About 100 student demonstrators occupied the downtown Montreal constituency office of Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault Friday afternoon, calling on the former Greenpeace activist and the rest of his cabinet colleagues to refuse approval for Teck Resources’ controversial Frontier tar sands/oil sands mine.
The protesters were member of the new Student Coalition for Environmental and Social Change/ Coalition étudiante pour un virage environnemental et social (CEVES), Greenpeace Canada, and Extinction Rebellion Quebec. La Presse reports that some of the protesters were clad in orange coveralls similar to the ones Guilbeault himself wore in 2001, when he climbed Toronto’s CN Tower as part of a Greenpeace protest. Many of them also had on stylish Guilbeault face masks.
They said they were there to remind the newly-elected MP for Laurier—Ste. Marie of “his old allegiances to the climate” as a Greenpeace staffer and co-founder of Montreal-based Équiterre, previously nicknamed the “Green Jesus of Montreal”.
Guilbeault was out of the office during the protest, attending a decidedly more sedate “interactive discussion” on the Canadian flag with a group of high school students at the Montreal Science Centre. But La Presse says he talked to the protesters by phone.
“I’ve campaigned alongside these women and men over the course of many years, and I commend their engagement in peaceful protest,” he told La Presse. After 25 years trying to shape policy from the outside, he added that he’s trying to “push things forward from the inside”.
Montreal-based Greenpeace campaigner Patrick Bonin, who now holds Guilbeault’s former position with the organization, urged his longtime colleague to show the same courage that moved him to climb a tall tower in Toronto “to convince his cabinet colleagues that they must reject Teck and choose our youth and their future.” He called on the cabinet to “ensure a just transition to clean energy and new, sustainable job creation” for the fossil industry work force.
“CEVES opposes Teck because it’s a point of no return,” added student co-spokesperson Albert Lalonde. “It will make us all less safe by poisoning our water and air, and it violates the fundamental rights of front-line Indigenous communities.”