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Reportback from Occupation of Minister Garneau's Office over Trans Mountain Pipeline

Youth Want More From Liberals Than Selfies

by Nicola Protetch

Youth occupied federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau's Montreal office on Friday. Photo: Brandon Johnston.
Youth occupied federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau's Montreal office on Friday. Photo: Brandon Johnston.

MONTREAL, QC – Early on Friday Nov. 4, 11 youth began a sit-in at the Constituency Office of Marc Garneau calling for the rejection of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline extension. The intention of the sit-in was to remove the barriers between Members of Parliament and their constituents. Those occupying the office were hoping to speak directly with Garneau about his position on Kinder Morgan, and receive an open statement against the projects expansion.

Minister Garneau claims to stand for a greener future, and young folk around the country are ready to see words manifest into action. But rather than Garneau having an open dialogue with his constituents, the students were met by his Chief of Staff and then made to evacuate the premises by members of the office and building security.

“As the Minister of Transport, Garneau has a responsibility to be a leader in Canada’s transition away from fossil fuels and ensure the safety of communities all across Canada,” said Sophie Birks, a student involved in the action. “He can’t do that while supporting a project like Kinder Morgan, which if approved, would have more than 400 tankers a year moving through the Burrard Inlet.”  

The Cabinet’s decision on whether or not to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline is expected imminently this fall, and required by December 19th. This sit-in was a part of a cross-Canada action calling on different Minsters across the country to openly address their position on the Kinder Morgan expansion.

The offices of Cabinet Minister Carolyn Bennett—Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs—and Jim Carr—Minister of Natural Resources—were occupied by youth and students on the 3rd of November. The office of Catherine McKenna—the Minister of Environment and Climate Change—was occupied in tandem with Marc Garneau’s on the 4th. From Winnipeg to Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, youth joined together demonstrating their commitment to hold Justin Trudeau accountable to his Climate Commitments made in Paris last Fall. This action follows the arrest of 99 students on Parliament Hill, who were protesting the Pipeline Expansion just two weeks prior.

The occupation of all four Cabinet Ministers made manifest the degree of concern found amongst today’s youth in regards to the changing climate. The time for progressive action is now, and the Trudeau government needs to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry if they are to keep their COP21 agreement of 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Those occupying Marc Graneau’s office articulated their concerns with the Chief of Staff, Jean-Philippe Arseneau, who met with them in Graneau’s absence. The tone was clear: climate leaders don’t build pipelines, and the extension of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is in direct opposition to the Liberal Party’s Climate Platform.

“Current fossil fuel infrastructure already commits Canada to its share of the 1.5 degree carbon budget,” said Daniel Greenford, a graduate student in the Economics for the Anthropocene program at McGill and Concordia. “Meeting our Paris Agreement pledge will be impossible. All paths to a transition don’t have pipelines in them.”

The Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline would expand Burrard Inlet—a port near Vancouver, BC—by sending out approximately 400 tankers a year of crude oil. The proposed pipeline expansion would also transport roughly 890,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Indigenous communities along the route, including the T’Sleil Waututh First Nation, have not agreed to the pipeline’s expansion. This lack of consent violates our government’s commitment to Indigenous reconciliation and UNDRIP.

Though the message was heard and allegedly passed on to Minister Garneau by Jean-Philippe Arseneau, the threat of police made the students leave the office after three hours of occupation. Promptly after, building security removed them from the hallway, where they were debriefing from their previous meeting.

The occupation in Montreal was the only sit-in that was removed from office before the end of business hours. Garneau’s later response to the students did not take a critical position on the Kinder Morgan expansion. But the occupation in MeKenna’s, Benett’s, Carr's and Garneau’s offices have sent another clear message—that young voters of Canada are not going to sit idly by and watch the Trudeau government ignore its commitment to climate change.

 


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