On the morning of January 18, a group of roughly twenty climate activists – including several members of Divest McGill – assembled at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal office to deliver a “people’s injunction.”
The people’s injunction called on the National Energy Board (NEB) to “immediately suspend the ongoing reviews of the TransCanada Energy East and Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipelines […] until the NEB’s environmental review process is reformed, as promised by Justin Trudeau during his campaign.” The injunction stipulated that this reform would have to include “consideration of climate impacts in alignment with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” improved public consultation, and respect for Indigenous rights and treaties.
The activists were part of the People’s Injunction movement organized by the non-profit organization 350.org. Despite behaving peacefully, they were prevented from approaching Trudeau’s office by two police officers. The group remained in the stairwell of the building for several minutes, while Axtli Viau, vice president of the environment committee of the Conseil central du Montréal metropolitain, negotiated with the officers. Eventually, as the police remained uncompromising, the activists decided to withdraw to the sidewalk outside.
“Why haven’t they taken action? That’s what we’d like to know.”
Speaking in French to those assembled in front of the building, an organizer articulated the activists’ main grievance: “The [Trudeau] government claimed to be resolutely engaged in profound changes to the environmental evaluation process regarding the transport of fossil fuels in Canada, and that includes a reform of the National Energy Board. […] Why haven’t they taken action? That’s what we’d like to know.”
Speaking to The Daily, Emma, a student in McGill’s Environment and Development program, said, “We’re here because we live in a so-called democracy, and the Liberal government promised to consult communities about pipelines. The people do not want them. […] We cannot deal with more increases in temperature because of [fossil fuels], so we’re here to tell Trudeau’s office that he has to keep his promises.”
Viau explained that delivering the people’s injunction was particularly timely, because the NEB would begin reviewing the new Trans-Mountain pipeline the following day, on January 19. “They haven’t [reformed] the process yet, even though they promised that they would, and that all ongoing reviews would be [reformed] as well,” he said.
“[The staff member] really didn’t make any comments – [they] just said ‘interesting, interesting’.”
Eventually, an employee of Trudeau’s office came downstairs to speak to those gathered outside and to receive their injunction. Police officers allowed only three activists inside the building’s lobby in order to speak to the employee.
No media representatives were permitted to enter, but Divest McGill member Kristen Perry described what happened inside. “Three of us went in to deliver the actual documents to the staff member that was there. [The staff member] really didn’t make any comments – [they] just said ‘interesting, interesting’ as we continued to explain why we were there,” Perry said.
“I was disappointed that they wouldn’t let us speak to them in the actual office,” Perry continued. “Justin Trudeau always says ‘open government,’ right? And so the fact that they made us go stand outside to do what we wanted to do was not so great, but we had a very clear message, and I think it’s really important that he gets this document. It’s going to be delivered to him now, and people across the country will be doing similar actions for the People’s Injunction.”
“It’s really great to see this network kind of building, and people-power building, to address the issues of climate change and Indigenous rights, and make sure that communities’ voices are really heard at the governmental level.”
Despite the underwhelming response from Trudeau’s office, Perry explained that she felt positively about the action. “I think it was really inspiring to see a group of community members who were so diverse coming together, because often, especially at McGill, when you organize actions, it’s just […] students. […] It’s really great to see this network kind of building, and people-power building, to address the issues of climate change and Indigenous rights, and make sure that communities’ voices are really heard at the governmental level.”