I have never been to a protest. Many times however, I have felt compelled to speak up on behalf of various causes, but never made it out to a protest. Thinking about it now, I can only see the excuses I made at the time not to go. So today, while in the most precarious situation of my life, I could not justify not going to Ottawa—this tar sands business is MY business and it’s your business too.
Smoke, heavy air, brown water, mutated fish, dead animals, rare cancers, oil spills, carbon emissions, pollution, mass destruction, irreversible damage, and entire forests gone—forever. People in grave danger, people dying, toxic lakes that are seen from space and a government to condone it all; this is what I see when I think of the tar sands, and not a single reason not to go to Ottawa.
So, I’ve thought about this a lot (as you can probably tell). I did my research: read reports, spoke with people familiar with the subject, watched documentaries and news reports, and read a book. I was growing to be a serious advocate. At first, what you may perceive to be a complex issue is, in fact, upon further investigation, anything but complex.
A week and a half later I was on a school bus to Ottawa—anxious, nervous, and very sleepy. I didn’t have a single expectation, but soon this experience unfolded into a personal reawakening. Musicians, storytellers, artists, retirees, professionals, young and old, experienced activists and newbies, all emerged and created fond memories that I will hold in my heart forever. I met some of the loveliest and liveliest people, all who had a passion to express; one that I could share.
I attended the seven hour training a day prior to the civil disobedience and solidarity rally at Parliament Hill. More than 200 of us were in deep synchronicity the whole time—I felt the power, energy, and drive for justice. If I could feel like that every day, and if we all could feel like that every day, this world would be a very different place. Above all else, we were carried by a peaceful force to action. Who knew that such a large group of people from all walks of life could be on the same page?
Before heading off to Parliament Hill early the next morning, I meditated and watched the sunrise for a moment. I was still undecided about how I was going to participate, but knew that I had to do something. So, I headed for the Hill to see what I could do. It was quiet as I approached and there were police officers everywhere. From Wellington Street to the front steps of the House of Commons, even on the roof—they were literally everywhere.
Then, there were people everywhere and it was no longer quiet. Everyone had something to say and they were saying it the best way they could—together. We were definitely heard, but not well- received. Our point was to enter the House of Commons to convey our message, but that was made nearly impossible with barricades, eight- foot fences, and police officers surrounding the premises. So, I witnessed over 200 people hop over the barricade, assemble peacefully and sit quietly on the lawn hoping to have a chance to advocate for their country and fellow citizens. Instead, they were fined, arrested and given conditions with their release.
Like I said, this tar sands business is my business and it’s yours, too. Don’t expect anyone to believe that if it were your backyard and your loved ones—the air you breathe and water you drink—that you’d be ok with a pipeline pumped with oi