On April 16th, Stephanie Wu, my co-organizer for Defend Our Future 2015 in Vancouver-Quilchena, excitedly asked me if I was available to meet with our MLA the following morning. We had been anxiously awaiting this chance to speak with our MLA on climate issues that concern us, specifically the exportation of US-mined, thermal coal through BC communities.
She had received a message from the office of the Honourable Minister Wilkinson, MLA for the Vancouver-Quilchena riding and Minister of Advanced Education. It said that, in responding to our two requests for meetings, Minister Wilkinson would be happy to arrange a meeting with us at 10am on Friday, April the 17th. I was ecstatic that we had finally gotten a meeting, but soon realized that I would be speaking with him all on my own. I was filled with a strange combination of excitement and nervousness; it was similar to the feeling one gets before a cross country race or the big game. Nonetheless, I quickly emailed Stephanie back asking her to confirm the meeting and began getting my things ready for the next day.
Due to the fact that the majority of Defend Our Future events had already happened, I was prepared for a somewhat understanding MLA, yet an evasive meeting. It is likely that the liberal caucus had met before April the 8th, the official day of action, to agree on a unified way to respond to the concerns that youth would be presenting during their meetings. Their decision seems to have been "avoid the topic and don't make any commitments". This plan stopped nearly all of our MLAs from joining us when asked to simply sign a statement we brought forward asking them to “stop new thermal coal exports from BC”; all except Green Party MLA, Andrew Weaver. Even more disheartening was the fact that it was not only the Liberals who hadn't signed the commitment, but also the Conservative and New democratic parties. So far, the only MLA who has signed, and therefore publicly stated that they would defend our future and keep further thermal coal exports off of our coast, is MLA Weaver.
To avoid psyching myself out too much, I woke up with the mindset that this is only a first step. The beginning of a safer and more sustainable future for not only myself and my peers, but also the next seven generations. I excused myself from Socials at 9:30am and hopped on my bike to pedal over to Minister Wilkinson’s office. I walked in and was unsure of what to do with myself as I was ten minutes early. When Minister Wilkinson arrived, we sat down in his office; myself, the Hon. Wilkinson and his secretary. When I brought up the youth that were at his office on April the 8th, I was met with silence; when we spoke about how he could represent our views, those of his very near-future voters, I was told it wasn’t his jurisdiction; and finally, when I asked if he would sign the page with the commitment, he said that he was unable to do that. We shook hands and I left feeling off. I was unable to put my finger on it, but reflecting on my experience I think it was a feeling of powerlessness.
That feeling as I got back on my bike, the one that made me feel so small in a huge political and social system, is exactly why I know that Defend Our Future is so incredibly important. I also know that actions like these need to happen again, and again, and keep happening. It is a way, if not the only way, for people to have their voices heard, and be able to defend their future. I appreciate that Minister Wilkinson took the time to meet with me, especially as it was after the Day of Action, and I look forward to one day very soon, when I can leave a meeting with my MLA feeling different from this time. I hope that I can leave knowing that my politician is an ally, standing up for my right, my peer’s rights, and the right of seven generations ahead, to have a healthy planet on which to call home.