As international leaders met in Ontario, Canada this week for the Pan American Economic and Climate Summits, activists on the ground protested the conferences—and their corporate attendees—for what they describe as complicity in global environmental catastrophes, imperialism, and a growing wealth gap.
In attendance at the invitation-only summits are heads of state from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, along with the leaders of several global corporations to discuss environmental and economic issues, which angered the roughly 200 activists who shut down nearby intersections in the heart of Toronto's financial district.
According to the grassroots migrant justice group No One Is Illegal Toronto, which helped organize the protest, the action targeted "some of the people most responsible for destroying our planet, pushing communities out of their homes, and making us poor."
Tings Chak, an organizer with No One Is Illegal Toronto, told CBC, "We're protesting the people who have been brought in to determine our future and the future of the planet."
"We're demanding total transformation of how our societies work in addressing the climate crisis that doesn't sacrifice our communities," Chak said.
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Protesters on Wednesday surrounded the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and nearby streets, unraveling spools of yarn to block off intersections in an effort to disrupt the summit and the International Economic Forum of the Americas' Toronto Global Forum.
Among those attending both meetings were the CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as former Israeli President Shimon Peres and former Mexican President and current chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Felipe Calderon.
"They’re gathering in these private meetings to discuss our future and the future of the planet," Chak told the Globe and Mail. "We’re here to say that they’re not welcome in our city, they’re not representing our interests...We do not want human rights abusers to be determining our futures."
The protest came on the heels of a 10,000-strong demonstration in Toronto over the weekend, in which participants called for green jobs, environmental justice, and global action on climate change.