Youth-led environmental movement seeks climate justice in Canada

| March 30, 2016
Image: PowerShift Canada facebook page

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This weekend in Edmonton, A.B., over 500 people from diverse backgrounds will come together to build a movement for climate and environmental justice. The youth-led gathering is called PowerShift Alberta and highlights the importance of engaging young people in discussions and plans for combatting climate change.

"Alberta is the heart of oil country, so to speak," Kiki Wood, Director of Canadian Youth Climate Coalition (CYCC) which is responsible for putting on PowerShift, told rabble. "There's a lot of discussions that happen here but they're not always from a justice-based lens."

Part of the justice-based lens the conference seeks to look through in its discussions includes an Indigenous focus. In fact, the three-day conference is taking place on Treaty 6 land and the majority of its speakers -- who are Indigenous leaders -- will focus on topics such as decolonization and the importance of following through with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations. 

"At its heart the climate justice movement is exactly that -- it's a movement for justice," said Wood. "When you're talking about justice in Canada you really can't have any conversations about it if you're not talking about Indigenous justice, about land sovereignty, about self-determination and about treaty rights."

Along with the significance of Indigenous land that the conference is taking place on is the significance of Alberta's shifting political landscape. Wood pointed out that the province's NDP government and the launch of its climate plan last year -- which includes a coal phase-out -- is a dramatic step forward in its attitude towards climate change.

Even so, Wood said that youth should be demanding and pushing for more.

"I think we need to push past the status quo to always be demanding what we deserve as young people. It's our present and it's our future," she said. "I think a coal phase-out is a really great thing but we're looking for even more. We're looking for youth that are going to demand different kinds of jobs, diversified energy systems and democratized energy systems. We're looking for people that are really engaged on taking action to make sure that, as we start to transition to more renewable energy systems, that those are community-owned and community-based."

One of the movements Canadian students are engaging in and taking action on in universities is divestment from fossil fuels. Wood commented that PowerShift supports these campaigns and mentioned that it hopes to launch two more divestment campaigns over the weekend.

"Divestment's been a great movement that's been sweeping across the country," she said.

To keep up to date with PowerShift Alberta -- whether or not you're able to attend the conference -- stay tuned to its website over the weekend for social media and campaign updates.


Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.

Image: PowerShift Canada facebook page



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