. Read the court injunction;
videotape those blocking the road and those "witnessing"
on the side of the road. Arrest as quickly as possible and haul them
away in the Forest Tours bus leased from the company... Try to avoid
the mass of media cameras and microphones.
From our end it was Youth Day on the blockade with Raffi, Artists
for Clayoquot Day with Robert Bateman, Women’s and Children’s
Day, Seniors for Clayoquot, Doctors for Clayoquot, Forest Workers
Against Unsustainable Logging, rock stars Midnight Oil playing Clayoquot
at dawn, Sarah McLaughlin singing for the ancient forests and the
unforgettable mass arrest day of August 9 when 350 were hauled off.
Individuals and affinity groups organized themselves to express their
hopes and their despair for the forests. For many, after a lifetime
of being taught to obey the law, risking arrest was an emotional and
difficult decision that was ultimately empowering. The camp and blockade
experience changed lives and generated a new cohort of environmental
The Times Colonist newspaper of Victoria had never received as many
letters on a single issue in the entire history of the publication
as it had on Clayoquot Sound. Every day, images of Clayoquot protests
and forests were beamed by television, broadcast by radio and discussed
in news articles nationally and internationally. The controversy,
the uniqueness of the actions, the grandmothers and doctors and hippies
together, made Clayoquot famous. Clayoquot Summer ‘93 spawned
an environmental movement that continues to address logging in places
such as the Great Bear Rainforest on BC’s mid-coast. In Clayoquot
Sound, the blockades and ensuing market-based campaigns aimed at MacMillan
Bloedel had significant impacts on industrial logging.
Clayoquot Sound 10 Years After
Since the mass protests, important gains have been made. In 1993,
MacMillan Bloedel and Interfor were logging almost half a million
cubic metres of forest a year. That rate has dropped by 80 percent.
The BC government, suffering a reputation crisis internationally
due to the publicity of clearcutting’s effect on ancient forest
ecosystems, struck a scientific panel to develop new guidelines
for logging "sustainably" in Clayoquot Sound. Under pressure
to find a way out of the heat, MacBlo partnered with local First
Nations to form a logging company called Iisaak Forest Resources,
then sold its share of Iisaak to logging giant, Weyerhaeuser. Environmentalists
negotiated a memorandum of understanding with Iisaak, which became
the first Forest Stewardship Council eco-certified major licence
holder in Canada. Then in 2000, Clayoquot Sound was designated a
UN Biosphere Reserve.
There is a tremendous amount to celebrate about Clayoquot Sound.
The show of human determination in 1993 set in motion a series of
events to conserve Clayoquot’s ancient forest. The movement
that flowed out of the Clayoquot campaign has also had far-reaching
implications. It created the coalition of European, American and
Canadian organizations that have been transforming the marketplace
with successes such as adoption of endangered forest-friendly purchasing
policies by Home Depot, Ikea and Staples. Clayoquot has been the
catalyst, the model and the innovator in environmental campaigns
globally. Ironically, Clayoquot Sound is still threatened by industrial
logging in its pristine valleys.
Summer 2003 will be a celebration of the 10 year anniversary of
an important event in Canadian history. It will also be a preparation
to secure the conservation needs of Clayoquot Sound. Initiatives
such as adoption of the scientific panel recommendations and UNESCO
Biosphere Reserve designation have given many people the false impression
that Clayoquot is essentially protected. However, the global economy
still gobbles Clayoquot’s ancient forests. The scientific
panel is largely unimplemented and not legally binding. Biosphere
designation does not offer any additional protection. Now the BC
Liberal government is proposing to establish "working forest"
legislation in the biosphere reserve and Interfor has stated its
intent to log the pristine Sydney and Pretty Girl valleys.
FOCS is prepared to make another big push for Clayoquot Sound in
order to secure conservation of its unprotected pristine valleys.
We challenge government and industry to take measures now to conserve
Clayoquot’s pristine valley forests.
Join Friends of Clayoquot Sound to celebrate the 10 year anniversary
of the 1993 blockades and to send a strong message to Interfor and
the BC government that Interfor’s large-scale logging of Clayoquot
Sound’s old-growth forest and threat to pristine valleys must
• For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
or check out our website at www.focs.ca
• Tell Interfor and BC’s premier you want all of Clayoquot’s
pristine valleys protected from logging.
• Premier Gordon Campbell, Legislative Building, Victoria,
BC, V8V 1X4.
Fax: 250-387-0087. Tel: 250-387-1715. Email:
• Interfor: Duncan Davies, President and CEO, Interfor, PO
Box 49114, Four Bentall Centre, Vancouver, BC, V7X 1H7. Tel: 604-689-6800