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Youth-Organized Earth Day Parade and Rally Draw Hundreds in East Vancouver

by Sandra Cuffe

Hundreds gathered at the Broadway-Commercial skytrain station and marched down the Drive to Grandview Park. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
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These and other photos spelled out 'HELP ME' on the banner. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Youth 4 Climate Justice Now parade organizers. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Handprints and messages on a 'Power to the Planet' banner. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
11-year-old Sliammon Nation singer-songwriter Ta'Kaiya Blaney. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Hundreds of people listen to Ta'Kaiya Blaney sing 'Earth Revolution' in Grandview Park. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
11-year-old Sliammon Nation singer-songwriter Ta'Kaiya Blaney. Vancouver, April 22, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

Hundreds of people participated in the Earth Day Parade organized by Youth for Climate Justice Now yesterday. With a papier mache whale, bagpipes, hula hoops, colourful banners, a carnival band, and shark, tree, and oil spill costumes, elders, adults, youth and children made their way down Commercial Drive to Grandview Park.

"What a beautiful day," said Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil Waututh Nation, as he welcomed people to the area. "What a beautiful day to walk the earth as we do."

The high school students who organized the parade for a second consecutive year encouraged parade participants to stay optimistic, and to keep in mind that the momentum against pipelines and tankers is growing. The group has also been collecting signatures for their petition calling on the Government of Canada to respect the First Nations' Save the Fraser Declaration, to halt the Northern Gateway project and all tar sands pipelines, and to support a ban on oil tanker traffic in British Columbia.

"They're really inspiring," said Wilderness Committee Healthy Communities Campaigner Ben West, whom the Y4CJN crew identify as a mentor. "[They] have brought back some of the roots of Earth Day - some of the activist roots of Earth Day."

Also in attendance at the rally in Grandview Park were Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, City councillor Adrienne Carr, Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Niki Sharma, and NDP Members of Parliament Libby Davies and Don Davies. Robertson, Carr, Sharma, and several other Vancouver councillors and Park Board members have publicly declared their opposition to Kinder Morgan's expansion plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline.

"I've made it clear what my position is on this," Robertson told the crowd gathered on the park lawn, adding that people need to look at fossil fuel use in the city as well. "We use a lot of fossil fuels here in this community. That's why we have a pipeline... That's why we have coal coming down from the Rockies."

"I believe it's time we start connecting the dots," said Greenpeace co-founder and Tanker Free BC founder Rex Weyler, adding that coastal oil tanker traffic is not only a proposal for the future. "Now, today, tankers are loading - at Westridge terminal - are loading tar sands crude..."

"Do you know who Kinder Morgan is? A couple of ex-Enron billionaires," Weyler told the crowd, asking if anyone spoke German. "The name Kinder Morgan means 'the children of tomorrow!'"

Eleven-year-old Sliammon Nation singer-songwriter Ta'Kaiya Blaney also took the stage, wowing the crowd with her performance of 'Shallow Waters' and 'Earth Revolution.'

"I stand up for my culture against threats like corporations," Blaney told the gathering in Grandview Park, to enthusiastic cheers. "Our culture and land are more than priceless; they are sacred."

"We have to determine our own future," concluded Blaney. "If we wait, nothing will happen."

As the speakers wound down, the crowd was treated to a variety of music until 3pm. The music and gathering continued even past that time, long after many people had left.

 

Sandra Cuffe is a freelance journalist, researcher, and Vancouver Media Co-op contributing member.

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