About a year ago, I held up a sign to Stop Harper. I first got this idea when the Conservatives rejected the climate change bill. I felt helpless because the Conservative government was showing no intent to confront climate change - threatening the very survival of humanity.
While working as a page in the Senate, I felt alone, afraid, and hopeless in the face of a Harper agenda set on attacking people and the environment that sustains us. I witnessed Harper withdrawing funding from social services we value, and handing that money over to rich oil and gas companies. I saw the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and the expansion of the tar sands.
What I did not see was an investment in a green and just future for all of us.
But today I feel empowered and excited. Why? Because of the growing movement for a PowerShift.
PowerShift is about moving political and social power from the elites to the rest of us, and from fossil fuels to renewable energies. It was because of people who come from the PowerShift movement that I had the idea for the 'Stop Harper' action, and it was because of their support and guidance that I was able to do it.
Now I'm wondering what is next? I want to take action. I'm excited for PowerShift to give us the skills we need to take collective political action required to truly shift power back to the public. We need to shift the power so we can build the just and sustainable future we believe in.
How can we shift the power? We can start by recognizing how social movements of the past have succeeded. We can plan civil disobedience campaigns learning from the civil rights movement, and we can divest from destructive industries and governments like the campaigns that helped end institutional apartheid in South Africa.
Today I believe we will halt the threat of climate change. I believe we will determine our own destinies, not corporations or neo-liberal governments. I believe in this because I am seeing a powerful movement in this direction.
PowerShift is an incredible example of this. Many of the greatest student and labour organizers I know came out of the PowerShift 2009 conference.
PowerShift gives people from diverse movements from Quebec, Canada, and First Nations the chance to meet each other and learn from one another.
People from Indigenous communities will share their traditional knowledge, key to halting climate change, and their experiences of defending their lands. Indeed, Indigenous rights and sovereignty are our best hope for stopping the expansion of destructive projects like the tar sands.
Quebec students will share their mobilizing skills which brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to stop the tuition fee hike and topple a corrupt head of government.
PowerShift also marks the first time for me of planning a march, alongside other fantastic organizers. We're telling the government to cut billion dollar bonuses to rich oil and gas corporations, not our social services. This is part of a campaign to end public handouts to oil and gas companies. The Prime Minister still has not kept his 2009 promise to end subsidies.
If we act together, we can stop him from giving away our money to corporate polluters.
Will you come and support our march? (You can confirm your attendance on the Facebook event, and invite all your friends.)
I believe we have the potential to build a better, more just and sustainable future. There are incredible plans underway, building on the revolutionary times in which we live, from the Arab Spring to Occupy to Greece, to Chile, to right here in our own communities, from Quebec students to the protests against the pipelines, with thousands of people staging a mass rally and sit-in to defend our coast.
I would like to invite you to the PowerShift convergence on October 26-29. You can join with youth to confront the challenge of our time by sharing your vision and skills. Here you will gain skills and make the friends and connections you need to be confident and unstoppable change-agents in your community.
PowerShift is a four-day conference with skill building workshops, thought-provoking panel discussions, and inspiring keynote speakers. I'm so excited to hear from Crystal Lameman, who is on tour with the Nobel Women's Initiative to speak out against tar sands development that surrounds her territory and many others, from Naomi Klein, who recently wrote 'Capitalism versus Climate,' and Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, the group which was a key force in the civil disobedience against the Keystone pipeline.
I’m also so excited to have the chance to MC the opening night of gathering, alongside one of my heroes, Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network. I'm so excited to see you and to join you at this historic gathering.
Have you registered yet? If not, visit www.wearepowershift.ca
With the skills and confidence we will build, we will be fearless and unstoppable. Together, we will create the just and sustainable future we believe in.
Brigette DePape is an organizer of PowerShift 2012, taking place October 26-29 in Ottawa.