On Sunday afternoon I headed up to North Toronto Collegiate Institute where environmental and Blackfoot, Anishnawbe and Onkwheonwe First Nations activists — including members of Toronto 350 — were gathered to protest Kathleen Wynne’s current position towards the Energy East Pipeline. After a recent meeting with Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, Wynne revoked her initial promise to evaluate the pipeline, which carries tar sands oil, in the context of the problem of global climate change. After much preparation, a performance of a few songs and a few short speeches, demonstrators walked up Yonge Street, with the end goal of reaching Kathleen Wynne’s house.

 

Despite the rally’s serious intent, it had a jovial and comical quality as well. Protesters were asked to write letters to Wynne on cardboard cutouts of flip flops, in reference to her recent political shift. There were two human sized flip flops designed, one with a letter written from the perspective of a concerned first nations mother, the other from the perspective of a young person worried about the environment they were inheriting.

 

The rally was attended by around 16 people, and everyone there, myself included, was given a small task, such as writing a flip flop letter, or carrying a protest prop. In addition to the flip flops, protesters carried a large piece of black fabric meant to symbolize an oil spill. One demonstrator explained the piece as being representative of the 1000 litres of oil a company is allowed to spill into water and ignore. Some demonstrators marched in hazardous material suits, while others held up signs with slogans like “it's not an investment if it wrecks the planet.”

 

The oddest thing about the experience is that North Toronto is less used to demonstrators than downtown. On two occasions we were shown the middle finger by pedestrians who decided they were more annoyed at us for taking up road space than with the inability of our politicians to tackle climate change issues.

 

Once we turned onto a residential street a police car began to trail us. While police attendance at protests is standard fare, seeing them trail a small group down an otherwise quiet street has an eerie feel.

 

When we reached Wynne’s house, we were told to get in a circle and do a round dance, while the First Nations protesters performed the “Treaty” song of the grassy narrows people. The song, one demonstrator explained to me, was to remind Wynne that “...so long as the rivers flowed, the sun shines, the medicines grows, and the trees stood tall, she must honor the treaties and answer to the original people of this land.”


A tolerant, but clearly impatient Wynne emerged from her house to take the letters before abruptly leaving the scene. The group then proceeded to dance to music by A Tribe Called Red, celebrating their symbolic victory over the Premier.

comments powered by Disqus