Commentary  Listen to us, damn it!

The media response to the youth protest that disrupted Question Period in the House of Commons on Monday completely missed the mark. As participants of Power Shift Canada, last weekend’s climate change summit that brought together over 1,000 young Canadians to engage legitimately with our democratic institutions, we feel obligated to respond.

It would be easy to discredit the media’s representation of our fellow youth as an unfair caricature, but that would be beside the point. What’s striking is not that there was an eruption of overt civil disobedience. What’s striking is why.

A short 48 hours before this much-maligned protest, a decidedly more peaceful demonstration took place on Parliament Hill. On Saturday afternoon, a crowd 3,000-strong added their voices to the chorus of discontent rising from coast to coast over government inaction concerning the climate crisis. And yet, both our elected leaders and our national media outlets simply did not listen. Even as the uproar rose to a fever pitch, it fell on deaf ears. For the Canadians who tuned into their morning news, there was barely a whisper.

A silent vacuum of media and government neglect echoes throughout the country. It is a silence that speaks volumes more about the current state of environmental dialogue in Canada than the stifled cries of Monday’s protesters.

Two days ago, we would have been among those writing off the parliamentary disturbances as brash grandstanding. But the present reality of this great silence has made it abundantly clear that without such outbursts of collective frustration, no one will listen.

Now that we finally have the national ear, what do we want? We want Canada to demonstrate a commitment to environmental justice and a sustainable, clean economy. We want an immediate reduction in carbon emissions. We want real investments in clean and renewable energy. We want the creation of effective green jobs. Most of all, we want real leadership. We want Canada to participate this December in the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as a positive global force for a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty.

Don’t ignore us any longer.

It’s time to listen.

(This letter was co-written with Chris Connolly,  BSc ‘09 Microbiology and Immunology.)

Amara Possian
U2 Political Science and Middle East Studies