Prime Minister Trudeau opened his speech at the Glasgow climate summit by making the link between climate change and the tragedy of the town of Lytton, which was burned to ashes by climate-fueled wildfires. The people of Lytton are still here however, and they want to be heard, including by those who continue to pour money into fossil fuel projects. Greenpeace went to Lytton, the Nicola Valley, and Kamloops, all areas affected by wildfires, to bear witness to what happened there and gather testimonials. Here are some of their thoughts about what happened, how they see their future, and what they want political and financial decision-makers to do.
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“Some of the personal impacts that we felt as people being dislocated from the lands during the fires is that there were triggers left. Not long ago, our people were forced from their homes because of the residential schools, because of the sixties scoop and other systemic racist policies that have come from the government. And so being forcibly removed from your home is a trigger. And so on top of the fear and the anxiety and the worry about what was happening to our way of life in our home, there were triggers to deal with as well. […] What I would say to some of those CEOs is: they need to take a step back and reassess what they’re investing in. And if there’s no future here on this planet for their children or their grandchildren, what are they investing in and why? It’s not just an Indigenous issue, it’s impacting everybody. It wasn’t just Indigenous people dislocated from Lytton. There is a whole community there, a whole blend of people, and they’re all impacted there. There are people who are still homeless. ”
— Leonora Starr, Nicola Valley resident
“We continue to invest in exploitive extractive economies. People suffer and people die. People died here on June 30th, 2021. People are dying across the world, but it’s still the same. My home town was wiped out. And it’s not just that I’m sitting here, I don’t know how I’m going to repay or clean up my property. I don’t know how I’m going to get a mortgage to build my home. But to think that these very corporations are being financed by Canadian financial institutions, how can we not hold them accountable? They’re going to hide behind that legal fiction. We just lent the money. But in my world, when shit happens, follow the money. […] My ancestors managed land resources for eight thousand years on a simple principle to make sure there’s something for your children and grandchildren. They must have the same opportunities we do. Quit investing in the exploitive extractive economies and start putting your money into your children and your grandchildren.”
— Patrick Michell, Lytton resident
“If I could talk to a bank CEO who was still funding fossil fuels and knowing the millions, if not billions, of dollars that is going into this from banks and I could sit down across from one of them, I would think I would ask simply why? Why are you doing this when you know the impact is happening and what needs to be done to make you stop? What needs to happen? How bad does it need to get? What needs to be done to you as a human being with your own moral compass to make you stop making decisions that are doing that? In the position that you’re in, knowing the effect that is happening, the stats are they speak for themselves. The statistics are out there. Why do you continue to allow money to be going into things that you know are directly affecting the environment? And what would it take for you to stop?“
— Susan Cumming, Kamloops resident
“If you have the power and if you have the money, invest in resiliency centers and invest in youth. This is going to be the new normal. Our youth need to be prepared because this is what life is going to be like for us. Running from fires, running from flooding, running from extreme wind events or landslides, the natural disasters are going to be endless. They’re going to be back to back. We’re going to be stuck in this constant state of recovery. Stop the insanity. You need to start acting like your house is on fire and start putting all of your money, your power, your interests in a more sustainable future, a safer future. Invest in a better world.”
— Serena Michell-Grenier, Lytton resident
“Big institutions, they’re big for a reason. They have lots of clients and I call myself a stakeholder. So if we’re banking with the Big Five bank, then I’m helping them. And that partnership or that stakeholder ship in there should give us a voice in sending them a message that if there are stuff that they can do at a higher level with the power that they’ve been bestowed upon by us, of all these stakeholders that have made them in the position they are, I think they should be actually taking that to heart. They should be taking into account not just our well-being and looking after our finances, but our opinion should be listened to and acted upon. What I would say to those people is take a look at your grandchild, take a look at your spouse, take a look at the people you love in your life and say: Do I want to be greedy and have all this money and have this super lifestyle? Or do I want to make this a better place for future generations?”
— Gord Cumming, Kamloops resident
“I told my grandchildren, my two older grandchildren, Xavier and Isabella. I said, I need you to get your shoes on. I said, I need you to get your shoes on right away. The fire’s here. We have to leave. […] The flames were on this side. They were in our neighborhood. It was just a wall of fire and we drove through this. […] The fire took a lot from us. It took our house, our home. It wasn’t just our home. We had a lot of people living with us. It’s because we provided them a safe place, a safe place that they were loved and you know, it was home. And more than just a building, we lost the ability to give people a safe place to be.”
— Tina Grenier, Lytton resident
“I think the biggest emotion that I had was fear, and it really was fear for my community, for the safety of our community. Of course, for our house. And I think fear for uncertainty in our future. The things that I’ve seen in terms of climate change are beyond comprehension. I actually can’t believe that I’m living through this time. I grew up here in Kamloops, so I have some memory of what the climate was like when I was growing up, and it was fantastically different.”
— Selena Lawrie, Kamloops resident
“The impacts from the fire have really devastated our lands. Us people still harvest and hunt and fish and rely on a lot of the food sources that are within this territory. We’ve lost lots of resources as far as the timber, the medicines, the food, the deer, all of these different things that we rely on. And we actually have to go farther now because there is none here and ask the neighboring bands and tribes for permission so that we can go in to access some of that medicines and food. So the impacts of the fire are really great as far as our people go hunting and gathering.”
— Arnold Lampreau, Nicola Valley resident
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You can request interviews with affected communities by reaching out to [email protected].
Greenpeace consulted Lytton, Nicola Valley, and Kamloops residents and received their consent to interview, film, and amplify the materials and stories in the context of this campaign.