On Sept. 8, Toronto 350, along with hundreds of thousands of people across the world, lead Toronto in a Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice rally. Concerned citizens came together to demand that Canada’s political leaders commit to a just and fossil-free future that places people and the planet over profits, days before the Global Climate Action Summit began in San Francisco.
This event allowed organizers and attendees to publicly call for system change in the fight against climate change. On the federal level, this meant telling Justin Trudeau to set aside his support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) project. On August 30th, Canadian federal courts revoked TMX construction permits, citing inadequate consults with Indigenous groups and the failure to consider the effect of B.C. tanker traffic on endangered orcas. In the wake of this ruling, Trudeau’s government stated that they are still committed to buying the TMX for 4.5 billion despite its potentially devastating environmental impacts (see end of article for some things we can do to voice our continued opposition).
In Toronto 350 organizer Brian Young’s words, “Trudeau wants Canadians to pay for pipelines and tar sands oil which he says are ‘in the national interest.’ Meanwhile, vast forests are going up in smoke. Nunavut is melting. Shorelines and rivers are flooding. On top of this, Ottawa is actively betraying the trust of First Nations across Canada on whose land we have settled, grown and prospered. We must acknowledge our huge debt to them by honouring their values and not destroying the land we now live on.”
At the rally, Chief of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Elder Myeengun Henry, whose community bravely fought the Line 9 pipeline, provided a statement in support of Indigenous Nations defending clean air and clean water from coast to coast. Knowledge keeper, Clayton Shirt, recited an Indigenous prayer, reminding us of our connection to the air, water, earth and each other.
Following the opening prayer, speakers addressed different concerns about the TMX and continued expansion of the tar sands. 350 member, Sean Levine spoke about the flawed economics involved in purchasing TMX, saying, “The Tar itself sells for less than it costs to extract and that is with massive subsidizes from us, the Canadian tax payers….This year on top of our regular generosity we are adding another 15 billion for the Trans-Mountain fiasco. Talk about Corporate Welfare.”
“We are subsidizing our own destruction for private profit. It’s already started. The weather report recently in Vancouver had only one word “SMOKE.” He advised, “For Trudeau, the best way to get us out of this hole is first to stop digging,” and encouraged those gathered “to harass [our] politicians…until they stand up and deliver a just, renewable, sustainable economy and a future for our children.”
Dr. Sam Green, called climate change “The health crisis of our time.” She asserted that the technology is available to reduce air pollution and also advised that our “political leaders and Ford must understand that we care about the climate, that this is not a partisan issue.”
John and Pat, who came from Barrie to attend the rally, voiced concerns many attendees shared. In John’s words, “I think that climate change is an existential problem and people just aren’t taking it seriously. We have 5 grandchildren and we’re really worried about what the future is going to look like for them.”
Pat also feels for the youth and came for their sake, saying, “I do blame corporate interest for creating this mess. I don’t blame individuals. As an individual, I have tried my best and it hasn’t made any difference….We need to change capitalism to work for people.”
Organizers are also concerned about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s dismantling of hard-won environmental protections and carbon controls, which has been ongoing since he took office only months ago. The Ontario government has rolled back climate plans, resulting in the cancellation of 758 renewable projects and bringing an end to green rebate programs. This decision also caused a significant loss of funds for Toronto. Much of that loss directly impacts the cities’ climate action plan, TransformTO.
Young says these decisions are “the exact opposite of rational actions and science-based policies we need to support green energy everywhere. How will we be able to prepare our city to afford a livable future with our own government fighting us? We challenge our dependence on oil and gas, and demand a swift change to a green, sustainable economy that ensures a fair transition for workers and others in the fossil fuel sector.”
Twelve year old Zoe spoke up in response to the Ontario Government ending cap and trade and not acting on a targeted climate plan, saying, “If we do not do something about climate change and rising carbon emissions weather patterns will bring even more droughts and crazy storms and floods like we had last week in Toronto...The future of my generation and every single one after that will be ripped away from us without us having any choice. We will have to suffer from a choice your generation made. We will have to bear the costs of your failure to act...please develop a suitable plan for climate action.”
Her brother Benjamin also urged our political leaders to put higher prices on carbon and move us to renewable energy, stating that “onward from 2030, climate change will likely kill 250,000 people per year, by 2050 the arctic ocean is projected to be mostly wiped clear of summer ice, by 2100, there will be potentially millions of climate refugees and this barely scratches the surface of the devastation...and the cost of not taking action on climate change will be so much greater then the cost of taking action. Speaking as a 14 year old, it is so unfair that people get to choose our generation’s future for us when when we can’t even vote.“
Among supporters of the action were Greenpeace and York University Graduate’s Association. In the words of one supporter from Pavarti.org, whose work aims to take “Arctic oil off the table for good, [and compel] the global shift to renewable energy,” “we know the importance of speaking in one voice for the urgent need to preserve life on Earth; Together, we can create a healthy world for generations to come.”
Throughout the program, musical act Test Their Logik, a hip-hop duo, called out for social and environmental justice, rap activist Mohammed Ali led “the people united!” and 350’s own songsmith, Cassie Norton led us as we sang “like a tree by the water, we shall not be moved.”
It was more then a little bit magical, as Richard Underhill of Shuffle Demons fame and his band, led the crowd, who held up hand made signs and banners urging climate action, around city hall, along Queen Street and back, practically dancing the whole way.
Young promised that the Sept. 8 climate rally was just the beginning of Toronto’s fight for climate justice, saying, “Torontonians won’t stand by while our federal and provincial governments destroy our chances to create a livable future!” To get involved with Toronto350, visit toronto350.org for information about weekly meetings, ongoing campaigns, and more.
Co-author, Cecilia Stuart
A few Background Points for TMX:
April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan halts all but necessary spending on TMX and issues a May 31 deadline for making a decision about its future.
May 29, 2018: Canadian government announces that it will buy the pipeline to try to ensure that it will be built.
August 30, 2018: The Federal Court of Appeal rules that the Canadian government failed to adequately consult with First Nations, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish, who’s territory it passes through. As well, that the National Energy Board did not include an assessment of increased tanker traffic, which will have an effect on endangered orca whales.
Kinder Morgan Canada shareholders voted 99% in favour of selling the pipeline to the Canadian government for $4.5 million less then one hour after the courts ruling.
Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau state that they believe the TMX is in the national interest and will stand by the project and make sure it gets built. The Canadian government must make a decision on whether to appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court and how to proceed with additional review steps.
September 21st, 2018: Government announces that they’re sending the project back to the NEB to conduct an assessment of increased tanker traffic on the BC cost and the endangered orcas. Further consultations with First Nations will be set up forthcoming. They express a commitment to get the project re-approved properly and get it built despite continued opposition by environmental groups and First Nations, who call for the problematic and climate-damaging project to be dropped.
A few Background Points for Bill 4:
June 15, 2018: Ford and the Ontario PC government cancel Ontario’s cap and trade scheme.
Federal government to impose a carbon pricing system on Ontario. Minister McKenna suggests the revenues from such a tax will not go to the Ontario government, but back to the people and businesses.
July 2018: cancel White Pines Wind Farm. 758 renewable energy projects. Cancellation of school repair fund. Green energy programs cancelled. Cancel GreenON and electric car rebate programs. Funding losses for TransformTO, Toronto’s Climate Action Plan
Bill to cancel cap and trade does not introduce developed climate plans, timelines or targets.
August 2018: Ontario government launching a legal battle with $30 million budget, to fight Ottawa’s imposed carbon pricing system.
September 11th, 2018: Greenpeace and EcoJustice sue the Ontario Government for violation of citizens’ Environmental Rights, which include to public consultations when major changes are proposed to the regulations and laws that affect climate change.
The Ontario Government opens up public comment on Bill 4, the repeal of cap and trade, until October 11th, 2018.
September 20th, 2018: Green Energy Act formally appealed.
More things we can do now….
Currently, we can sign Elizabeth May’s petition up until September 28th here: Petition E-1722 (see previous blog for more details).
Currently, we can also read and comment on Bill 4, the plan to abandon cap and trade and current climate plans without proposing a concrete, effective plan to replace it or make up for the backtracking on climate action that it represents, up until October 11th here: Bill 4 Public Comment.
ClimateFast will hold a consultation event on Wed Oct 3rd at Friends’ House, 60 Lowther Ave, 6:30pm so that we can talk about how best to comment on Bill 4, the implications of cancelling the cap and trade program and what to push for in a climate action plan. Greenpeace’s Kieth Stewart will speak.
- Read the Clean Air Alliance’s open letter to Minister Rod Phillips in respect to Bill 4 here: Clean Economy Alliance Open Letter “It is essential that Ontario’s greenhouse gas reduction targets are science-based, in line with Canada’s international commitments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, and relevant to slowing the impacts of climate change.”
- ClimateFast provides some information about how Bill 4 affects Toronto’s climate plans here: VOCAL
- Read the Environmental Commissioner’s Report - Ontario’s Climate Plan: What's Next
- Here is an interesting round-up of responses and articles in response to Ontario’s Climate Cancellations: Clean Economy alliance - Quick Roundup
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