A thousand youth participated in the PowerShift conference in Victoria, on Coast Salish territories, as part of the growing movement for environmental justice.
As the organizers describe, “We've felt the emergence and growth of resistance to the tar sands and pipelines, lead by First Nations in Alberta and BC; we've watched the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, and a global movement taking on fracking. Unions and workers are demanding green jobs and frontline communities are mobilizing against projects that threaten the land and water that effect their daily realities. There is a growing movement standing up against the fossil fuel industry and demanding a safe and just climate future… PowerShift BC will launch campaigns and actions across BC and kick off a 2 year plan to take PowerShift to regions across Canada.”
The conference had a strong emphasis on anti-oppression politics and indigenous sovereignty, and reflected the movements of the past couple years—from Occupy, to the Quebec student strike to Idle No More. Speaking at the opening panel, Crystal Lameman discussed the fight of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation against tar sands, and the importance of solidarity among the 99%. David Suzuki discussed the failures of the environmental movement without addressing an economy based on perpetual growth, and called on putting “the eco back in economics.” On the second evening plenary Melina Laboucan Massimo, member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, discussed the ecocidal oil spill in her territory, and the connection between the colonial oil economy and the missing and murdered aboriginal women: “violence against the earth begets violence against women.”
Dozens of panels and workshops discussed the urgency of stopping the tar sands, pipelines, fracking and LNG, and climate change--and the importance of a climate justice perspective to build a broad movement. The panel on climate and capitalism was packed, and there were also sessions on a variety of strategies and tactics including social media, divestment, direct action and green jobs. Sun Dance Chief Reuben George discussed the impact of residential schools, the fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the importance of green energy—like the wind turbines at Tsleil-Waututh—and there was a panel discussion on green jobs to build unity between the labour and environmental movements.
The conference ends with a day of action, organized in solidarity with Idle No More’s National Day of Action on the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Royal Proclamation.