When we gathered once again at Rideau Falls Park this morning, we were met with cloudy skies, a soft drizzle and a bit of an aggressive wind — but the crowd of bold, courageous demonstrators wasn’t deterred. Right as we began the march to the Prime Minister’s Residence that morning, we received the phenomenal news that President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone Xl Pipeline. This news came after four years of people across the continent taking to the streets, taking action out on the land, and staging numerous serious but peaceful civil disobedience actions to confront the President with the climate impacts of Keystone XL.
This news energized our action and reinforced our determination. Led by Indigenous drummers and youth, today we brought with us a gift of more than 1 million messages from people across the continent against tar sands pipelines. These messages were collected by hundreds of frontline communities, grassroots organizers, and climate action organizations leading campaigns against pipelines like Northern Gateway, Energy East, Kinder Morgan, Line 9, and Keystone XL. Undoubtedly, a Prime Minister that has openly supported some of these pipelines could benefit from hearing the voices of people that are actively working to protect the land, water and climate from these projects.
Once we got to the end of Sussex Drive, we divided into two groups. One group stationed itself outside the Prime Minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive and the other positioned itself outside Rideau Hall, where PM Justin Trudeau is currently residing.
Around 2:30 PM, after we made a number of phone calls to the Prime Minister’s office, we were once again received once again by the representative that had been sent from the Prime Minister’s office the day before. This time, we refused to hand over the gifts — demanding that the Prime Minister come and receive them himself. We then proceeded to escalate our action by blocking traffic on the street in front of 24 Sussex Drive. We were out there for nearly five hours before we decided to de-escalate for the day.
I have been completely blown away by the courage, resolve and diversity of all of the amazing people participating in Climate Welcome. Yesterday, a woman that’s due to give birth in six weeks was sitting in to demand a better future for her child. Today, students from McGill that have been actively pushing their university to divest from fossil fuels were there to demand that Justin Trudeau listen to their voices — after all, he did just give himself the title of ‘Minister of Youth.’
In the end, just like yesterday, we marched back victoriously to Rideau Falls Park with our gifts still in hand. But don’t worry, we’ve e-mailed Justin Trudeau the 1 million+ messages against tarsands expansion and we’ve also sent them in by mail (on a USB stick).
Once again, no arrests took place but our action doubled in size and we blocked two gates for over five hours. We’ve also successfully challenged mainstream political rhetoric on climate change that conveniently ignores the fossilized dinosaur in the room — the tar sands. For example, today, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion was directly asked to respond to Climate Welcome’s central demand of freezing tar sands expansion. He made it clear that the Liberal government is committed to sustainable development but it looks like even cabinet ministers are having trouble explaining how exactly they can qualify dirty tar sands projects as ‘sustainable.’
Today, President Obama told us that he’s dedicated to making the United States “a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change,” and that approving the Keystone XL pipeline would drastically “undercut that leadership.” This is such an extraordinarily transformed stance from Obama’s staunch support for the pipeline four years ago. The rejection of Keystone marks a monumental victory for the climate justice movement in North America — and this was a fight that fired up when waves upon waves of people risked arrest outside of the White House four years ago.
In contrast to Obama’s inspiring words today, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he was disappointed by the rejection of Keystone XL. At a historical moment like this, Justin Trudeau seemed to be telling us that he’s more interested in supporting archaic infrastructure projects that would tie us down to fossil fuels than committing to building a clean, justice-based economy.
That’s just not good enough. Maybe instead of mourning Keystone, Justin can come talk to to the climate justice demonstrators that are hanging out right at his doorstep. We’ll back again on Saturday and Sunday with some more gifts.