99 Arrests At Climate Protest in Ottawa

Former Concordia Student and Current CSU Executive Among Those Arrested

Photo Courtesy Saffron Blaze

Growing tension towards the Liberal government’s backtracking on climate policy promises caused around 200 protesters to march in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 24.

They marched from the University of Ottawa campus to Parliament Hill, where the majority of the group attempted to enter the building through the front entrance, near the Eternal Flame on Wellington St.

Ninety-nine protesters were arrested and issued citations for trespassing from the RCMP for climbing police barricades. The notices will last for three months, according to RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Annie Delisle.

Among the group were CSU Loyola Coordinator and member of Divest Concordia Marcus Peters and former Concordia student Kyle Ritchie. Both agreed that in comparison to Montreal protests, the RCMP national division was relatively non-confrontational in handling protesters.

“The RCMP […] remains in constant contact with the organizers of any planned demonstration to ensure the safety and security of the protestors, Parliamentarians, employees and visitors to the grounds of Parliament Hill,” said Delisle in an email.

The main issue at hand during the protest was the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline, construction for which has yet to be approved by the Liberal government. The decision should be made by mid-December, according to the Liberals. The group was also demonstrating against various pipeline projects, like the Energy East Pipeline

“I’m very passionate about these issues because I’ve been involved in environmental activism at Concordia for a few years and they just keep popping up,” Peters said.

For Peters, the point of the protest was to “counter the image of [Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] having all that support from youth and from activists.”

“We need to start putting the pressure […] to show the stark contrast between the words and actions,” he said.

He added that protesters wanted to create a space in the media to talk about backtracking on the part of the Liberal government, which he believes is not discussed enough.

The protest and arrests were covered by a variety of mainstream news organizations, from the Huffington Post to the Globe and Mail.

The protest was organized by 350.org, a grassroots climate organization aiming to hold global leaders accountable “to the realities of science and the principles of justice,” according to the website.

Former Concordia student Kyle Ritchie was among those issued trespassing citations. For him, the protest was about pushing the government towards a sense of urgency and crisis when it comes to climate change.

“This isn’t a 100 year slow transition, this is an immediate crisis that they need to start working on,” he said.

According to a survey released by Abacus Data in April, the Liberal government won the Oct. 19, 2015 election largely due to the millennial vote. Forty-five per cent of Canadians between 18 and 25 voted Liberal, and more young people voted for the Liberals in every region of the country than for any other party.

“Millennials in plurality definitely voted for Justin Trudeau, and a lot of them care about the environment,” said Ritchie, adding that he believes it’s important to show that the trouble and conflict will only increase if the government does not uphold its promises on climate change.

Liberal promises from 2015 claimed they would “provide national leadership and join with the provinces and territories to take action on climate change, put a price on carbon, and reduce carbon pollution.”

Their campaign platform also criticized former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for failing to take action on climate change.

“We will end the cycle of federal parties—of all stripes—setting arbitrary targets without a real federal/provincial/territorial plan in place,” the platform states.

The day after the protest, Trudeau attended a youth labour forum in Ottawa. Many attending delegates turned their backs on the Prime Minister, and some “heckled” him, according to the Globe and Mail. Others held signs reading “Keep The Promise,” according to iPolitics.ca

These actions reflected anger towards Liberal support for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, and comments from Finance Minister Bill Morneau that were called arrogant by Conservatives and New Democrats, who accused Morneau of misunderstanding Canada’s youth unemployment problem.

While these issues are not directly related to climate change policy, Tuesday’s events show that at least some millennials are unhappy with the Liberal government’s ability to abide by its platform in totality.

Trudeau has pushed women’s and LGBTQ issues into the spotlight since taking office by making public appearances at various Pride events and publicly stating that he is a feminist.

But Ritchie believes many people “lent” the Liberals their vote strategically, in order to kick Stephen Harper out of the running.

“So we’re seeing after about a year or so that people’s patience is wearing off,” he said.

“I think the honeymoon’s over at this point. It’s been about a year, and they haven’t done much to impress millennials or anyone else who voted for them for more progressive reasons.”