Maggie - Ottawa Action

I’m a 63-year-old Greenpeace supporter, and I've been donating to the organization since it first started in the '70’s. I was excited about how a unique organization like Greenpeace would be able to make a difference in our future and over 40 years later, my contribution and support to the fundamental campaigns Greenpeace works on has never faltered and has made me proud.

This year, I decided to step up my involvement in the organization and became an active volunteer as well as a supporter. I attended my first orientation with volunteer organizer Amanda Gomm in April. And while I can’t be sure if it was because I told Amanda how much I was inspired by the Arctic campaign or that I had my own frigid water survival suit and was ready for action, but just weeks following the orientation I received a call for my first volunteering opportunity and it was going to be big.


As the element of surprise is often important for Greenpeace activities, I wasn't told much about what would be taking place and to be honest, at first I caught myself thinking, "Boy, are these people even organized?" I was given simple pieces of information like we’d be out of town for a few days (in Ottawa) and that I would be the Polar Bear Handler...whatever that meant? So I thought I would go and see what happened, I figured it would be an adventure and I wanted to be open-minded.

A week later, I met everyone at the "warehouse" and off we went in a convoy of one mini-van and a cube truck carrying "Paula", a beautiful two person polar bear costume that I would be in charge of directing. In the 5 hour drive, I got to know the other 3 passengers a little better, and I got to find out a little more about what we were going to do in Ottawa. I started to get really excited!

The Arctic Council would be gathering in Kiruna, Sweden, where Canada was to be sworn in as the new Chair for the next two years. Greenpeace wanted to call attention to the Harper government’s poor environmental record, pro-industry agenda and the strong message that drilling for oil in the Arctic is suicidal.

When we arrived just outside of Ottawa, we were joined by volunteers from Ottawa and Montreal which completed our team.

I was then introduced to and able to practice my new role as Polar Bear Handler. Two people climb inside her and since they are blind in there, it was up to me to guide them and tell them what to do, which way to go and try to keep them in step. I also received an in-depth briefing on what would happen and when, which made me step back with confidence and think “Hey, this group of kids really might know what they’re doing after all!"

The morning of the action we drove to Parliament Hill, set up a fake oil spill using black material, got Paula into place and then it was time… the media came and loved the visual we’d placed together for them and the messaging on the banner that so boldly and rightly read “Drilling = Spilling”. On the hill there were volunteers holding banners, spokespeople to conduct interviews, and other volunteers doing outreach with the new petition we’d launched that same day. Sign it here

As her Handler, Paula the Polar Bear and I interacted with several visiting school groups letting them know why we were there and while some of the students just wanted their pictures taken with Paula, others were very interested in the issue and their teachers and parent helpers expressed great concern for the Arctic and signed our petition to tell Harper no to Arctic drilling.

There was a lot of positive reactions to our campaign...but there were also some not so positive reactions from people who felt strongly that "money is everything". This experience only strengthened my resolve to do this important work and protect our planet as both a Greenpeace supporter and now an experienced volunteer activist!

Volunteer with Greenpeace Canada