Politics

'We deserve to be represented': Young climate activists banned from Parliament Hill after protest

Twenty-seven young Canadian climate activists were hit with a 30-day ban from Parliament Hill after holding a protest in the House of Commons Monday morning.

27 protesters were issued a 30-day ban

A group called Our Time wants to deliver 338 mandate letters to MPs asking them to prioritize a "green new deal" when Parliament resumes. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Twenty-seven young Canadian climate activists were hit with a 30-day ban from Parliament Hill after holding a protest in the House of Commons Monday morning.

Members of Our Time — a youth-led national climate change group — descended on the Hill to demand swifter action against climate change and to deliver mandate letters to all 338 MPs elected October 21.

"We occupied the House of Commons because we are the commons, we are the people and we deserve to be represented by our government," said Gordon Winch, an engineering student at the University of Waterloo.

Winch was one of 27 young people who made their way through the parliamentary precinct by joining a free tour.

After entering the House of Commons, group members staged a sit-in and unveiled a series of banners.

Winch said he and his fellow activists — who are calling on the federal government to introduce a "green new deal" along the lines of climate legislation proposed by Democrats in the U.S. — were "dragged out" of the building by security before being issued tickets for trespassing and a month-long ban from the Hill.

Group geared up for federal election

For Simran Dhunna, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, the protest was about making climate change less of a divisive political issue.

"We want [MPs] to rise above politics as usual and we want them to enact a green new deal because we have 10 years and they're going to take four of them," Dhunna said from outside Parliament Hill's grounds. "We don't want those four years to be wasted."

Our Time was formed to mobilize young voters ahead of the 2019 federal election and remained active throughout the campaign. The group endorsed a number of candidates during that time, eight of whom were elected last week.

NDP MP-elect Matthew Green was one of those candidates. He said he was attending an orientation session across the street as the protest unfolded, and joined the protesters to accept his mandate letter.

"As a father with a three-year-old, I think about the country that he's going to inherit. I think about his entire generation," Green said, adding that he intends to take the group's demands for action to heart.

"It is my number one priority. It should be all of our number one priorities across all parties to ensure that we take real and direct action on climate change."

Demands for action

Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies, another MP endorsed by the group, wrote on Twitter that he could not accept his mandate letter because he wasn't arriving in Ottawa until later in the week.

The letter called on all MPs in Canada's 43rd Parliament to commit to more robust climate action.

"You ran for a political party that promised to address the climate emergency," the document reads. "Some of you may not have been serious about it. Others pledged that in this Parliament, you would be bolder."

The group also asked MPs to respect Indigenous rights, create new jobs and adhere to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

"If you are on our side, you can count on us to support you every day," the letter said. "If not, know that you have our entire generation to contend with."

With files from The Canadian Press

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