Downtown demonstration calls for Canadian politicians to better invest in environmental protection
Published Saturday, December 8, 2018 6:26PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 8, 2018 7:05PM EST
Hundreds of people took over parts of downtown Montreal Saturday in a rally against climate change.
The march comes the day after the First ministers’ Meeting in Montreal, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford disagreed over carbon targets.
Demonstrators want both levels of government to make the environment a priority –considering an upcoming federal election – and demanding Canada get tougher on meeting emissions targets for 2020.
“We can’t just sit around and wait until everybody gets on board,” said organizer Nathalie Roy. “We have to be the change we want today.”
At the First ministers' meeting in Montreal this week, Ford and Trudeau exchanged barbs over greenhouse gas goal.
With an election slated for next year, protestors say the pressure is on Ottawa to unify the provinces and prioritize the environment.
“In this next year, pre-election, we’re going to have rhetoric from all sides,” explained Pierre Nantel, NDP MP for Longueuil-Saint-Hubert.
Protests also broke out in Poland, where world leaders are meeting in what’s billed as ‘the most important conference on climate change since the Paris Agreement.
Marchers in Montreal are demanding the environment be the government’s first priority, and are skeptical of Premier Francois Legault’s early promises.
“The fertilizer plant in Becancoeur, the 750km gas pipeline they’re planning, and also the third link – these are all things that we reject,” Roy added.
Legault was praised by Trudeau for Quebec’s cap-and-trade system – one the Premier inherited from previous governments. He does have plans to invest in energy; during the election campaign he promised to develop and sell more hydroelectricity.
“Nobody can deny it’s a cleaner energy,” said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “But of course it has impacts on Indigenous rights and titles, and that’s where the discussion needs to take place.”
After Legault said an oil pipeline wouldn’t pass through Quebec, First Nations leaders insist energy discussions need to change.
“They’re only looking at the economic side of energy – they’re not looking at ecocide,” explained Judy Wilson from the Union of British Columbia’s Indian Chiefs. “Ecocide law is when you’re devastating the Earth and it aligns with our Indigenous laws that you don’t harm the earth. “
Protestors say they want to send a message to the new provincial government: even If Legault promised Quebec is open for business, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the environment.