Ninety-nine students and young people from all over the country—including six from Halifax—were arrested Monday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa when they crossed police barricades.
The protesters were calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline, and future projects that threaten the environment and go against his Liberal government’s Paris climate goals.
Halifax students Liv Bochenek and Hannah Mills were briefly handcuffed and taken from the protest. Students received citations barring them from stepping foot on Parliament Hill’s premises for three months.
“We just got a little yellow form that says we’re not allowed back,” says Bochenek, a fifth-year sustainability and political science student at Dalhousie University.
She says the scariest moments were before protesters collectively crossed the barricades, as she wasn’t sure how police would react.
“I think it’s really powerful that a hundred young people found that risking arrest was acceptable because it’s such an urgent situation,” says Bochenek.
Bochenek has risked arrest a few times at climate change protests over the years, but this is the first time she’s been arrested.
Bochenek has been fighting for environmental justice for the last few years with Divest Dal, a student group that has been calling on the Dalhousie Board of Governors to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.
Mills, a third-year music student at the University of King’s College, was arrested alongside Bochenek. Her trip to Ottawa was partially funded by the King’s Student Union, so she could attend the demonstration.
“I’m profoundly disappointed in our government. They’ve made a lot of promises that they’re not keeping,” says Mills.
While she has never participated in a demonstration like this before, she says that civil disobedience is an effective tool.
Mills is also involved with Divest Dal and worked with the People’s Climate Plan this summer, where she helped coordinate public consultations on climate change.
“I was working alongside the Liberal government to develop their climate action plan—which we’re now seeing is the same as the Harper government’s.”
Bochenek and Mills say the Trudeau government is poised to approve the pipeline project in December. Protesters say it goes directly against the agreements made in Paris, during the COP21 climate conference.
Kinder Morgan wants to add 994 km of pipe to its Trans Mountain pipeline, essentially twinning the project, which already spans 1,150 km from Alberta, to Burnaby, B.C. This would increase the amount of oil transported from Edmonton to Burnaby to 890,000 barrels per day, tripling the amount of oil it already moves.
Many Indigenous groups, environmentalists and members of the tourism industry in B.C. oppose the project and have been fighting it for years. In January the B.C. government also formally opposed the expansion.
“We’re not going to accept projects that are going to damage our future and our present,” says Bochenek.
The Liberal government says that it will announce whether the project will move forward in mid-December.
People have been tweeting in support using the hashtag #climate101 :
— liv (@livbc1) October 24, 2016
I can live without being allowed on parliament for the next three months. But none of us can live with climate disaster. #Climate101
— Lisa Gunn (@toweroflisa) October 24, 2016
— Daniel Cayley-Daoust (@DanCayley) October 24, 2016