In solidarity with the international day of a "1,000 Cancuns", climate justice activists marched into Toronto's downtown core and shut down the intersection of King and Bay Street -- the seat of power for Canada's commerce engine and home to many of the corporations involved in what activists say is killing the planet.
Here, Canadians need look no further than the province of Alberta's infamous tar sands to see the naked face of destruction move upon Mother Earth.
The event was organized by Environmental Justice Toronto in partnership with the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) to coincide with a global protest call out by the La Via Campesina campaign (International Peasants Movement).
The march of 100 gathered at 4 pm at Nathan Phillips Square before making its way down Bay Street South into the financial heart of Canada -- and included a black dragon float similar to one used in a Chinese Dragon Dance. It was adorned with corporate logos involved in the tar sands extraction industry, including the Royal Bank of Canada.
This black dragon, surrounded by protesters drumming, chanting and striking pots and pants snaked its way into the economic core at King and Bay Street, where the march suddenly stopped and occupied the intersection at 5:15 pm.
The black dragon was then carefully laid down and its skeleton removed to reveal numerous long bamboo poles that were quickly assembled into two large tripods. Both activists and the police watched as one person scrambled up each pole -- roughly eight feet tall -- and between them was hung a banner that read: "Tar Sands Kill, Pipelines Spill". The activist cheered. The police looked stunned. The activist-police liaison was cursed out for the trick. The intersection was occupied for roughly half an hour.
The tripods were then dismantled, while the banner and slightly skinner dragon continued along King Street to York, then Adelaide Street where it finally dispersed at 5:40 pm -- with 18 security guards and police officers guarding the Starbucks that sits at that corner. The police looked cold and angry.
Clayton Thomas-Muller, an IEN Tar Sands Campaigner, later stated that, "This direct action was in response to Canada's attempts to stop a progressive post-Kyoto climate deal from manifesting in Cancun, greedily motivated by the dirty tar sands industry. Moreover, Canada's leading role in the international mining industry means that Canadian companies are engaged in energy and water-intensive projects around the globe, poisoning environments and communities."
A press statement released right after the demonstration explains another Canadian link to climate justice: "‘The Carrier Nation is opposed to Enbridge pipeline corporations bid to build the Northern Gateway pipeline which would move dirty Alberta Tar Sands to the port of Kitimat, British Colombia', says Jasmine Thomas of the Carrier Nation. She went on to say, "As elected Canadian delegates arrive with the intention of blocking climate negotiations in an effort to promote the Canadian tar sands industry-civil society, Indigenous peoples, social and environmental justice groups will be building upon the growing global resistance against unsustainable fossil fuel developments.'"
"To supply destructive tar sands developments with billions of cubic feet of natural gas each day, industry and government want to build a 1,200 kilometre pipeline from the Beaufort Delta to northern Alberta. When first proposed over 30 years ago, my uncle called the executives who wanted to build this pipeline the '20th-century General Custers,' and told them 'money has become so important to you that you are losing your own humanity.' These words still hold true today," said Daniel T'seleie, Dene from Fort Good Hope First Nation.
Currently, Cancun is hosting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16). until Dec. 10, 2010. The IEN's Red Road Cancun has been covering this event.
Indigenous groups from across the globe are attending these talks to engage in climate change solutions. On the forefront has been Bolivia with the Indigenous driven Cochabamba Accord.
According to the People's Agreement of Cochabamba drafted on April 22, 2010:
"Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger. If global warming increases by more than 2-degrees Celsius, a situation that the ‘Copenhagen Accord' could lead to, there is a 50 per cent probability that the damages caused to our Mother Earth will be completely irreversible. Between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of species would be in danger of disappearing. Large extensions of forest would be affected, droughts and floods would affect different regions of the planet, deserts would expand, and the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas would worsen."
"The world must recover and re-learn ancestral principles and approaches from native peoples to stop the destruction of the planet, as well as promote ancestral practices, knowledge and spirituality to recuperate the capacity for "living well" in harmony with Mother Earth."
In Cancun, an example of forwarding Indigenous knowledge can be found in a report titled: Does Nature Have Rights: Transforming Grassroots Organizing to Protect the People and the Planet.
"‘In order to survive, we need a change in the human relationship with the natural world from one of exploitation to one of democracy with other beings,' says Maude Barlow, national chairperson with the Council of Canadians, ‘If we are members of the earth's community, then our rights must be balanced against those of plants, animals, rivers and ecosystems.'"
Krystalline Kraus writes the Activist Communique for rabble.ca.