It’s been 25 years since thousands of protesters fought to protect an ancient forest from being logged on Vancouver Island.
Clayoquot Sound is home to more than 250,000 hectares of some of Canada’s most pristine old-growth forest.
More than 10,000 people participated in the mass blockades in what would become the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.
The outcry was sparked by the government’s decision to allow for two-thirds of the area to be logged.
Valerie Langer was one of the main organizers of the demonstrations in 1993.
“Most people don’t expect in their lives to organize the biggest protest in Canadian history,” Langer said in a Skype interview from Vancouver.
The nearly three-month-long movement gained support from people around the world.
Australian rock band, Midnight Oil, flew to Vancouver Island to perform during the demonstrations.
“The facts are very clear,” said lead singer Peter Garrett in an interview with CHEK News in August 1993. “Your old-growth forests are getting cleared willy-nilly. There are a lot of Canadians and people in other parts of the world who don’t think that ‘s the right thing to be happening and it’s as straightforward as that.”
The protests led to the arrests of more than 800 people including dozens of children.
Despite the arrests, many say their efforts prevented the rainforest from being clear cut.
The area was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000.
Ken Wu with the Ancient Forest Alliance says the demonstrations helped strength the environmental movement.
“It also strengthened First Nations’ rights in regards to forestry and land-use policy,” explained Wu. “It resulted in a huge torrent of new protected areas as well.”
Even 25 years later, Langer says their work to protect B.C.’s forests isn’t over.
“Just because something happened 25 years ago doesn’t mean it’s safe forever,” Langer said.