By Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate
Sustainabiliteens, Climate Strike Canada, and Our Time planned four Metro Vancouver #NotGoingBack climate strikes on September 25. This initiative supported Friday for Future’s Global Day of Climate Action. In response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s throne speech, the event organizers demanded for economic, racial, and climate justice.
Over 3,500 towns and cities in 154 countries participated in the Global Day of Climate Action. The We Are Not Going Back movement’s objective was to initiate a “transformation of our society and the/our economy to build a more equitable and resilient future.”
Due to the provincial health guidelines on public gatherings, the organizers divided their annual climate strike into four smaller climate strikes at Holland Park in Surrey, outside a MP’s office in Vancouver, outside Liberal MP Terry Beech’s office in Burnaby, and outside Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson’s office in North Vancouver, which was the central action.
Guest speakers included Will George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Ella from Black in BC, SFU Health Sciences Professor Dr. Tim Takaro from Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder-Morgan Expansion (BROKE), and Sustainabiliteens members Natasha Ivkov, Viduni Kankanamge, Naisha Khan, Ria Laura, and Sonja Schutte.
Sustainabiliteens also implemented COVID-19 safety measures such as mandatory face masks, hand sanitizers, and RSVP forms to assist with contact tracing. Due to health concerns, some supporters may not have been able to attend a climate strike, so Sustainabiliteens live streamed each climate strike via Instagram. Supporters could also participate through sharing Sustainabiliteens social media campaigns, utilizing the toolkits, and wearing felt green circles, which resembled Climate Strike Canada’s logo.
According to Tavie Johnson, the North Shore Sustainabiliteens coordinator and spokesperson, “The three principles of Not Going Back was [to] dismantle racism and colonialism, treat the climate crisis like an emergency, and invest in people and not corporations.”
“What we called normal — what we used to do before COVID hit — was not working for so many different people. It was just adequate in every sense of the word,” claimed Johnson.
Johnson and her colleague Kiran Niet, the Sustainabiliteens regional coordinator for Burnaby, New-West, and the Tri-Cities, noted that the pandemic not only highlighted but also exacerbated several concerns ranging from racism, wealth inequality, homelessness, and the opioid crisis.
These climate strikes are a platform for people to voice their concerns. Stewardship of the land is an integral component of Indigenous culture, so Sustainabiliteens consulted with and invited the Musqueam/xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Squamish/Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and Tsleil-Waututh/sel̓íl̓witulh Nation’s to participate in the event. At the North Vancouver Climate Strike, guest speaker Will George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation started off the event. George showed his appreciation for these youth advocating for justice.
“This fight is not only an Indigenous problem, this is everybody’s problem, and quite often these fights are put on the backs of Indigenous folks, and we’re spread so thin with how many other fights we have,” emphasized George.
He expressed his concerns regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline’s construction by explaining the importance of protecting sockeye salmon’s spawning grounds.
“It’s a keynote species, and we all know what it does. It feeds the bears. It feeds the forest. It feeds the people [ . . . ] [There are] sockeye bones in Vancouver Island that are 4 million years old. And then th[e construction] can destroy it in a matter of one season and not [allow the salmon] to respawn.”
During the interview with Niet, she also expressed similar concerns regarding Indigenous and environmental justice.
Niet insisted, “We can’t have climate justice without no recognition of Indigenous sovereignty [ . . . ] They’re inseparable, because colonialism in a lot of ways is the root of the climate crisis.”
Niet admitted that environmental justice is intersectional in nature, because members of marginalized communities disproportionately endure the consequences of climate change. Johnson also shared similar sentiments on the importance of including marginalized voices in the event planning process
Johnson responded, “When we’re choosing spokespeople or speakers within Sustainabiliteens, we also try to have at least one Indigenous, one Black, [and] one LGBTQ2+ person, so that we have as many different lived experiences and points of views made possible. We always partner with different organizations like Vancouver Allies, Our Time, Black in BC, for example, and then [the] Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Musqueam Nation, because we’re on their unceded traditional territories, so it’s really important that wherever we’re holding an action on their land we have to include them in what we’re doing.
“Racial justice is climate justice.”
At the Burnaby Climate Strike, Dr. Takaro protested against Kinder-Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and proposed alternatives to the pipeline. He suggested, “Instead of laying a pipeline, let’s lay a high voltage direct current line. Let’s move renewable energy from East to West.”
SFU Wildlife Conservation Club’s Creative Director Zain Haq also attended the Burnaby #NotGoingBack Climate Strike.
According to Haq, “I think the message other participants might want to take away is that these demonstrations outside the offices are excellent in putting pressure, and a good way to have consciousness raising [ . . . ] If we want to put real pressure on those in power, we need to take part in non-violent civil disobedience.”
Similarly, Johnson advises activists to continue fighting against inequality after the climate strike.
“We have so many things that are unfair for the vast majority of people, and people need to realize that there is a better future possible. It doesn’t have to be this way, so we need to first pressure our government to take action and to change the way things are done so that we can achieve climate justice and social justice and Indigenous justice. And we’re also trying to encourage participants to raise their voice every day.”
Johnson believes that advocacy requires commitment beyond the climate strike.
“A climate strike is one day a year. The other 364 days you have to be fighting and taking action in your own lives,” urged Johnson.