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Our collective dilemma

Q + A with John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce


John Vaillant is an award-winning author – and a Toad Person! (Photo: John Sinal)

John Vaillant is an award-winning author – and a Toad Person! (Photo: John Sinal)

The environmental activist inside critically acclaimed author John Vaillant was awakened through his journey of writing The Golden Spruce. The book tells the story of a spiritually significant tree and a troubled, misguided individual named Grant Hadwin, who cut it down in 1997.


Visiting Haida Gwaii on assignment in 2000, Vaillant heard the story of the felling of this special tree and felt compelled to write a book. He crafted the story into a must-read for the environmentally-minded, weaving in Haida legend as well as the actualities of the BC logging industry, past and present.


When he was later inspired to write a book based on the film Conflict Tiger, he sent a copy of The Golden Spruce to British filmmaker Sasha Snow in 2006 to prove that he was “a real writer.” Two weeks later, Snow called him back and said that he wanted to make a film inspired by The Golden Spruce, too. What a beautifully symmetrical exchange of ideas.


The resulting film, Hadwin’s Judgement, was released in 2015 in Canada and the UK.


Our co-director, Isabelle Groc, interviewed John Vaillant before a special screening of the film this month at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF), where the Toad People trailer was shown before the feature presentation. We were very happy to share the evening with John, who graciously contributed the proceeds from his book sales at the event to our Toad People crowdfunding campaign.