The following is a solidarity statement from Sara Shor who was arrested in the White House Sit Ins in 2011 .
As a Tar Sands fighter in the U.S., it has been profoundly disheartening to watch Canada’s transformation from friendly northern neighbor to oil state over the past nine years. Stephen Harper’s conservative government has gutted environmental laws and human rights protections, and spent millions lobbying the U.S. on Keystone XL, stopping at nothing to develop the dirtiest fuel on the planet. Billboards and subway ads were plastered throughout DC in efforts to sell the pipelines to the American public, at Canadian taxpayers’ expense.
Now, with a new Liberal administration comes new hope in Canada. Hope for a national leader who will start to get real about the perils of climate change and stop the relentless digging for what scientists say is “game over for the climate”. However, let’s not fool ourselves, TransCanada, Enbridge, and all the rest of the tar sands industry will be at his door on day one. This means our movement needs to meet them there and fight just as hard from our side.
After all, when President Obama came into office in the U.S., we had high hopes. He had campaigned on climate change saying that it was “time to end the tyranny of oil” and claiming that during his administration “the rise of the oceans will begin to slow.” We believed him.
I believed him. I moved to Ohio to work on his campaign. I probably knocked on thousands of doors and organized hundreds of volunteers. What I didn’t realize until his second campaign was that we needed to hold him accountable after we elected him. Especially when it came to the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive tar sands transportation project that would stretch through the heart of the U.S., which Obama voiced support for shortly after getting elected.
I realized then that the same movement that got him elected would have to hold him accountable.
In August 2011, myself along with 1252 other people, most of whom probably voted for President Obama, were arrested in front of the White House demanding that the President reject the Keystone XL pipeline. After experiencing 8 horrible years of the Bush administration, we knew we needed to push Obama to get something like this done. And that meant escalating, putting our bodies on the line, and showing our new president that we were serious.
Over the last four years since this action. President Obama has come out against Keystone XL — citing climate concerns as the primary reason for this new position. Other prominent US politicians including Hillary Clinton have also begun to connect the dots and take a position against Keystone XL and tar sands expansion. It turned out that we were right. It wasn’t until hundreds got arrested, and thousands took to the streets, that President Obama began to get serious on climate change. As of last night, even TransCanada has realized that it’s fighting a losing battle against people power.
Now I wish we had staged the White House sit ins even earlier into Obama’s term.
I hope this serves as encouragement to those planning to risk arrest in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Canada. Yes, a Trudeau government is a huge victory — anything besides Harper is certainly an improvement. But if we’re going to see progress, we need to push for it. We must expect, and demand, that if Trudeau wants to show global climate leadership he needs to stop expanding the tar sands. It’s time to stop digging. Just like with every other politician in the US, Canada or pretty much anywhere, even those with the best intentions need to be pushed by the people.
I hope you join our friends in Canada to help bring an end to the tar sands. As we know, the only thing that can beat fossil fuel companies’ stranglehold on our governments is people power. So join people from across Canada to demand a freeze on the tar sands!