The PowerShift 2012 Conference concluded with a raucous “Trick or Treat” march through downtown Ottawa by over 800 conference attendees and local activists. The 4-day conference sought to push the Harper Government to act to stop climate change and social injustice in Canada. And to stop annual handouts of $1.4 billion in Canadian taxpayer money to the “richest, dirtiest corporations in the world.”
The conference kicked off last Friday with electric speeches by young keynote activist speakers before 1000 attendees at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau. MCs Brigette DePape and Clayton Thomas-Mueller set the tone for the rest of the 4-day conference when they invited the participants to rousing chants of: Power Shift! Stop Harper!
Training-oriented presentations and panel discussions dominated the conference’s activities on Saturday and Sunday, and attracted an impressive lineup of internationally-acclaimed heavyweight activists and thinkers. The speakers represented global and local grassroots movements dedicated to solving the climate crisis, including, 350.org, the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace Canada. Canadian Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Shock Doctrine: No Logo and The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Winona LaDuke is a Harvard graduate and renowned author, economist, orator and activist. Crystal Lameman is a Beaver Lake Cree First Nation activist and the tar sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network in Alberta. See the full list of speakers HERE.
While the weekend activities focused on skills training, Monday was a day action. A day to challenge the political and economic structures supporting industries that cause climate change. A day to remind the politicians that they’re doing next to nothing to stop Harper from feeding the greedy corporations through Canadian taxpayers’ money.
The march started with speeches on Parliament Hill. From there, the activists marched through the city ”trick or treating and dropping in on the homes of government and fossil fuel companies to demand justice for people and our environment, instead of multi-billion dollar handouts to gas, oil, and coal companies,” according to the event announcement. They made stops at MacDonalds on Bank Street, the federal department of finance on O’Connor Street, Prime Minister Harper’s office on Wellington Street, and other related installations.
At every stop, speaker after speaker echoed the need for the federal government to stop the subsidies and invest Canadian taxpayers’ money to combat climate change and eradicate social injustice in Canada. They called on Harper to honour his 2009 G20 promise to cut subsidies to the oil industry.
The conference and march are part of a continuing campaign by the social and environmental justice movement. In June, PowerShift presented the motion Charting a Path to a Clean Energy Future: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Canada to the All Party Climate Change Caucus on Parliament Hill.
“If the government refuses to end the hand-outs, let’s show them we’re prepared to mount some serious tricks: bold, creative actions to match the urgency of the climate crisis from a growing movement,” said PowerShift in a statement.
PowerShift and its allies have one hell of a fight ahead of them. The Harper Government is determined to continue with the subsidies and stifle evidence. Maude Barlow, the Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, has called the Harper Government “the most environmentally hostile we have had in Canada.” On the eve of this year’s global Rio+20 Earth Summit, it was revealed that Canadian negotiators had blocked stronger language committing participants to cutting coal, gas and oil subsidies. In July, about 1,500 scientists, lawyers, students and activists from across Canada gathered on Parliament Hill yesterday and held a mock funeral to mourn the death of Canadian evidence.
- 1000 youth converge in Ottawa to demand just solutions to climate and economic crises
- The Canadian Progressive covers Power Shift 2012 Conference