SFU groups among hundreds marching for climate justice

Protestors converged on the convention centre where the PM was meeting with premiers.

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] droning of bagpipes mingled with New Orleans-style jazz as SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts and other activists paraded to the First Ministers’ Meeting this Thursday. The parade ended at the Vancouver Convention Centre where the Prime Minister and Premiers were discussing the economy and climate change. Last Thursday, the ministers signed the Vancouver Convention which, among other things, agrees in principle on a national carbon tax.

Parade-goers were costumed as various aquatic life forms, as well as the remnants of carbon-based fuels, while hoisting signs demanding action on climate change. SFU professor Laura Marks carried a banner made from 80 letters addressed to Prime Minister Trudeau and BC Premier Christy Clark.

The letters were written at a “happening” — an event — hosted at SFU Woodward’s on Saturday February 27. Passersby concerned about the environment were invited to write letters to the Prime Minister and Premier of BC, as well as give a statement on video.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Vancouver chapter of activist group Raging Grannies sang cheeky protest songs to the tune of ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ and other classics. The group was founded in Victoria in 1986 in order to protest the presence of US Navy nuclear-powered ships in Victoria Harbour, and have made regular appearances at events in Vancouver. They called the government to account for remaining idle on climate change, singing, “The world needs action, heaven knows / listen up, you carbon schmoes!”

At the end of the parade, a crowd of about 200 gathered outside to hear speakers from environmental and indigenous groups, all of whom demanded that the government does more to combat climate change.

During the opening ceremonies, First Nations activist Audrey Siegl accused the government of saying “a few condescending words and then it is business as usual” in reference to a statement by Trudeau that supported exporting oil in order to fund the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Speaking to the dangerous effects of climate change, Chief Bob Chamberlain of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation plainly stated that, “it’s going to be the First Nations on the front line of suffering yet again,” explaining that many communities are dependent on the land for at least part of their sustenance.

Marks explained that the “happening” was meant to strike a different tone than a typical protest. Said Marks, “this event is to let people know that activism can be fun and ‘cool’ and enjoyful,” and to celebrate the successes that have happened. When The Peak asked why SFU students should care about climate change, she replied plainly that “we know SFU students care about the climate,” noting the “great deal of environmental activism at SFU,” from various student groups such as Embark and SFPIRG.

The upcoming First Ministers’ Meeting may have implications for local energy projects, such as the proposed LNG plant on BC’s coast and the TransMountain Pipeline expansion. In late January[dropcap][/dropcap], the National Energy Board (NEB) heard final arguments for and against the proposed expansion set to be constructed on Burnaby Mountain.

Many environmental groups, as well as the Province of British Columbia, the City of Vancouver, and the City of Burnaby have voiced their opposition to the project, which would allow the pipeline to transport 890,000 barrels of bitumen per day. The NEB has until May 20 to make its final recommendation on whether or not to approve the pipeline.