On Wednesday September 8th, TO350 and People’s Climate Movement Toronto led an on-the-ground "Canada's Still on Fire" action at Queen’s Park. The event was one of 60 held across the country in a nationwide effort initiated by 350Canada to make it clear that climate must be front and centre this election.
In the face of raging wildfires and extreme heat, here in Canada and across the globe, in light of the latest IPCC report that paints a “code red” for humanity, we need courageous leadership that keeps pace with science. That means an immediate “no” to continued dependence on fossil fuels. It means imagining and implementing a just transition that leaves no one behind.
See the event livestream here: https://fb.watch/7WvpQQ2HYQ/
For action ideas, see the end of the article.
The first speaker at the rally was Debbie Valentine, chair of UNIFOR’s GTA west regional environmental council, who addressed the overarching theme by speaking about worker representation in a just transition. She said that to achieve climate targets, cuts to jobs in the fossil fuel sector are inevitable and described the experience of a “boom and bust scenario over and over and over again…[where] without adequate support communities disappear and workers and families are left behind.” Instead, she called for “participation from all involved - workers, unions, communities and companies,” for “investment in alternative energy industries” and for a “proactive approach to create jobs, train workers so they can transition, and families and communities can continue to thrive.” She finished by saying “governments must step up, stop talking, stop the delays and implement a just transition policy for all Canadian workers.”
Chants from the Crowd: Just Transition. Just Transition.
Tim Ellis of LeadNow reminded us that one of the first to know about climate change, the cause and the potential solutions, was ExxonMobil in 1977! He emphasized that “they had a choice to put their money and their power and all those brains towards a solution, towards clean, renewable energy for all” and that “we didn’t lose that chance, we didn't miss that opportunity, it was stolen from us... By a handful of people who had been handed power….By a system that rewards those people for their destructive choices….By the indifference of the elected leaders charged with protecting us.”
Speaking for everyone present he announced “enough is enough!” and concluded that “[w]e are here today to reclaim our shared future...to reclaim the opportunity for a just, sustainable future for all of us.”
He encouraged us to “learn from each other and respect each other and share our wisdom together and support each other” saying that “[s]olidarity is work, solidarity is real action. It means showing up….It means doing the research....It means voting for climate sincere officials…. It does mean love...for yourself, for the planet, and for each other and for the movement.”
On that note of hope, attendees said that it felt extra-good to see people again after meeting online for so long during COVID-19. To facilitate that, the event was conducted in a safe way and rally-goers populated the lawns of Queen’s Park at a distance.
Here's a tweet from the action! https://twitter.com/School4Climate/status/1435662296240599053
Three young actors were part of the speakers’ line-up! Chloe Cha, Hiyab Araya and Catherine Thorne, performers in “Is my Microphone on?”, a Canadian Stage performance about the climate emergency going on in High Park now, emphasized the disproportionate impact the climate emergency has on youth and the imperative that adults wake up and act. They performed a scene from the show:
“I have this memory of coming downstairs one night and you and mom were watching a movie on the couch, a disaster movie and you said, 'Go back to bed, It’s too scary...cities underwater, cities on fire, cities getting blown away. It's not for kids.' You said the movie would keep us awake but now, it’s not a movie, there's no special effects and we’re the ones watching and you’re not. You were right about one thing - we’re awake, we are very much awake.”
Speaking as herself, Catherine ended with “none of us can vote in this coming election….And our show is all about trying to get people to hear our generation's voice. And that’s what we’re asking you to do today. We need you [to] make sure that the climate emergency becomes a priority. We need you to vote for our future because we can’t.”
Chants from the Crowd: Red alert. Stop it now.
Lyn Adamson spoke next, about the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation treaty. She, along with TeamClimate2021 members, brought a banner and hand-outs, including door hangers, to encourage voting with climate in mind and promote the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation pledge and visits to candidate’s offices. Check out their website for more details!
Lyn recounted, “when I was in my 20s we had the nuclear shadow on us all of the time. I never thought I’d live to see the time in my 60s….[but] some visionary people got together and formed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)....191 countries signed it in 1972...I think the reason I’m here talking to you is that [treaty] in 1972. We were headed to nuclear war and we haven’t had it yet….We need the same thing for fossil fuels because they are weapons of mass destruction. Fossil Fuels are killing our future.”
Talking about the power of the fossil fuel lobby she said “our lobby and our strategies have to be smarter, better, stronger than the fossil fuel companies... [an organized movement can] challenge government, especially during an election...we need a federal government that will stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure and start investing in the renewable transition, in a just transition...We need to insist on it.”
Chants from the Crowd: Can we do it? Yes!
Cathy Walker shared two songs with the group and a great deal of wisdom. She said that she’d been involved in many solidarity actions including with people in Grassy Narrows and the Wet’suwet’en, that in fact the destruction prompted by industry “all the way in the far north, from coast to coast, all the way down to Venezuela, it affects every Indigenous person on Turtle Island.”
She shared that “a lot of people don’t understand the connections between what has been happening with the extraction industries and how it's affecting each and every one of us on an individual basis….It relates back to murdered and missing Indigenous women and also the confiscation and the outright stealing of our children in CAS [Children Aid’s Society]….if [they] take control of the women and our rights to have children then they can take control of the land and if [they] steal [our] children then [they’re] stealing the entire generation of a people….[they’re] stealing them from their culture and from their language….Our language is what ties us to the land….We are facing genocide right now, each and every day.”
She also mentioned jobs, saying “our own people who don’t have work up North….have to work for these industries that are destroying the land and destroying the watershed and destroying our people. As a result we have elders that are no longer living to ripe ages that can teach the children and we’re having generations of children stolen from us that we can’t share that knowledge to and so our languages and our ways of life are becoming extinct and this is genocide clearly.”
“We always think 7 generations ahead but….we also think of the 7 generations before and the 7 generations and the 7 generations, it goes on for an eternity….before our treaties of human to human….we also had treaties with the water, we had treaties with the land, we had treaties with the animals and a lot of us feel that we’ve become out of balance….and we’ve forgotten those treaties.”
She highlighted the recent report, Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon, which shows that Indigenous-led resistance including blockades, lobbying and other forms of advocacy grounded in Indigenous rights, have stopped or delayed nearly 1.6 billion tons of GHG or nearly 25% of the combined emissions of US and Canada.
She ended with “[w]e need to cost them because they’re costing us our lives….take into consideration the 8th fire prophecy….when all the people of all the [four directions] work with the Indigenous people and the Indigenous people lead as we always have and we work together to make a better planet….if we don’t get it right, then we won't have a future for our children. We won't even have a future for ourselves in this life.”
Fish Song lyrics: “muskies, pikes, eels, sturgeons, we share the river, the way you survive, you share with us”
Alice Zhu, who is a PhD student studying plastic pollution, rounded out the speeches saying “we need real action on climate…[that] ultimately means we need to take better care of our earth’s finite resources….we are not managing earth’s resources sustainably and treating them like the precious resources they are. We need to leave oil in the ground. The latest IPCC report made it clear that every ounce of fossil fuel we continue to extract pushes us one step closer towards an unlivable world….everyday I worry about the climate, the uncertainty of my future and the health and wellbeing of my friends and family….we must put climate at the forefront of this election.”
Chants from the Crowd: On fire - put it out
At the end of the rally Cassie of music for climate justice led a sing-along, sharing her song, “Water’s Falling.”
Chorus lyrics: Oh-oh, the water’s falling. Oh-oh, the water calls.
In the event moderator, Sandra Dosen's inspiring words:
“We know that anything is possible, like how we move forward from the latest IPCC report that is giving us all the reason we need to implement bold change. There is still hope, but hope is not enough.
I had hope that our leaders would act to match the scientific consensus that select behaviours, business models and industries were breaking planetary boundaries and tipping us over unlivable thresholds, but this extinction economy persists. Pretty words abound while accountability was tossed around - a decades and decades old game of blame and shame hot potato….Now our oceans boil and our forests are ablaze and burning on every continent.
I had hope that our leaders would rise to the occasion instead - corporations, government institutions and media - paragons of potential ingenuity marred in partiality, passing the buck in a merry-go-round political olympics. Temperatures, emissions and sea levels rise instead. We have certainty and we have solutions to stretch our moral imaginations and give the status-quo a big old heave-ho because all this time we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
“Climate breakdown is giving us a breakthrough opportunity to reimagine our world for the better. And don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. Wanting a livable planet is not radical, it is not utopian. We will not accept climate denial any longer. We will not accept climate delay anymore. We are voting for an end to fossil fuels and we are voting for a just transition. We have all the solutions we need to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis and to adapt to our climate reality, but this government needs to start now. So let's make sure our politicians hear us loud and clear at the polls.”
As a next step, here’s a link to Canada350’s non-partisan Canada Emergency Alliance. Help promote Climate Champions this election! They are suggesting that we Volunteer, Persuade or Donate. Find more steps you can take here: https://climatealliance.ca/organize/. #elxn44