Cumberland votes to Sue Big Oil

Aerial view of the Village of Cumberland, BC.

For Immediate Release – June 25, 2024

Cumberland, BC / unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation – Last night, Cumberland Village Council voted unanimously (4-0) to allocate $1 per resident and work with other BC local governments to bring a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies to recover a fair share of the communities’ climate costs. Cumberland is the ninth BC municipality to join so far, and the third on Vancouver Island.

Cumberland has recently had to borrow $2.5 million to make its water system climate-resilient, just one example of the major climate costs facing Cumberland and other BC communities. The Comox Valley Sue Big Oil team and West Coast Environmental Law applaud Cumberland Council for its climate leadership and its efforts to recover some of its mounting climate costs from major polluters.

“I moved to Cumberland because I love this community and the nature that surrounds us,” said Sherry Westrop, Comox Valley Sue Big Oil. “I want to ensure that all Cumberlanders will be safe from climate impacts in the years to come. Our village is vulnerable to heat waves and wildfires, and with such a small tax base, we can’t afford the skyrocketing costs of climate change alone. I got involved with Comox Valley Sue Big Oil to help our community recoup a fair share of its climate costs from the world’s largest polluters. How else are we going to pay for these looming climate costs?”

“Kudos to Cumberland for taking this bold step,” said Theresa Clinton, Comox Valley Sue Big Oil team lead. “The Comox Valley Sue Big Oil team urges Courtenay, Comox and the Comox Valley Regional District to up their game and do the same. Our communities need to get prepared for the climate change impacts that are inevitably heading our way, and that is going to cost a lot of money. Why should local residents and our local governments have to pay through the teeth for all the damage caused by climate change? It’s only fair that the industry that is most responsible for causing climate change be required to pay a fair share.”

“Cumberland’s vote on joining the Sue Big Oil movement is huge! It shows that a small town can make a difference, just like any one of us” said Thanasis Wees, recent Highland Secondary School grad and Comox Valley Sue Big Oil volunteer.

“With climate disasters now pummelling BC communities every year, it is exciting to see momentum building to make polluters pay,” said Fiona Koza, Climate Accountability Strategist at West Coast Environmental Law. “In the US, 70 cities and states have already filed climate lawsuits against Big Oil, but this would be the first such lawsuit in Canada. We can’t wait to see which BC municipalities will join Sue Big Oil next.”

“Like the tobacco industry, which was successfully sued after it hid the deadly effects of cigarettes, the oil industry has spread misinformation and undermined climate science for decades so that it could keep making vast profits, increasing the climate costs being paid by our communities,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law. “Big Oil must be held to account for its lead role in causing the climate crisis.”

The Village of Cumberland joins Qualicum Beach, Burnaby, Squamish, Gibsons, View Royal, Slocan, Sechelt and Port Moody in committing to work together to bring a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies for a share of the costs of climate change. Over 11,000 British Columbians have signed a Declaration calling for BC local governments to Sue Big Oil. The Sue Big Oil campaign is endorsed by over 40 organizations in BC and has volunteer action teams in communities throughout the province that are asking their local governments to participate.


For more information, please contact:

Theresa Clinton and Sherry Westrop| Comox Valley Sue Big Oil

Fiona Koza| Climate Accountability Strategist, West Coast Environmental Law
604-684-7378, ext. 236, fkoza@wcel.org

Andrew Gage| Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
604-601-2506, agage@wcel.org

Top photo: Cumberland, BC (Photo by Province of BC via Flickr Creative Commons)