Over two dozen youth activists were arrested Monday for occupying the floor of Canada’s House of Commons to demand the nation’s lawmakers prioritize combating the climate emergency a week after voters elected a squad of Green New Deal supporters to Parliament.
“We’re calling on every member of Parliament to accept the mandate from our generation that they come together and make tackling the climate emergency priority number one,” Simran Dhunna, an organizer with Our Time Toronto, explained ahead of the action. “Temperatures, injustice, and inequality are rising. A government that will push a Green New Deal is the only way to stop that.”
The nonpartisan Our Time campaign was launched earlier this year by the global environmental group 350.org and local organizers to encourage Canadian voters to support candidates in favor of a Green New Deal in last week’s national elections. Voters elected eight Our Time candidates and while incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retained his position, his centrist Liberal party lost its majority in Parliament.
Although Trudeau has publicly positioned himself as a progressive, he has been heavily criticized for his climate record in a country that, on average, is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. Perhaps his most controversial decision came last year, when the prime minister announced that his government would buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Our Time said in a statement Monday that their occupation of Parliament “comes as Justin Trudeau has signaled plans to forge ahead without the formal support of other parties, and to prioritize tax cuts and pipeline expansion ahead of climate action.”
Trudeau doubled down on his government’s pipeline plans during a press conference in Ottawa last Wednesday:
We made a decision to move forward on the pipeline because it was in the interest of Canada to do so, because the environment and the economy need to go together. We will be continuing with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Albertans and people in Saskatchewan have faced very difficult years over these past few years because of the global commodity prices, because of the challenges they are facing. For a long time they weren’t able to get their resources to markets other than the U.S. We are moving forward to solve those challenges.
CBC noted that Trudeau’s effort “to earn the trust of people in the two resource-rich provinces” came just “two days after much of Western Canada rejected the Liberals on election day.” Environmentalists, meanwhile, remain outraged over the prime minister’s steps to expand fossil fuel infrastructure given scientists’ urgent warnings about the need to transition global energy systems to renewable sources.
“In 2015, fossil fuel lobbyists were sitting down with the Trudeau government, and watering down our climate ambition just days after the election. In 2019, our generation won’t stand for that,” Our Time Ottawa organizer Karolina Krym declared Monday. “Climate change is impacting us now, so we’re acting now and we expect our politicians to do the same.”
Participants and supporters of the sit-in shared updates on social media with the hashtags #GreenNewDeal, #OurTimeToLead, and #OurTime2019. The activists, who eventually moved to a nearby outdoor location, brought with them 338 “Mandate Letters from our Generation” for incoming MPs.
The letter, which the activists urged MPs to come pick up, informs elected officials that they “are now responsible for ensuring Canada meets the climate crisis at the speed and scale that science and justice demand.” Specifically, it calls on them to deliver a Green New Deal that:
- Listens to the science;
- Respects Indigenous rights and sovereignty;
- Creates millions of good jobs; and
- Enshrines dignity, justice, and equity for all.
“A Green New Deal is the only plan that recognizes we can’t tackle the climate crisis without dealing with racism, inequality, and supporting communities through a transition off fossil fuels,” said Stephen Buehler, an Our Time organizer and journeyman machinist in Edmonton. “It’s the only plan that says ‘yes, this is going to be a big change,’ and also tells workers and communities that we’ve got their backs.”