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Reflections on the People’s Climate March

I’m still recovering from a pretty incredible experience this past weekend at the People’s Climate March.

With a last count of 400,000 people strong, it indeed was the largest climate march in history, and one of the largest social movement moments in years.

It was so large the front of the march began walking at 11:30 and we, in the tar sands bloc near the end of the march didn’t start moving until 1:30. Despite the unprecedented numbers – imagine, 700 volunteers / marshals to 400, 000 participants – the atmosphere remained festive. The march included no less then 29 marching bands, spanned over 26 city blocks, included a 300 foot ‘capitalism is climate change’ banner and many creative floats, signs and costumes.

In fact, it was so large that participants from the Ottawa bus couldn’t even reach the final convergence area (that was turning people away because of capacity) in order to make it to the bus on time.

You can see a brief interview I did with CBC correspondent Paul, early on in the march (featured on The National).

There were many narratives weaved throughout the march, led by youth, Indigenous peoples and people on the front lines of climate change including Hurricane Katrina victims.

There were scientists attending, testifying the stark message  that we are ‘decade zero,’ we are the generation responsible for stopping climate change before we hit the tipping points at which earth systems will be irreversibly changed.  There were people marching with a message about renewables, from faith communities, exposing the links between war and climate change including a Palestinian bloc, against tar sands, fracking, nuclear and mountain top removal. From faith communities, labour, LGBTQ and more.

The march had no formal demands, one, of several questions and criticisms it has spurred.

It succeeded beyond expectations in bringing together a wide range of people who affiliate with a wide range of communities and causes, with the best of intentions to demand more of our governments, while committed to taking action in their communities. 

One of my favourite moments from the march was the minute of silence at 12:58 to acknowledge all those who have suffered the ravages of climate change followed by a sounding of the alarm on climate change.

While I was not able to participate in Flood Wall street, I am glad to share that the Council of Canadians supported the action with a modest donation and political support.

Flood Wall street saw over 3000 march to the heart of Wall Street, risking arrest, chanting “People gonna rise like the water. Gotta calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great-granddaughter Saying shut down Wall Street now.” See Tracey Mitchell’s ( a Council board member) firsthand account here

I first saw the slogan ‘system change not climate change’ in Copenhagen, 2009. I immediately felt an affinity with it, and have worked to share this message and engage in conversations about the roots of the climate crisis, in a system that is also profoundly unjust between rich and poor, to communities of colour, Indigenous people, migrants, that is attacking workers rights and rolling back critical social programmes. I believe it is imperative that we continue this conversation, while campaign to stop what is wrong and defend what is right

For me, the People’s Climate March was a moving experience. Recognition of the breadth and power of those demanding action on climate change. Motivation to update and renew and stop TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline – the largest tar sands pipeline proposed yet. We can have a livable planet or tar sands expansion. Not both.