Protesters disrupt Commons Question Period | Activists demand passage of sweeping climate change bill
Protesters disrupt Commons Question Period
Activists demand passage of sweeping climate change bill
Tonda MacCharles Ottawa Bureau
Published On Mon Oct 26 2009
A protester is escorted by security personnel after a group of climate change activists began chanting from the public galleries in the House of Commons during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Oct. 26, 2009.
OTTAWA – A group of climate change activists caused a ruckus in the House of Commons today when several protesters stood up and began chanting loudly from the public gallery during Question Period.
"Climate justice!" the group chanted as they were escorted outside by security to continue their demonstration on the steps of Parliament Hill.
One protester was seen being dragged down to the lower level of Centre Block by two security guards, screaming as she went.
She yelled that her name was "Chelsea" before she was dragged out of sight.
Kaitlin Pelletier, 25, said a group of about 1,000 youth that form a campaign called "Power Shift 2009" are gathered in Ottawa to call for stronger action on climate change and aboriginal rights.
She said the group spent today lobbying their local MPs and senators.
She said the disruption in the House of Commons was not organized and that only a few individuals spontaneously started yelling.
"I can’t speak to that," said Pelletier, who came from Vancouver, when asked if she supported their actions.
But Joe Cressy, an organizer of the protest, said about 200 people responded to a call for a flash mob to disrupt the House of Commons in protest of inaction on climate change, particularly the failure of Bill 311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, to pass in the Commons last week.
"When I say 311-you say ‘Sign it,’" Cressy shouted to the demonstrators sitting in the public gallery. They responded with calls that drowned out MPs and the Speaker. Neither Prime Minister Stephen Harper nor Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff were in the House at the time.
Dozens of protesters were forcefully hauled out of the gallery, or escorted down the stairs.
"Whose House? Our House!" they yelled, as members of their group were dragged out.
At a press conference, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said it was "heartbreaking" that MPs "laughed" as the young people were removed from the gallery.
She said "those were our children we threw out of the House of Commons today….the most responsible young adults in Canada."
May said they were protesting because a climate-change bill was delayed last week in Parliament. "The youth in the galleries showed more leadership than the MPs on the floor."
Cressy said a coalition of environmental protestors would organize "flash mob Mondays" from now until the talks at Copenhagen in December, which aim to reach a post-2012 treaty on global warming.
"It might not be the most peaceful way to do it," said Cressy, but, he retorted to reporters, "it sure got your attention."
Others defended the decision to interrupt democratic debate in the Commons, saying the politicians were "yelling and arguing with each other."
"It seemed like we were not interrupting anything," said Taylor Flook, of the Rainforest Action Network.
Rosa Kouri said "our children will appreciate what we’re doing."