• John Jantak

May wants students to take more active role regarding climate change


Green Party Member of Parliament (MP) Elizabeth May rallied students to take a more active role in the climate crisis by writing letters to their MPs and to newspapers during a presentation at John Abbott College last Friday, November 29.

Former federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May encouraged young people to take a more active role in getting the government to adopt more serious strategies to combat the global climate crisis.

May, a long-time environmental activist herself who recently was re-elected for the third consecutive time as Member of Parliament (MP) in her British Columbia riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands in British Columbia in October, brought her message of activism to John Abbott College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue last Friday, November 29.

Canada lacks climate change leadership

Her stance took on added impetus for action due to the rapidly evolving climate crisis and its increasing negative impact on the global community. She added that Canada hasn’t fulfilled its obligations to reduce carbon emissions in accordance to certain protocols such as Kyoto. Canada, under former Conservative leader Stephen Harper, withdrew from the protocol in December, 2012.

“A recent review looking at all industrialized countries found that Canada was third from last. Basically only Saudi Arabia and Australia are doing worse on climate action. It’s been a long time since we can claim any kind of climate leadership,” said May.

‘A rapidly closing window’

“We’re looking at a rapidly closing window within which government action can make a difference. It’s also a rapidly closing window in which citizen activism can make a difference,” she said.

The effects of climate change are already having an impact across Canada, said May. “The weather I grew up with, we’re never getting back.

“The extreme forest fires, floods and weather events that we’ve experienced the past number of years, we will look back on that and say, ‘Oh, those were really good times. It was a good period in a relatively hospitable climate’,” said May, who engaged the audience with her own personal recollections.

‘Every form of activism has an impact’

“Activism has been in my blood for a very long time. In a democracy, if you see something wrong you have a responsibility to fix it yourself. This is a very important message and even more important now,” said May, a former Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada, a national and grassroots non-profit organization committed to protecting the environment.

When asked by a student what forms of activism can have an actual impact in getting the government to change its policies, May replied, “Every form of activism has an impact.”

Writing letters can make a difference

“We intensely need activism right now. The thing that can make a difference is writing a letter to the editor every single day to some newspaper in Canada. Or maybe one letter every week – a 300 to 400 word letter to the editor at the Montreal Gazette, the Globe and Mail, the National Post. These mainstream papers influence policy makers.

“There isn’t really any form of activism that’s bad activism except, and I’m very clear about this, any consideration of violence or destruction of property is counterproductive and works against the movement,” added May.

Message resounds with students

Ryan Young, a teacher at John Abbott College and District 2 municipal councillor for Ste. Anne de Bellevue, organized the event as part a class on documentary activism. He said May’s message of environmental activism resounded with many students who attended the event.

“I wanted her to talk about climate activism and she did that. For me, one of the major messages was encouraging people to email and write to their Member of Parliament or write a letter to a newspaper. All forms of activism, except for violence, are good. They do influence politicians. I saw students actually follow up on that after the event,” said Young.