author: taylor balfour | news writer
A timeline of what went wrong
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian youth have been head-to-head in what seems to be a constant battle. In the last week of October, it appeared to only escalate. There have been flurries of smaller events that have seemed to snowball into a larger scale issue.
The first issue seems to have been the lack of work for youth in the country and the growing rate of youth unemployment. In Oct. 2016, Statistics Canada reported that unemployment in Canadian youth was at 13 per cent. According to Sara Elder, an article author for the International Labour Organization [ILO], claims that “almost 43 per cent of the global youth labour force is still either unemployed or working yet living in poverty.”
Currently the United States is at a 10 per cent unemployment rate. ILO also reports that worldwide there are “71 million unemployed youth” and “156 million young workers living in poverty.”
Due to this, youth employment is an issue that Canada needs to tackle. Despite this struggle, according to the Liberal party’s official website, they will “create 40,000 good youth jobs – including 5,000 youth green jobs – each year for the next three years.”
They hope to accomplish this by “investing $300 million more in the renewed Youth Employment Strategy.”
However, while youth unemployment is an issue, what started the recent charge against Trudeau would be the 99 students and individuals arrested on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, protesting new oil sands infrastructures. Trudeau opened up in October about the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, which, according to their website, moves products from Edmonton, Alberta; central British Columbia; the Greater Vancouver area; Puget Sound area in Washington state; California; the U.S. Gulf Coast; and “through the Westridge marine terminal located in Burnaby, British Columbia.”
This pipeline is reportedly a $1.3 billion expansion that grows the pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. According to Canadians.org, the minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr, claims that “the twin imperatives of economic prosperity and environmental protection guided us in our decision-making” and that he is confident in that “the right decision was made in the interest of Canadians and that this project supports the principles of sustainable development.”
The reason why students are protesting is due to the health risks doctors and experts are making apparent. According to Global News, some of these risks are “asthma, cancer, fire and contaminated water sources.”
The project is to “double the number of fuel storage tanks” which, according to doctor and professor Dr. Tim Takaro, is “creating an unacceptable risk to people’s’ health from fire, but a rupture or spill could spread toxins into the community, causing acute and long term health effects from asthma to cancer,” he spoke of in a news release.
Having the heath risks acknowledged and published, many students took to Parliament Hill in late October to protest the development of the pipeline. With signs, more than 200 individuals and students marched in front of the Peace Tower demonstrating their displeasure with the project. By doing such, 99 protesters were arrested and, according to the Globe and Mail, “all of them issued citations by the RCMP for trespassing after climbing over police barricades near the foot of the Peace Tower.”
Oddly enough, a major concern was that early in 2016, Trudeau announced to be creating a Youth Council to “help make an impact on Canadian policy” with their slogan being “have your voice heard.”
After all of the chaos, many youth in the country were frustrated with the Prime Minister’s acts. Rather soon after the arrests, Trudeau spoke at the Canadian Labour Congress National Young Workers Summit, which had taken place in Ottawa merely a few days after the protests on Parliament Hill.
At the event, many young people vented their frustrations about many issues facing youth in Canada, including unemployment and the pipeline. As he was speaking, some youth in the room stood and turned their backs to him in an act of protest. The CBC reports that they claim it was “because they believe he has turned his back on them.”
Noticing the reaction from some individuals in the room, Trudeau spoke in hopes of defending himself.
“It is a little bit frustrating for me to come in, sit down, and look forward to hearing from you, talking with you, and seeing a room full of people who are standing in a way that shows they’re not listening to me, that you don’t want to engage,” CBC claims as students began to turn their backs to him. “And I think it reflects poorly on everyone who does want to listen and engage.”
Later on he said, “It doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree on everything, but it does mean that we should keep talking.”
The reaction to such defense was rather mixed. Some in the room applauded at his defense for his actions and in response to theirs, while others only grew more agitated. CBC reports that some comments thrown at him that day were “Honour your promises,” “We don’t have dialogue with liars,” and “Shame! Shame!” They also report that moderators at the event had a hard time attempting to keep the peace.
The relationship between Trudeau and youth in the country is still rocky. No further statements have been made and students continue to struggle in finding how they feel in regard to the situation as well as the Prime Minister himself.
Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister, said to the CBC, “I think we were excited to have the prime minister come and speak to the young workers’ summit and take questions from the floor and have a dialogue. But when we have this frustration around a precarious economy, and a lack of action around the environment and climate change, young workers are expressing themselves in a way that’s going to get heard.”
It appears that their voices will be heard one way or another.