On Saturday, October 24, I joined thousands of Canadians on Parliament Hill to demand that the Canadian government stand up to fight climate change. “Be a leader at Copenhagen,” we asked. “Pass the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311), protect indigenous rights, shift the focus (and subsidies) from coal energy, nuclear power, and tar sands to renewable energies, and provide us, our friends, and our families with green jobs.”
But where were the reporters to see all this? Where were the video cameras, the radio stations? Didn’t anyone want to see us? Didn’t they want to hear us? This event was easily the largest conglomeration of Canadians taking action for the climate in our nation’s history, and no one cared to notice.
I have been let down by my nation. From October 23 to 25, 2009, 1,000 youth from across Canada flocked to Ottawa for one reason – Powershift. Students from every province and territory in our great nation spent up to 30 hours on trains and missed days of school and work to attend the weekend’s events – also known as the largest youth conference on the environment in Canadian history.
I look back through time to see May 1968 in France, I see campuses across North America in my parents’ generation during the Vietnam War, I see people fighting for democracy in Tiananmen Square, I see the sit-ins and bus boycotts in the southern United States during the Civil Rights movement, and I see political and social justice movements in southeast Asia and Latin America over the past 50 years. The common thread connecting these events is the major role played by students in them.
The Climate Change Accountability Act (also known as Bill C-311) was on the table just three weeks ago, and with some 40 days left until the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen, our government effectively shelved it for another 30 days. What message does this send to Canadians and the world? I wonder if Jim Prentice, Minister of Environment, knows what message it sends when member nations walk out of climate discussions in Bangkok when Ca nada takes the podium. I wonder what Stephen Harper thinks about the message his absence at climate talks in New York sends to Canadians and the world.
Speakers inspired 1,000 of us during the opening ceremonies of Powershift, explaining why – despite their hardships – they have never given up, and neither should we. No, they told us, do not back down in the face of discrimination, ageism, or racism; do not give up when your government will not listen to you and your representatives ignore you. Do not give up when people tell you that you will never win this fight, and do not give up when your voice is being silenced.
Our demands to the Canadian government are clear: first, sign the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) before Copenhagen; second, acknowledge treaty and indigenous rights and shift subsidies from coal, nuclear power, natural gas, and tar sands to renewable energies; and third, provide us with the option of a green economy, green jobs, and a safe and healthy future for all Canadians.
In closing, I say shame on you Canadian media, for not being there while thousands of your daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, stood on Parliament Hill to demand a safe, secure, and green future for all of us. Shame on you, Harper. Shame on you, Prentice, and shame on those members of Parliament who continually refuse to be leaders on climate change while the historic and progressive Bill C-311 is before them. Shame on those in the House of Commons who laughed while students brave enough to stand up for what they believe in were dragged away by police and arrested on Monday, October 16. And shame on me for not having written this sooner.
Aleah Loney is a U3 Political Science and IDS student. Send her a jeremiad at firstname.lastname@example.org.