Tomorrow night, hundreds of youth will join together for PowerShift B.C., a three-day event which aims to connect and inspire youth to tackle the most pressing challenges our province, and humanity, face today. For the first time in Canada, PowerShift is leaving Ottawa and coming across the country to Victoria, B.C.
This event features a series of speakers including David Suzuki, Crystal Lameman, Maude Barlow, and others from the environmental and climate justice movement. The talks are open to participants and the public, and will span a range of topics, intending to educate participants on resource and industrial project issues such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, Kinder Morgan, and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. In addition, over 60 workshops will be held to provide skills-based training to empower participants to act themselves. Topics include investigative journalism, campaign strategies, online fundraising, non-violent direct action, and many more.
Two PowerShift events have previously been held in Ottawa, but the location was considered inaccessible to many Canadians, especially those in B.C. This Victoria PowerShift marks the first of many that will be held across Canada before the 2015 election, to try and engage more Canadian youth and begin building innovative grassroots movements.
“B.C. has become a battleground, primarily over the fight to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline,” says Kelsey Mech, UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) chairperson, PowerShift MC and volunteer co-ordinator.
She also emphasizes that PowerShift isn’t just about environmental problems, but social issues as well. “Those who are most impacted by the effects of these issues are also generally from traditionally marginalized communities,” says Mech. “PowerShift is about building a movement of youth to challenge the existing structures in place that dictate the continued reliance on fossil fuels and push for the transition to a more clean and just energy economy.” Aside from the knowledge gained at this event, participants will also connect and network with like-minded people from across B.C. and Canada.
Powershift is hosted by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and unsurprisingly focuses primarily on youth participants and youth engagement. Edward Pullman, logistics co-ordinator for Powershift B.C. and former UVSS executive, says, “Youth are disenfranchised. They have the lowest voting rates of any demographic, despite the fact they have the most to lose from these industrial developments like tar sands, fracking, coal mining, etc. We must address this by specifically engaging youth and giving them the knowledge and skills they need to act.” As a youth herself (PowerShift is geared to those aged 16 through 30), Mech adds, “Youth voice is important because it’s the voice of the future. We all have such a stake in the direction our communities, our province, our country, and our world will take. We are inheriting this world from previous generations, and it is vital that we take a stand and demand the futures we want to live in. If we want change, we cannot sit idly by and wait for it to happen. We have to create it ourselves.”
Although our provincial and federal governments are pushing for increased tarsands production, large pipelines, and natural gas expansion, many British Columbians are moving against these initiatives. As seen in the recent surge of grassroots movements such as Defend Our Coast and Idle No More, like-minded people are uniting their voices and demanding to be heard. These may be seen as cohesive movements that focus on what connects us rather than what brings us apart, which is what PowerShift B.C. is empowering its participants to do. Learn, connect, then change the world.