It’s pretty much impossible to deny the reality of climate change when you’re outdoors without so much as a sweater at the beginning of November in Canada — which was the case for the majority of the participants taking part in the first day of Climate Welcome. It was certainly a beautiful day for a welcoming party — the sun shone down on us and a crisp fall breeze wafted gently through the air.
Participants started trickling into Rideau Falls Park at 9:00 AM and by 9:30, a sizeable crowd had assembled. Action participants were led through one last action overview — a quick reminder of the information they had gone over in detail the night before at an action training. Then, an Algonquin elder, Claudettee Commanda led a prayer and ceremonial opening. You can watch highlights from the opening in the video below:
Soon afterwards, at 11:00 AM, the deployment began and the crowd marched down to 24 Sussex Drive, crossed the street and staged a sit-in outside the gates of Rideau Hall — the property on which Prime Minister Trudeau is currently residing.
Participants went into these sit ins with gifts for the Prime Minister: scientific studies, economic reports and Indigenous treaties that all confirm that the tar sands need to stay in the ground. The reports ranged from a scientific paper that confirms 85% of the tar sands are unburnable, to a report by 200 North American academics outlining the necessity of a tar sands moratorium, economic studies on carbon risks and documents identifying the climate impacts of pipelines like Energy East and Keystone XL. The gifts also included a study confirming that downstream Indigenous communities are experiencing higher rates of fatal illnesses as a result of tar sands expansion as well as Treaties 1 – 11 between the Canadian government and First Nations — which are drastically violated by tarsands expansion.
The sit ins proceeded for three hours without any sort of a response. So participants decided to call the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to request that the Prime Minister receive his gifts — after some social media requests, phone calls to the PMO’s office began to pour in from across the country!
Eventually, by around 2:00 PM the PMO sent in a representative on behalf of the Prime Minister, Pavan Sapra, a communications assistant for the Prime Minister who collected the gifts and indicated that he would deliver them to Justin Trudeau and Catherine McKenna, the new MInister of Environment and Climate Change.
Spokespeople for the action, Clayton Thomas-Muller and Kiki Wood presented the gifts to the representative but they also made it clear that there would be a larger crowd back the next day with more gifts — and next time, they expect to meet the Prime Minister. No arrests took place on Day 1 but we’re going into Day 2 demanding that the Prime Minister come in to receive his gifts directly. And not just that, we expect him to speak directly to our demands for a freeze on tar sands expansion and a transition to a justice-based clean energy economy.