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Sit In at Joe Oliver's for Climate Action

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

On Friday July 3rd, 30 students walked into Minister of Finance and Conservative MP Joe Oliver’s constituency office, equipped with a letter calling for meaningful action on climate change, a camera crew, and three very generous volunteer legal observers.


As a group, we come from six different university campuses across the city, but have at least one thing in common - we know that we need to stop tar sands expansion. For Canada to do its part in limiting warming to 2 degrees celsius, 85% of this massive carbon reserve must remain underground. With this in mind we planned this sit-in to try to get a meeting with Joe Oliver, where we would call for a commitment to freeze tar sands expansion and drive a transition to a fairer economy based on renewable energy.


We were joined by 5 other student groups holding sit-ins in Conservative, Liberal, and NDP MP offices from BC to the Maritimes, as well as an action at the Calgary Stampede where all three party leaders were in attendance. For the past few years, many of us have campaigned for our universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Divestment campaigns are fighting for universities to stop investing in the fossil fuel companies driving climate change, but we recognize that we need much more to get the job done. These coordinated actions mark the first time we have stepped off our campuses together to pressure our government directly.


Immediately after we arrived, Joe Oliver’s staff tried to get us to give them our letter and leave. They told us Joe Oliver  was busy and that he couldn’t be contacted. They told us he didn’t have a cellphone. Only fifteen minutes in, once it was clear we intended to hold out for a meeting with Oliver, they called the police. Oliver’s staff admonished us for disrupting their services to constituents – ignoring that we were his constituents.

As we continued to negotiate for a meeting, we found out about the receptions other sit-ins were receiving. Harper and Trudeau’s offices (in Calgary and Montreal respectively) both prevented students from entering in the first place, while Rankin (Victoria) and Mulcair (Montreal) set up meetings with themselves or representatives. Young in Vancouver had the police kick the protesters out. LeBlanc in Shediac, like Oliver, refused to set up a meeting.

Despite us showing Oliver’s staff that other MPs were choosing to engage with our counterparts, Oliver’s staff shut down negotiations, exiting out a back door and leaving the police to watch us. We held out hope that we might be able to elicit a change of heart, speaking to the media, sharing food, and singing while we waited. By 6:30 that evening it was abundantly clear that Oliver would continue ignoring our message, so we signed his guestbook and left this statement expressing our dismay at his refusal to engage with us.


With #climatesitin trending at number 2 on twitter in Canada that afternoon, and traditional media coverage beginning to appear, we left feeling proud of the conversation we had started. While the Conservatives have an abysmal record on climate change and respecting front line communities, it’s important to note that as we head towards a federal election, neither the NDP nor Liberals have stepped up to include what is needed to address these things in their platforms. It’s clear that one day of action will not change the parties’ positions, but we think that many days of action could. We left feeling inspired for the work that lies ahead, and we urge you to join us this summer and fall in calling for meaningful action on climate and the tar sands in Canada.  Our counterparts in Montreal have launched the website to share their open letter calling for Mulcair and his NDP to adopt a stronger position on the tar sands- please sign!


The student sit-ins took place on July 3rd and were the first of three days of climate actions across Canada. On Saturday, communities rallied along the routes of proposed fossil fuel pipelines and a huge coalition marched for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate in Toronto on July 5th. Follow #jobsjusticeclimate to find out more about the mobilization, and visit to find out more about youth organizing on climate in Canada.


by Amanda Harvey-Sanchez, Ben Donato-Woodger, Suhail Barot, Bronwen Tucker, & Joanna Dowdell


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