BLOG: A Polite Act of Civil Disobedience – Cathy Orlando

On Thursday, November 5, 2015, I took part in the first of four days of peaceful acts of civil disobedience in Ottawa and risked arrest at 350.org’s Climate Welcome. Alongside 37 activists willing to risk arrest, we marched from Rideau Falls to 24 Sussex, the Prime Minister’s residence and across the street to Rideau Hall, our Governor General’s residence. Joining me from Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) that day and also risking arrest were CCL Toronto members Lyn Adamson and Sharon Howarth.

Before marching we took part in a First Nations ceremony that included prayer and drums. We brought gifts to PM Trudeau including broken treaties, scientific and economic reports of the fallacy of the tarsands expansion and copies of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on creation care called Laudato Si.

Our key ask was a just transition to a low carbon economy and a freeze on tarsands expansion. After phoning repeatedly from noon onwards late in the afternoon the Prime Minister’s staff accepted our gifts and then we peacefully disbanded.

For the next three days, climate concerned citizens brought gifts to our new Prime Minister which included: climate petitions on the Friday; water samples from across Canada threatened by tarsands exploitation on the Saturday; and a copy of the Leap Manifesto and four solar panels on the Sunday. PM Trudeau’s office accepted all gifts but the solar panels. Anita Payne (CCL Perth), Mari Wesche (CCL Ottawa) and Ken Johnson (CCL Ottawa) were helpers at the event over the days.

The greatest gift the activists received was on the Friday, when President Obama rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline – which would have carried Canadian tarsands oil from Northern Alberta to a refinery in Texas.

I am going to confess, I was quite nervous about being arrested.  After the training session the night before the march, I knew I was with the right people at the right time and the right place. I am happy to say, true to our roots of being very polite, this Canadian act of civil disobedience was probably the politest action ever and there were no arrests nor drama.

This action happened the weekend before Remembrance Day. The sacrifices of the soldiers are why we are able to express our wants as citizens so openly.  If I dig really deep into myself about why I risked arrest, it is because I am terrified of the war and rape we could leave behind if we don’t act effectively on the climate crisis right now. We owe it to the soldiers that died for us to do what we can to prevent war.

The first presentation I ever gave at a school about climate change in May 2008 was at the N’Swakamok Friendship Centre Alternative School in Sudbury. I meditated long and hard on my last slide and knew I had to share it. My last slide was about the legend of the Warriors of the Rainbow:  “There will come a time when the Earth grows sick and when it does a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the world who believe in deeds not words. They will work to heal it. They will be known as the ‘Warriors of the Rainbow’.”

A week prior to the presentation in May 2008, I gave a First Nations drummer, Daryl, tobacco and asked him to share a song at the end of my presentation. On that day in May 2008 Daryl played on his drum and sang a song that reached deep into my soul and confirmed for me why I am doing this work. Daryl shared a story about how he meditated on which song to share the night before. He said clearly the song he needed to share was the Ojibway Warrior Song which explains first rule of a warrior:  the first rule of a warrior is to prevent war.  Now is the time to make it happen.

A picture of Cathy Orlando kissing Sharon Howarth (CCL Toronto) on the front lines of the Climate Welcome at Rideau Hall (the Governor General’s residence) across the street from 24 Sussex (the Prime Minister’s residence) on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

A picture of Cathy Orlando kissing Sharon Howarth (CCL Toronto) on the front lines of the Climate Welcome at Rideau Hall (the Governor General’s residence) across the street from 24 Sussex (the Prime Minister’s residence) on Thursday, November 5, 2015.

Cathy Orlando, National Manager, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada

Cathy Orlando has put her words to work for the climate by getting letters and opinion pieces published in newspapers in every province in Canada. When she’s not safeguarding the climate alongside the best volunteers on the planet, you can probably find her stargazing, dancing, reading books not about climate change, hanging out with her husband Sanjiv, and mothering her three cherished daughters.