KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Last night about 40 protesters gathered outside a Liberal fundraiser on Gotting Street hosted by MP Andy Fillmore and with federal environment minister Catherine McKenna as the guest of honour.
The perception among protesters is that provincial and federal Liberals may say the right things, but fall far short when it comes to to actively fighting climate change and recognizing the obligation to consult with First Nations.
“I know you understand the urgency of the climate crisis. You both understand the need for reconciliation. And you are aware of the desperate suffering that results when we neglect one another and the land to live on and the water that fuels us,” Hannah Mills, one of the organizers of the protest, told Fillmore and McKenna, who briefly joined the protesters outside.
“Yet today the National Energy Board begins the review process of the Energy East pipeline. How can you be considering this? How can you even be thinking of saying yes to more oil? Every existential and ethical reason compels us to keep it in the ground,” Mills said.
Dorene Bernard, member of the Sipekne’katik Band, conveyed a similar message.
“We can’t depend on our leaders, look what they are doing,” she said, pointing to the Liberal guests sipping their cocktails and chatting away. “This protest is about grassroots people who say ‘no more’.”
“We’re here to stand in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters across Turtle Island, native and non-native, who do not have access to clean drinking water. In Nova Scotia we are fighting for our river, and the Bay of Fundy. We are giving voice to all the living beings that depend on the water,” Bernard said.
“We have to take our responsibility seriously and speak up for the water. Speak up for those who don’t have a voice, the fliers, the crawlers, the swimmers, the plants, the trees, and the shrubs. They all have a spirit, although they don’t have a voice. But we have a voice.”
Emily Hong, chair of the Solidarity Halifax anti-racism committee, talked about the difficulties people face as we discontinue our dependence on fossil fuels.
“Many Canadians make their living in that industry, and they’re scared, and it is a real fear,” she said, quoting at length from a recent article on the RankandFile website by one such person.
In the article Denise Leduc, a Saskatchewan woman whose husband works in the potash industry, remembers her family’s suffering during the Ontario recession in 2008.
“Within three years our family went from middle-class to living in poverty due to chronic unemployment. People who have never experienced poverty can become desensitized to the concept and what it’s like to live without a steady income,” writes Denise Leduc.
“Imagine going for three months without hydro in your home — no lights, no fridge to keep what little food there is, no hot water, no washing machine. Sometimes we showered in ice-cold water while other times we sneaked into the local conservation area and used the showers provided there for campers,” she writes.
“People want to know that they can feed their families and pay their bills. The thought of losing good jobs is frightening to them. Yet, while I care about good jobs that pay living wages, this privilege should not come at the expense of other Canadians or the environment. There has to be another way,” Leduc writes.
Read a transcript of Hannah Mills’ excellent speech here.