Today hundreds of Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill to send a clear message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Canadian government: stop the reckless expansion of the tar sands. The peaceful assembly mirrored the one that happened in Washington, D.C. a month ago, when over a thousand U.S. citizens (and some Canadians) were arrested in the hopes that their leader, President Obama, listens to them and rejects the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a 2,600km pipeline to bring tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to Texas.
But Canadian citizens realize that we don't need to wait for a foreign leader to force Canada to take responsibility for the devastating impacts of the tar sands on human health and the environment. Today, we called on our leader to take action, to use his powers as Prime Minister to halt expansion of the toxic tar sands and take action on climate change. About 1,000 people converged peacefully on Parliament Hill and more than 100 of them were arrested for trespassing.
No doubt those who today voiced opposition to the Canadian government's approach to the tar sands will be called criminals or even dangerous. Especially those who got arrested. This use of fear by those in power is a continued attempt to shrink the democratic space, to undermine the voices and opinions of Canadian citizens, and to limit our ability to dissent and oppose what our government is doing in our name. Because they understand just as much as we do that peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience can be instrumental in creating social change.
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The message from today is clear. Expansion of the tar sands needs to stop. Because of the citizens of Fort Chipewyan, who live downstream from the tar sands and are facing health impacts from toxins in their water. Because of the further suffering that will be unleashed on the poor of the world, who are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. Because of the species and ecosystems that are at risk from the immensity and devastation of the tar sands.
Many agree with us. Many Canadians. Many people from around the world. And anytime citizens stand together, exercise their democratic right to assemble in peace, and demand that an unacceptable situation changes, it is a time for hope.