United For Old Growth: Why thousands of people showed up outside B.C. legislature to protect the last standing giants and honour Indigenous rights

March 16, 2023
United for Old Growth March and Rally, front of march led by Indigenous Peoples and drummers

On February 25, over 2,500 people joined us in Lekungwen territories (Victoria) outside the B.C. Legislature, and thousands more tuned in online to demand immediate action on old growth forests.

This demonstration aligned with Premier David Eby’s 100th day in office, where he was confronted with a united call to fulfill his pledge to work with First Nations to protect at-risk old growth and reform forest stewardship.

Thousands marched through the downtown core of the province’s capital, led by Indigenous Peoples and drummers – this day and this movement stands on the shoulders of First Nations stewardship and land defense of these ancient forests. Artists were at work painting, building and rehearsing months leading up to the day, which created one of the most visually impressive actions to date. Demonstrators raised powerful banners, mobile murals and 3D art pieces through the streets, featuring endangered forest species. The march culminated in a rally in front of the B.C. Legislature. 

Artwork at the march
Artwork at the march

People from across sectors came together for this rally in a show of strong unity. The speaker’s list centered Indigenous leaders and land defenders, alongside a couple prominent scientists. Here’s a clip of one of the most powerful speeches of the day from Janelle Lapointe. 

All of this combined was a force so powerful that Daryl Hannah and Neil Young were even called to action and surprised the crowd with song and word! It was a beautiful moment of celebration to share in community–tears streaming down our faces as we sang along to Heart of Gold. 

More than 220 organizations have now signed onto the United for Old Growth Declaration that inspired this march and rally, including the BC General Employees Union (BCGEU), the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and the BC Teachers’ Federation Committee for Action on Social Justice. Initial signatories to the declaration are the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Elders for Ancient Trees, Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, and Wilderness Committee.

The B.C. NDP government promised to implement all 14 recommendations from the Old Growth Strategic Review in 2020, including to immediately stop (or defer) logging in the most at-risk old growth forests. The recommendations had specific implementation timelines, ranging from six months for deferrals to three years for establishing a robust monitoring system – but to this day not a single recommendation has been fulfilled, despite recent announcements from the B.C. government. In a report card released March 16 by Sierra Club BC, Stand.earth, and the Wilderness Committee, the B.C. government received failing grades on the implementation of its old growth commitments. The majority of the most at-risk old growth forests identified by B.C.’s  Technical Advisory Panel over a year ago have not yet been deferred, and are still being destroyed.

March and rally organizers say the Declaration will remain a rallying point for old growth and invite more signatories to join to increase momentum and pressure on Premier Eby the B.C. NDP government to finally fulfill their pledge.