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article imageYouth disrupt Question Period to raise climate change awareness

By Stephanie Dearing     Oct 26, 2009 in Environment
A contingent of some 200 people, described as mainly young people, congregated in the Canadian House of Commons today to raise attention on climate change. The protest followed the International Day of Action on climate change held around the world.
The media says the group called themselves a flash mob as they disrupted the Question Period proceedings in Ottawa Monday afternoon. The group wanted parliament to support the NDP's climate bill, Bill C-311. The protesters said they could continue to congregate every Monday until it is time for the Copenhagen Climate Change talks. Several protesters were arrested. Elizabeth May, head of Canada's Green Party, told the CBC "What was heartbreaking was that the MPs below laughed in derision as the young people were removed. Following the demonstration, Environment Minister Jim Prentice referred to the youth action as an NDP stunt. I just want to share with all Canadians that those were our children we threw out of the House of Commons today. Those were the best, the brightest, the most dedicated, the most responsible young adults in Canada." Conservative MP, Stephen Woodworth, tweeted "Parliament disrupted by thugs in the Gallery. Not that Parliamentarians always employ democratic debate. it's a shame."
The protest briefly put a halt to Question Period. The protesters were in the public gallery and were all removed by the RCMP, and at least one protester was injured during that process. The protest arose after parliament voted last week to give the federal Environment Committee another week to review the bill.
Bill C-311 is also known as "An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change." It has already gone through two readings after being introduced in February 2009. The same bill had received three readings in 2008, and was set to pass until Stephen Harper shut down parliament for the election. In a meeting of the Environment Committee earlier this month, Liberal Environment Critic David McGuinty said "... we're debating this private member's bill because the government has prepared and presented no plan to the Parliament of Canada to debate otherwise."
The Liberal party, however, is not supporting Bill C-311, and said so last week. The Environment Committee had wanted the deadline extended for 30 days. The Green Party has been critical of the Liberals for its position on the bill. In the vote on granting the Environment Committee's extension, the Liberal party was divided, while the Bloc supported the NDP.
Last week, the NDP had accused the Conservative government of working to prevent Bill C-311 from being passed. The bill would set concrete goals on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Jack Layton wants to have Bill C-311 passed and in effect by the December Copenhagen Climate Change meeting. For its part, the Conservative party says that the NDP bill is disastrous and would "... devastate the economic recovery..."
The Copenhagen climate change conference will be held from December 7 to the 18th.
The federal government continues to give out conflicting statments on actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the one hand, the government says Canada is a leader in "clean energy production," but at the same time, Canada is one of the world's top producers of greenhouse gas emissions. The government also says it is acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but does not believe that capping emissions is useful or feasible. The government has been arguing that the Canada should have less aggressive emission targets because Canada is a major producer of petroleum-based energy.
The federal government apparently has a new climate change plan, however, has refused to release that plan until Canada knows what the United States climate change plan is, and what the international treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions would entail.
More about Bill c-311, Greenhouse gas emission limits, Climate change, Protesters, House commons
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