Ninety-nine young environmental activists achieved their goal on Parliament Hill on Monday by carrying out acts of civil disobedience. As conditions worsen, civil disobedience is a growing response to the lack of government action on climate change and the full-speed-ahead attitude of the fossil fuel industry.
As Canada moves towards legalization, it's good to remember how we got here. It is civil disobedience against the unjust pot prohibition laws that has gotten us to the verge of legalization. We must keep up that momentum as we enter into the final stretch of our cannabis campaign.
Both Trudeau and his new ministers have their work cut out from them when it comes to really getting Canada back on course on climate. That's why today, I'm outside of Trudeau's home with dozens of other people kicking off what could be largest act of civil disobedience on climate change in Canada's history.
As election day draws inevitably closer, I'm struggling to decide what to do. The planet simply can't handle another five years of Stephen Harper in power. During his time as prime minister, Canada has become a climate change pariah. He's done about as much as one can, both at home and abroad, to stymie efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Building a just, clean energy economy that works for people and the planet starts with a prime minister that understands the basic math that climate action and tar sands expansion just don't add up.
A study from the University of Toronto recommends that a change in tactics is long overdue for Canada's culture of activism, one that does not include civil disobedience, shouting, or getting angry at all. There have been times and places where civil disobedience has changed the world for the better, there can be no doubt about that. But today, in Canada and in most cases, not only are such actions not helping, they are actually hurting.
The celebrants on April 20 don't necessarily know the history of how cannabis came to be illegal, but they do know cannabis is less harmful to users than all other illicit drugs and considerably less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. They know that the greatest threat from cannabis lies in its continued illegality by policy makers who wish the evidence would just go away.
Activists in British Columbia have responded to the National Energy Board's approval of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline with threats of illegal activism reminiscent of the 1990s. Civil disobedience has an honourable history; the question is whether a particular group on a particular matter is justified in such actions. Where people's rights are systematically violated, where they are denied recourse to the courts, or to their elected representatives, the case for civil disobedience is clear. But the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal does not represent such a violation.
I've been doing a lot of flying in and out of Toronto recently, and using the city's convenient two-pronged Billy Bishop downtown island airport almost exclusively to do so. The past four times I exited the ferry to catch a flight out of Billy Bishop, I witnessed the exact same behaviour of my fellow passengers:
While OWS entered it's second week of high-profile coverage, an occupation of a very different kind began taking place in Vermont. Concerned citizens have worked together to oppose Green Mountain Power's bid to clear-cut 134 acres of ridge top to install 21 industrial wind turbines in this environmentally-sensitive area.
Non-violent resistance, or civil disobedience, has been with us for centuries and has shaped the world in which we live today. Those who chose to risk arrest on Parliament Hill are not the extremists. They are the front line of a growing group of people prepared to engage in "the politics of ordinary people."