Fossil fuel protesters get warm welcome from MP Rankin

Richard Watts / Times Colonist 

Nine people staged a cheerful sit-in at the office of New Democrat MP Murray Rankin on Friday, part of a nationwide demonstration against fossil fuels.

The demonstrators, many of them students at the University of Victoria, were among groups that staged protests at politicians’ offices across Canada, including Toronto and Montreal.

At Rankin’s Fort Street office, the demonstrators were made welcome, offered iced tea and the use of the bathroom.

Rankin talked with them for more than an hour.

Tristan Ryan, 22, a UVic student just finishing his third year in political science and environmental studies, said the group is calling itself We Are Greater Than the Tar Sands.

Many of them are also active in an effort to persuade UVic to divest itself of investments in fossil fuel companies.

In a vote held last term, 77 per cent of students voted in favour of divestment.

At the sit-in, Ryan said his group can give compliments to the NDP for its stand on carbon emissions, but demonstrators are demanding more, a solid commitment to halt expansion of the Fort McMurray oilsands or any oil pipeline network.

“We feel the immediacy of the issue of climate change requires we get this commitment sooner rather than later,” he said.

“We have known this is an issue needing some dramatic steps for 30 years now.”

He said demonstrations will continue across Canada over the next several days.

The Friday sit-in at Rankin’s office had ended by 4 p.m.

Rankin said he saluted the commitment and activism of the people occupying his office.

“I would like to see Canadians of all ages so engaged in the political process,” he said.

“It’s wonderful they care so deeply. This [climate change] is a crisis and they are bringing attention to that.”

He said the New Democrats were authors and backers of the Climate Accountability Act in the House of Commons in 2006, and so are serious about the issue of climate change.

Rankin said it still rankles him that the act could pass in House of Commons and get voted down in the Senate.

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