Student sit-in targets 'insufficient' climate policies from NDP, Liberals

Students in the Montreal office of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair vow not to leave until he commits to act on climate
Photo: Velcrow Ripper

A total of 17 students are now participating in a sit-in at the Montreal office of NDP leader Tom Mulcair. The sit-in began around one this afternoon, and students are promising to remain there until the NDP leader commits to what they describe as “real climate action.”

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Part of a national, student-led day of action targeting all parties and calling for a moratorium on new development in the tar sands, the sit-in joins others currently ongoing at the offices of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Calgary, NDP MP Murray Rankin in Victoria, Conservative MP Joe Oliver in Toronto and Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc in Shédiac, New Brunswick.

Students in Montreal also targeted the office of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, but were unable to enter the building after staff locked the doors. Those students have now joined the sit-in at Mulcair’s office.

“This is a very peaceful action,” said Kristen Perry, an environmental science student at McGill University and a spokesperson for the sit-in. Ricochet reached her by phone inside the office, where she said the staff have been polite and are carrying on with their work.

“We’re working with them to contact Mr. Mulcair, and we hope to hear from him. But we plan on staying here until we know our voices have been heard and these concerns will be acted upon.”

The students taking part in the Montreal sit-in are members of Divest McGill, Divest Concordia and Climate Justice Montreal, and their sit-in is timed to coincide with a weekend of climate action across Canada. Distributed actions are planned across the country on Saturday under the banner of “WE > TAR SANDS,” and Sunday’s march for Jobs, Justice and the Climate is expected to attract thousands to Toronto.

“We’re asking [Mulcair] to commit to policies that are in line with the science, which means keeping 85 per cent of the tar sands in the ground. We want him to sign a letter [promising to respect the science] before the election,” added Perry.

“There’s no explicit mention of the tar sands in the NDP platform, and unless you’re going to stop tar sands expansion, whatever you do on the environment will be insufficient. This is a global issue, and we need our leaders to stand up and take action.”

Ready for Change
Sit-in at office of NDP leader Tom Mulcair

Julianna Duholke graduated from McGill this spring in international development and political science. She was part of the team that tried to enter Justin Trudeau’s office and is now a participant in the occupation of Mulcair’s office, where Ricochet also reached her by phone.

“We were hoping to speak with [Trudeau’s] staff about how we could arrange to talk to him. We wanted to ask him to support a moratorium on tar sands expansion. We rang the doorbell, and we could see staff inside, but they didn’t answer.”

In a letter which they hope to deliver to the political leaders, the students outlined their key demand: “Commit to bringing forward policies before the election this October that would freeze tar sands expansion and develop a plan for Canada to transition to a clean renewable economy, based on the scientific consensus on climate change and Canada’s fair share of the global carbon budget.”

“We’re quite disappointed because the Liberals released their new environmental policy this week, and it doesn’t address tar sands expansion at all,” continued Duholke.

“In order to meet the target of 2 degrees of warming we need to keep 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground. Expanding the tar sands is completely inconsistent with that goal, as scientists have reported, so we were hoping that Trudeau would address the tar sands and commit to not expanding them. Those are the policies we need to meet international goals. All Trudeau will do is put a price on carbon, which is a totally insufficient policy.”

Duholke pointed to a call for a moratorium on tar sands expansion by over 100 of Canada’s top scientists on June 10, arguing that the students are only asking Trudeau to respect the scientific consensus.

“We’re disappointed that his environmental policy ignores the basic science on climate.”

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