On October 25, 2019 Haida youth Haana Edenshaw joined thousands in a climate strike and joined 14 other youth activists in filing a lawsuit against the federal government for their lack of action on climate change. She was one of the young speakers who shared her reasons for joining this legal action and she spoke powerfully about her concerns for Haida culture and the planet as a whole. Here is an excerpt from Haana’s speech delivered to thousands of supporters gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on this historic day.
“My elders have told me stories about our rivers being full of salmon but for most of my life, these rivers have been empty. The yellow cedar trees, central to much of our culture, are dying. The loss of cedar bark means that there will be fewer people weaving with the bark and fewer teachers to pass that knowledge on to the next generation.
I am a plaintiff in this lawsuit because if nothing changes soon, my siblings will never feel cultural security, and will have to wonder if ours is the last generation to be able to access our lands and waters for cultural needs. I am fighting to protect my family, culture and beliefs. My right to life, liberty and security of the person are being violated by climate change impacts that I’m experiencing and will continue to experience if the [federal] government continues to contribute to climate change. If we do not act now, my peoples’ entire way of life is at risk.”
QUESTION & ANSWER WITH HAANA
How did you get involved in this lawsuit?
I’ve been passionate about climate activism since I was very young and have grown up knowing the importance of protecting our lands and waters, so when I heard about this lawsuit, I immediately felt like it was the perfect chance for me to make change. In my 16 years, I have been personally affected by climate change, for example the loss of food and cultural security we are experiencing due to climate change. This lawsuit was important for me because I cannot vote in Canadian elections and so can’t have my voice heard in that way, I am forced to seek protection from courts.
Why do you think it is important?
It is important because if we do not get back on track and listen to science, climate catastrophe is very, very near. I am worried and scared for my future, and I see our future being sold by those in power every single day. For decades, the federal government has known that climate change and fossil fuels threaten the life and personal security of children, but it continues to take actions that harm our generation and those to come. Future generations deserve a livable world and I feel it is important to do whatever I can to ensure a sustainable future for all. We need to put an end to the systematic actions in that are contributing to climate change.
What were some highlights from the action on October 25?
The entire event was so incredible! Some highlights from the event were hearing Severn and David Suzuki speaking, as well as Greta Thunberg, she is such an inspiration and it was amazing to see her in person. Another thing was meeting all of my co-plaintiffs, they are all so amazing. There are 15 of us total, between ten and eighteen years old, and it felt amazing to meet all of these people who are so passionate about taking climate action and whose lives have been so affected by climate change.
“We are privileged to live on such beautiful Islands and with that privilege comes the responsibility to take care of our lands as our ancestors have since time immemorial.”
What happens next?
Currently we’re waiting for the government of Canada to respond and what we do next is based on how they respond. If we win the case, we want to see Canada create and implement a science-based climate recovery plan. Canada is aware of climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and all species, including humans. They continue to subsidize fossil fuels and put at risk resources that we all depend on like the clean air, oceans and shorelines, and forests.
What advice do you have for youth who want to get involved?
I know climate change can make you feel hopeless or worried or scared and it’s frustrating to see such a lack of action from political leaders and corporations, but just remember there are so many people out there who are passionate about climate activism and there are so many ways to get involved. Make sure you are very well informed on the issue, look to people and organizations already working with things you are passionate about. Make sure whatever activism you do is both something that is needed and you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to question things that seem to be wrong and hold politicians to their promises, be aware of your consumption and waste and help to build a community of action on Haida Gwaii.
What is our responsibility or opportunity to take action on Haida Gwaii?
I know that there are so many people passionate about climate change and organizations trying to implement clean energy and facilitate stewardship and protection of the land. We are privileged to live on such beautiful Islands and with that privilege comes the responsibility to take care of our lands as our ancestors have since time immemorial. Haida Gwaii is such an inspiration to communities all over the world, and with the climate crisis comes the opportunity to be a leader in sustainable development and climate recovery. Future generations deserve these lands and nobody has a right to take that away.
Acknowledgements: This article was produced with the support of K’iijuuhlaas Nathaniel White. Haw’aa / haawa to all of the youth who are stepping into leadership and charting a new path for all.
This article is published in the recent Autumn Haida Laas. View or download the full edition here.