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Crusaders Battle Chainsaws – A Book Review

March 27, 2021

Former Green Party leader recalls the battle to save a Haida national park

Elizabeth May, Paradise Won: The Struggle to Create Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve (Victoria and Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 2020), 328 pages (paper), $25.

Anyone who has visited Haida Gwaii will instantly relate to Elizabeth May’s remembrance of one of the most significant First Nations land claims battles of our time. The battle was significant because it was a battle for everyone who saw the cultural and environmental value in protecting the ancient territory. Significant, too, because the Haida won. 

In Paradise Won, we are transported to this pristine territory on British Columbia’s northwest coast. The First Nations villages that artist Emily Carr painted decades ago are no longer there, but hints of what might have been sit eerily in the silent forests of former villages like Skedans and Ninstints. The shrill cry of eagles overhead and the odd dipping of a kayak paddle are all that breaks the silence of this magical place.

How the Haida and their non-indigenous allies protected the serenity of their homeland provides the main substance of this narrative of a political confrontation that still has the power to inspire. May, leader of the national Green party from 2009 to 2019, takes hold of that inspiring story to recreate a tale of bravery, defiance, camaraderie, and perseverance.

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