Extinction Rebellion leads Canada-wide protest for climate action

The environmental group led an attempted blockade in Vancouver Saturday afternoon

The Extinction Rebellion blockade in Vancouver on Saturday, Aug 21. (Breanna Himmelright)

The Extinction Rebellion blockade in Vancouver on Saturday, Aug 21. (Breanna Himmelright)

Grassroots environmental group Extinction Rebellion Vancouver led a series of peaceful protests across Canada this past Saturday.

The group, which uses nonviolent civil disobedience in their protests, led an attempted blockade of the Cambie Street Bridge and the Georgia Viaducts on Aug. 21. The group started at Robson Square and travelled down to the intersection of West Georgia and Cambie streets before being stopped by Vancouver police.

However, according to a press release from the group, other actions were being taken across the country by other branches on that day, including a planned blockade of Bay and Wellington streets in Toronto, three planned blockades in Ottawa, and other planned actions in Victoria, Calgary, and Edmonton.

“After decades of malfeasance and inaction by all levels of government in Canada and throughout the world,” said the official press release. “We now face a climate and ecological catastrophe that threatens human civilization.” 

The release cites the recent IPCC report, which states that global warming of one and a half to two degrees Celsius “will be exceeded…unless deep reductions in [carbon dioxide] and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

Tillicum Tom, a longtime member of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver, says that the problem seems to have become worse over the 50 years he has been involved. 

“I’ve [written] petitions, I’ve marched, I’ve done everything that one should do in the political system,” says Tom. 

“People do not seem to understand that this is a climate crisis and that if we don’t act now, it’s over. Our politicians have abandoned us, letter writing means nothing. There is no option except to go to the streets and tell them, ‘We demand action, and we demand action now.’”

The blockade took place in Vancouver amid ongoing protests against the cutting of old-growth forests in Fairy Creek, as well as ongoing wildfires in British Columbia and a new wildfire burning near the Vancouver Island town of Ladysmith

“B.C. has a tiny but precious amount of old-growth forest left,” founding member of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Laura Lamb was quoted saying in the press release. “And every bit of it we destroy will make the climate and ecological emergency worse.” 

Lamb says that the destruction of old-growth forests will not only decrease a forest’s ability to sequester carbon but also lead to an increase in species loss, fires, and floods. 

“Right now,” said Lamb, “we are seeing how that destroys our communities and ways of life.”

Tom says he hopes action will bring attention to the problem and convince politicians and the public to take further action. 

“The very first action that I did for [Extinction Rebellion] was to stand on the street with a Celtic drum and just yell ‘Wake up!’ We’re trying to wake people up, and you have to make noise when people are asleep. That’s why I’m in the street.”