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Tens of thousands march for climate justice

Jesse McLaren

April 11, 2015

Today tens of thousands joined the Act on Climate march in Quebec city, territory of the Huron-Wendat, demanding climate justice.
Last week the climate justice movement in Quebec scored a victory in stopping TransCanada from using Cacouna as a terminal for its Energy East pipeline. Days ago an oil spill in Vancouver highlighted the urgency of transitioning off the oil economy. Today, tens of thousands marched in Quebec City ahead of a meeting of the Premiers. Police gave an estimate of 25,000 people but there were likely 10,000 more, an endless sea of humanity. Organized by dozens of organizations it includied 100 buses bringing people from across Canada and Quebec.
The 2012 Quebec student strike made Earth Day that year the biggest in Canadian history. Today, the largest climate justice march in Quebe City, takes place in the context of the current strike and of indigenous sovereignty movements. As a member of the Huron-Wendat nation said, welcoming the demonstrators, "I remember a march in 2013 for Idle No More when we had 71 people. Now we are 25,000." At the end of the march people held up red squares (the symbol of the Quebec student movement) to form a human thermometer representing the rising temperatures.
Like the People's Climate March in New York City last fall, this march united the 99% for climate justice. As a speaker from the Femmes Autochtones du Quebec explained, "The earth doesn't belong to us, we belong to the earth. We need to breath clean air and drink clean water. We need you and you need us. We say no to tar sands, and pipelines." There were Indigenous groups from across the country, including the Yinka Dene Alliance on the west coast and comunities from ground zero of the tar sands. As Melina Massimo-Laboucan explained, "If Energy East goes ahead thre will be more destruction, more poisoned water, more violations of Indigenous rights. We need to stop tar sands, stop Energy East, stop Kinder Morgan pipeline, and win a better world for all."
As Stephane Guilbault from Equiterre said, tar sands proponents claim the climate justice movement says no to everything. "But we say yes to public transportation, yes to retrofitting buildings, yes to jobs before profits." There were contingents from the labour movement, including Steelworkers from Toronto, and speakers from the FTQ, CSQ, CSN and others. As the speaker from the FTQ said, "economic development can't happen without regard to everything else. We need to say no to the tar sands and stop climate change. We want sustainable development that supports communities, so that workers aren't held hostage. We need to invest in green jobs and support communities through this transition."
Ontario premier Wynne and Quebec premier Couillard have agreed to a cap-and-trade deal that will do nothing to stop global warming, while the BC premier is skipping the meeting to speak to the World Bank and IMF about her carbon tax--an equally ineffective strategy to deal with a crisis rooted in capitalism. The mass climate march exposed these inadequate measures and also targeted the Harper government, with "Stop Harper" placards throughout the crowd. It was a real missed opportunity for the NDP, who should be exposing both Liberals and Tories and calling for green jobs not tar sands. Quebec solidaire, on the other hand, had a vibrant contingent.
All those who joined the march will go back to their communities with renewed inspiration to build the climate justice movement and support all the struggles on which it is based.
If you like this article, register for Rage Against the System, a weekend conference of ideas to change the world, April 24-26 in Toronto. Sessions include "Stopping Harper's agenda," "Colonialism and indigenous resistance," and "The fight for green jobs."

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