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Climate Justice Activists Demonstrate in Toronto's Financial District

by Tim Groves

Photo by Alex Felipe
Photo by Alex Felipe
Photo by Alex Felipe
Photo by Alex Felipe

Over 150 climate justice activists blocked traffic at the intersection of Bay St. and King St., at the heart of Toronto's Financial District. They were responding to a call put out by La Via Campesina for an international day of actions to protest "the False Solutions promoted through the Copenhagen Accord" and in solidarity with those protesting outside climate talks taking place in Cancun, Mexico.  

Protests took place in a dozen cities in Canada.  In Toronto a large crowd gathered at Nathan Phillip Square, despite the freezing cold weather. After a series of speeches the crowd marched down Bay St. accompanied by a samba band and a large dragon puppet.  
 
As the sky darkened they reached the corner of Bay and King, the hub of Toronto's financial district. Suddenly two giant bamboo tripods were taken out of the Dragon puppet, and erected in the middle of the intersection. Two demonstrators quickly mounted each tripod and a banner was strung between them reading "Tar Sands Kill, Pipelines Spill".  The crowd gathered around the tripods, blocking any traffic from getting by. Chanting and dancing continued around the tripods. 
 
Later, the tripods were taken down and the march continued.
 
"In light of the ongoing talks in Cancun and the Canadian government's incompetence and inaction we came together today to stand in solidarity with First Nation and respond to the call for actions" said Taylor Flook, one of the activists who perched atop a tripod.
 
Explaining some of the reasons to protest the talks in Cancun, Alberto Gómez Flores, representative of La Via Campesina, said: “It’s a disgrace that the United Nations space intended to tackle climate change has been converted into a platform to legitimize the commercial strategies of transnational corporations.”
 
Jasmine Thomas of the Carrier Nation, located 13 hours north of Vancouver, traveled to Cancun. She expressed the issues that were important to her nation, "The Carrier Nation is opposed to Enbridge pipeline corporations bid to build the Northern Gateway pipeline which would move dirty Alberta Tar Sands to the port of Kitimatt, British Colombia.”
 
Environmental Justice Toronto, a group who organized the demonstration put out the following statement:
 

Community organizers unite to demand climate and social justice in solidarity with La Via Campesina

 

Close to 100 Migrant rights, union, anti-poverty, gender equity and climate activists gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in the Toronto financial district, to express solidarity with the La Via Campesina’s International Day of a 1000 Cancun’s and with the many grassroots organizations mobiizing in Cancun.

 

 La Via Campesina, a north/south farmer’s coalition for food sovereignty, sustainability, gender equity, and social justice, is campaigning against false solutions such as REDD [Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation]. Alberto Gómez Flores, representative of La Via Campesina for the North America region, said: “It’s a disgrace that the United Nations space intended to tackle climate change has been converted into a platform to legitimize the commercial strategies of transnational corporations.” Local organizers emphasized that racialized/indigenous people, women and the poor are disproportionately affected by the extractive industry, which often displaces whole communities, leads to increases in sexual violence and gender inequity and sabotages local economic activities such as subsistence farming.

 A dozen cities across Canada have responded to the Via Campesina’s call for climate justice. These groups point to Canada’s lax regulation and exploitative policy that further endanger the environment as well as the safety and livelihood of the earth’s people. The Latin American and Carribean Solidarity Network condemned Canada’s failure to pass Bill C-300, a bill that would regulate mining companies’ activities abroad by withholding government investments and the undemocratic defeat of Bill C-311, meant to address climate change. Other issues raised at the rally concerned Canada’s continued negligence of local food security for poor people, the harmful consequences of the Tar Sands project, the privatization of water, and the need for supportive migration policy to respond to the environmental refugee crisis created by Canadian foreign policy. Canada’s climate negotiations in Cancun, which has been described as an “excuse for inaction” by environmental think tank groups is not likely to change Canada’s reputation. It has been reported that Canada, a long with only Russia and Japan will fight to vote down an extension of the Kyoto Protocol. Canada has yet to meet their previous commitments made with the Kyoto Protocol to decrease emissions and instead, their levels have increased by 24% since 1990.


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