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Sechelt joins Sue Big Oil campaign

Commits a contribution of $1 per resident for class action lawsuit
Dawn Allen and the Sue Big Oil team outside Sechelt municipal hall.

The District of Sechelt will support the Sue Big Oil campaign in its filing of a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies.

The decision commits $1 per resident (Sechelt has about 12,000 people) as a contribution to the campaign.

Dawn Allen, Sue Big Oil Sunshine Coast organizer, spoke at the June 12 Committee of the Whole asking for the district’s support. 

She said their goal is to get the largest oil companies to pay their share of “our climate change costs,” through the collaboration of local governments. 

The province-wide campaign is led by West Coast Environmental Law.

Allen referenced climate change-related impacts B.C. residents have had to overcome lately, such as the Okanagan and Shuswap fires, which cost more than $720 million, and the 2021 heat dome that caused $17 billion in economic losses and the deaths of roughly a billion sea creatures. 

As extreme weather events' severity and frequency also increase, Allen said it shouldn't fall to local governments and taxpayers to shoulder the cost of climate change.

In contrast, she pointed out that the fossil fuel industry reportedly earned $11 billion a day in 2022, $4 trillion for the year.  

“[The] Sue Big Oil campaign is aiming to get oil companies to pay their fair share, not the full cost. Just their fair share,” she said. 

Explaining why they are pursuing litigation, Allen said, “Courts are where we resolve injustices.”

Over 2,000 Sunshine Coast residents have signed the petition to support the group, 740 of them from Sechelt, said Allen.

Other municipalities are already on board such as Gibsons, Squamish, Burnaby and Port Moody. 

Sechelt Mayor John Henderson asked if it would be better to go after the users of oil instead of the big oil companies.

Henderson continued, saying that normally they go after the party that benefits and that people who use oil in daily life benefit much more broadly than an oil company profits.  

Henderson said he would rather come up with viable options for an alternative approach than support a litigation process. 

“I don't think it's workable to go after soccer moms,” said Coun. Darren Inkster. “I think it's more important that we go after the companies, the faceless companies that are making the profit.” 

Adding that not everyone has switched to electric vehicles yet, Inkster continued, “There's a number of people that still pay for gasoline on a weekly basis. And that payment for that gasoline has led to not only large government collections of taxation … but also large amounts, millions and billions of dollars over the last 50 to 100 years, of profit for the companies.”

Coun. Adam Shepherd said he supports the idea and has signed the petition but was against the motion because he would like to see staff come up with more specifics. 

Council voted to recommend the request to council, with Henderson and Shepherd opposed.

At the June 19 regular meeting, the recommendation was adopted without discussion along with the minutes from the committee meeting.  

"We are elated by this win and very grateful to the Sechelt Council for supporting this investment in our wellbeing and that of our kids..... but the work is not finished. With Sechelt and Gibsons both on board now, Sunshine Coast Sue Big Oil is planning to return its attention to the Sunshine Coast Regional District,” said Allen in a Sue Big Oil release. 

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.