Taking it back by turning backs

Six Canadian youth make a statement at the UN conference on climate change.

I have always really loved the traditional First Nations quote: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

This saying came back to me this week, as I was reading a press release about six Canadian youth delegates who made a silent protest in opposition to Canadian foreign policy recently.

In Durban, South Africa, at the United Nations conference on climate change, six Canadian university students made a silent protest, a silent protest heard around the world.

Unfortunately, the protest may fall on deaf ears in Ottawa.

The six students, members of the Canadian Youth Delegation stood up and turned their backs on Minister Peter Kent, the federal Minister of Environment, as he was speaking at the United Nations climate change negotiations.

The youth were wearing t-shirts with the statement “Turn your back on Canada” on the side they turned towards Kent, and “People before polluters” on their fronts.

The silent protesters were reportedly applauded by some delegates listening to Minister Kent’s address before they were ejected and their accreditation revoked.

Now why exactly did six young people stand up and put themselves out there on the international stage?

“Our so-called Environment Minister entered these talks by going on record that he would be defending the tar sands. I have yet to hear him say that he’s here to defend my future,” said James Hutt, one of the youth, in a press release.

Apparently earning numerous “Fossil of the Day” awards for Canada’s environmental policies and practices at UN conferences on climate change does not exactly add to their “hipness.”

In an article in the Nunatsiaq News newspaper, Cameron Fenton, the group’s coordinator, said the group had tried to meet with Kent numerous times, but were not granted any audience with the minister, so they wanted to send him a message.

“We want to make it clear to other countries at this meeting that young people in Canada don’t support the actions of their government,” he said. “We are saying to our government that we believe in finding solutions to the problem of climate change that lead to a just and sustainable future, even if you don’t.”

One of the students was also Brigette DePape, the former Ottawa Senate page who was ejected from her position in Canada’s government when she openly protested during Harper’s throne speech back in the spring.

This spunky little ex-page is now part of one more act of civil disobedience worthy of admiration.

Now, agree with these students or not about their opposition to Canada’s position on Kyoto and Canada’s open support for the Alberta tar sands, you have to give them credit.

These students showed some serious guts standing up in an international setting in front of representatives from around the world to voice their concerns in a nonviolent way they had to know would still get them removed.

It took courage and initiative, and apparently it was also appreciated by other delegates at the conference, given the applause.

While Prime Minister Harper and Peter Kent may not be very interested in what these six students have to say right now, perhaps they may have to take notice eventually.

The youth of this country just may decide to take back what has been borrowed. Like when enough of them turn 18.

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