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Prime Minister Justin Trudea's new Ministry for Environment and Climate Change, headed up by Catherine McKenna (above), has "spooked" the oil industry, the Globe and Mail reported Thursday—but climate activists want much more. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Canadians Greet Trudeau with Demand: 'Walk Your Talk on Climate Change'

'The burden of changing Canada’s direction on climate ahead of these crucial negotiations lands squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister,' say #ClimateWelcome organizers

Deirdre Fulton

Kicking off a new campaign aimed at freshly sworn-in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canadians are hoping to "set the tone for a new era of climate ambition" by targeting the new government leader with a series of marches, sit-ins, and civil disobedience actions happening Thursday through Sunday in the nation's capital.

Thursday's action, at which dozens of people are risking arrest, is the first of four days of civil disobedience under the banner 'Climate Welcome.' The purpose of the actions, organized by Canada ahead of the UN-sponsored COP21 climate summit in Paris later this year, is to call for a freeze on tar sands expansion and a commitment from Trudeau to build a clean energy economy. Hundreds are expected to participate, and possibly be arrested, over the course of the four days.

The COP21 talks are scheduled to begin November 30, but the new session of Parliament won't begin until December 3. "Thus, the burden of changing Canada’s direction on climate ahead of these crucial negotiations lands squarely on the shoulders of the Prime Minister, and [is] why delivering our message directly to him is so important," reads a call-to-action on the Climate Welcome website.

And while they are happy to bid farewell to the era of Stephen Harper—and to recognize the significance of the environmental ministry's expanded mandate to specifically address climate change—activists know they need to hold Trudeau's feet to the fire.

As Derrick O'Keefe explains for Ricochet:

Of the G7 countries, Canada under Harper made the weakest emission reductions pledges heading in to COP21. During the recent election campaign, however, Trudeau pointedly refused to commit to a stronger emissions reduction target for Canada. The Liberals did promise investments in green technology and infrastructure, and spoke about phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Trudeau promised to coordinate with the premiers, who are all going to Paris as part of the Canadian delegation, to develop a new climate change plan for Canada sometime next year.

For many, Trudeau’s timeline is unacceptable for its lack of urgency.

"Right now, Justin Trudeau has said he won’t be making any changes to Canada's climate ambition ahead of Paris," Cameron Fenton, an organizer with 350 Canada, told Ricochet. "We need to actually be better on climate, not just look better."

In a blog post this week, Leah Gazan, who organizes around Indigenous sovereignty and social justice issues, outlined how First Nations treaties relate to climate justice:

It is becoming clear that many Indigenous leaders, Elders, youth, and grassroots peoples from nations across Turtle Island oppose further pipeline development. In the Spirit of Treaty and in recognition of our inherent rights on our ancestral territories, I hope that Prime Minister Trudeau honours his promise of recognizing our nation to nation relationship by ensuring any development adheres to our rights as Indigenous nations, even if it means stopping further pipeline development. This is crucial at a time when tensions between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government are fragile as a result of aggressive actions, particularly over the last ten years, that almost completely  disregarded of the legal obligations of the federal government to consult and accommodate Indigenous Nations.

"Whether it’s your refusal to set climate targets on the campaign trail, or reports of oil and pipeline lobbyists closely linked to your campaign, we’re worried that you won’t walk your talk on climate change," a group of young Canadians wrote in an open letter to Trudeau published Thursday.

"We have set our minds to moving away from the tar sands and towards a justice-based renewable energy economy," they continued. "We will work hard to achieve this goal by being the engaged citizens that you have said are so important to this country."

Once Trudeau and his family said they would not move into the official residence at 24 Sussex due to ongoing renovations, the Climate Welcome team made some small adjustments to their plan. "The truth is that, whether he is living in it or not, 24 Sussex remains the official residence of the Prime Minister," reads a message from organizers. "But, we also know that sitting in front of an empty house sends a bit of an odd message, and so now we have a plan."

The Ottawa Citizen reports that each day participants will gather at Rideau Falls Park in the morning before marching down Sussex Drive to gather in front of the official—currently empty—residence. Then, demonstrators will cross the street to deliver their message to Rideau Cottage, where the Trudeau family is residing for the time being. The home is located on a section of the Rideau Hall grounds that is closed to the public.

On Thursday, protesters will attempt to deliver a gift to Trudeau of scientific reports and broken treaties with First Nations.

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