Two members of international climate action movement Extinction Rebellion were arrested last Friday, May 24th, in Antigonish for refusing to move out of the way of the prime minister’s motorcade.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was attending a private meeting and photo-op with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil at a local community centre. A group of around a dozen had gathered out front, hoping the Prime Minister would agree to speak with students participating in the international Friday’s for Future climate demonstrations.
Security barred their entry into the building. “We were asked to leave and go down by the street, so a couple of us unfurled a large Extinction Rebellion banner across the crosswalk at the entrance to the parking lot,” reported a member of the group. Shortly after, a large black SUV from the motorcade attempted to exit onto St. Ninian street, but two members of the group, Dr. Riley Chisholm and Patrick Yancey, remained in the cross walk with the banner.
Several men in suits and earpieces approached them, urging them to move out of the way or face arrest, but Chisholm and Yancey declined to move. “I told them I respect that they’re doing their jobs, but my children don’t have a future on our current course; so we are doing civil disobedience and I cannot move,” notes Yancey. “We’ve been flyering, petitioning and marching for years – yet we are still on course for 2 to 4ºC of warming, which is catastrophic. We’ve tried everything else: our best option left is non-violent direct action.”
Both Yancey and Chisholm were placed in handcuffs and taken to a local jail, where they were held for five and a half hours before being released without charge. “I am deeply affected by the suffering of young people today,” explains Chisholm. “It is unconscionable that they are being confronted with an apocalyptic future, while so many of our public institutions –government, education, the justice system — fail to act. On Friday, I was arrested to draw attention to this crisis and the necessity of immediate, radical action. I made a promise to my children, that I’d do everything I could to protect them and their world. I aim to keep that promise.”
While the Federal government is currently poised to make Canada the third country in the world to acknowledge the climate crisis as an emergency, MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Sean Fraser – speaking with members of Extinction Rebellion outside the Nova Scotia Liberal AGM on Saturday – reported that the emergency declaration will not be followed up with any emergency action. “We don’t get that,” added Yancey, “if you finally acknowledge that the house is on fire, you don’t sit down and finish your coffee, you get out and call the fire department. It’s clear that our MPs will need a lot more pressure from us if they are to find their courage to stand up to the fossil fuel interests.”
Extinction Rebellion, founded in the fall of 2018 and now active in dozens of countries around world, is calling on key decision-makers in politics, business and the media to acknowledge and act on the climate crisis. They demand a drawdown of greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2025 and a citizens’ assembly to oversee the transition to a thriving green economy that is fair to Indigenous peoples, other marginalised groups and transitioning workers.