On June 12, 2019, I and three fellow women activists with Greenpeace Canada unfolded two large banners at the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit held at the Vancouver Conference Center.

We were there to disrupt the forum, forcing executives and influential employees to acknowledge our message – that they put forest protection on their agenda and take responsibility for the impact of their business practices on forests. These companies have continued to profit from forest destruction, despite their promises to restore forests ten years ago.

This action was part of a larger global Greenpeace campaign to protect forests from the Amazon to South East Asia, call out all companies responsible for forest destruction and sound the alarm that the fight for forests is fundamentally tied to the climate crisis.

While the action was unfolding, what stood out to me high from my viewpoint on the ledge above the main entrance of the Convention Centre, was the people making their way to the conference. They  barely looked up at the imposing banner and quickly walked away. I like to think their lack of reaction was mostly out of discomfort rather than pure lack of interest. I believe that they know that this issue needs urgent attention but they are caught in the game of corporate greed of ‘business as usual’.

Some people stopped and engaged with Greenpeace volunteers who were giving out flyers. I overheard employees saying that they do agree that forests must be protected but it’s hard to bring that issue to the ears of top decision makers. This, along with getting smiles and thumbs up gestures from security guards and other people passing by, gave me hope for change. The story was picked up by the local CTV news and there was an outpouring of tweets and comments by Greenpeace supporters.

I often get asked why I deliberately put myself in these situations.  The answer is simply: because I can and need to. I believe I have a social responsibility to use my voice and power of peaceful action to stand up for change.

Through my years of activism with Greenpeace, I’ve come to realize my privilege as a white, non-marginalized Canadian. I am able to participate in these non-violent actions and to use my freedom of speech with less risk of harm than others face. Some brave and peaceful change-makers speaking up against environmental crimes, such as Indigenous folks here in Canada or communities from Brazil or Indonesia for example, are not so fortunate, and some have faced serious consequences for using their voice; including legal action and even murder.   

Part of my motivation for participating in this action is the importance I place in making informed and responsible choices for the environment; however, I sadly witnessed these companies break their promises and mislead us with their greenwashing. In my opinion, they need to be held accountable for the harm they are causing, to be forced by law to deliver sustainable solutions, and to sell products that are ethical and environmentally friendly.

All along my participation in this action, I felt a sense of power and inspiration standing up alongside a group of resilient women who share similar views and a passion for action.

I have a deep connection and commitment to the natural world. Growing up in Quebec, the outdoors and forests were a formative and fundamental part of my identity development, allowing me to play and discover. They remain an integral part of who I am.

We are very fortunate in Canada to have a small percentage of beautiful intact Boreal Forest that still remains untouched by industry. Forests hold so much knowledge, biodiversity, and resources. We rely on them for food, medicine, and economic means.

There is an urgency in our need to realize that our survival as humans is directly linked to the health of our forests. It’s in our best interest to preserve them and to use them wisely and respectfully.

As supporters for forests worldwide, let’s keep the pressure on these companies, question and boycott their products, sign petitions, share information, get involved in a local volunteer group, and get creative with our confrontational protests. Anything helps as long as we do it together. Let’s continue to come together to value and safeguard the lungs of our planet – our forests.

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