Climate change was the focus for a Coady International Institute Chair in Social Justice hosted symposium, earlier this month.
On Oct. 10 and 11, the Mother Earth Climate Justice Symposium: Be a Part of the Solution, was held at the institute, located on the campus of St. F.X.
The symposium reflected the passion and efforts of 2017 Coady Chair in Social Justice – Dorene Bernard. A Coady release speaks to Bernard’s work.
“Dorene Bernard, a respected Mi’kmaw Grassroots Grandmother, dedicates her life to protecting the environment against impacts of climate change. Her social work career in Mi’kmaki includes child welfare and support for Indian Residential School survivors and their families.
“She volunteers to promote culture, language, social justice, treaty rights, missing and murdered indigenous women and reconciliation.”
The symposium began Tuesday evening with a presentation by the BeeHive Collective and continued throughout Wednesday with a variety of activity; including a morning presentation by Ojibwe Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, an afternoon one by Maude Barlow and Leo Broderick from the Council of Canadians, and concluded with the Climate Justice Warriors Panel which was moderated by Corrine Cash, a senior staff person at the Coady.
The panel consisted of Bernard, women’s leadership and gender specialist at the Coady Naima Chowdhury, energy campaign co-ordinator with Ecology Action Centre Stephen Thomas and University of Waterloo professor Larry Swatuk, who works in the International Development in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development program.
“It went wonderfully,” Sakura Saunders, from the Beehive Collective, said of their presentation.
Saunders, an environmental justice organizer, partners with spoken-word and hip-hop artist Darius Mirshahi to form the collective.
“What we’re doing is we’re telling the story of how we’ve come to this place of extreme extraction; where we’re logging with clear-cuts and mining with strip mines – these extreme forms of extraction,” Saunders said, noting the large graphic art piece they use as part of their presentation.
“We went through the history of colonialism, industrial development and the labour history and mechanization of mining – replacing miners with machines.”
She noted they “push past the current state” in their presentation to look towards “resistance.”
“Which we need to be successful, obviously, and the ways people are restoring both the economy and the ecology of a region with a message of decolonization,” Saunders said.
“Not only recognizing and respecting Indigenous land rights but, also, re-centering the land and water in how we live and share that land.”
Bernard was appreciative of the different perspectives which came together for the symposium which, she noted, paid particular attention to issues around water.
“When it all comes down to it, it was about community and the environment, and the impact of climate change has on water,” she said, as Wednesday’s activities wrapped up.
Bernard described Grandmother Josephine’s presentation as being a highlight for her and noted all the speakers brought wisdom and compassion to the stage.
“It was all very heartfelt and, I think, a good understanding [was developed],” she said, noting how presentations not only outlined problems but also, potential, solutions.
“And I think we need to focus more on solutions; it’s going to be up to us as individuals and, also, as a group,” she said. “No one person can do everything, so the massage is; it’s up to everyone and the sooner we can get past all the other barriers of race, colour, creed and all those things, the sooner we’ll see each other as human and see our Mother Earth as a living entity – the source of life, not just a resource. And we’ll see all species as related to us; I think we’ll get to where we need to be … for the sake of everyone.”
She talked about the symposium taking place in the midst of Mi’kmaw History Month.
“Mi’kmaq history is everyday … we live this every day,” she said.
“I don’t really focus on the month but when we look at some of what we’re facing as Mi’kmaq, we need to bring people in to understand who we are and that our treaty rights are forever and ever; no corporation, government is going to change that.”
This Saturday (Oct. 28), Bernard will be continuing the messages illuminated by the symposium with a Water Walk which will take place at Antigonish Landing.
The afternoon event will take place from 1 to 4:30 p.m., starting with a smudging ceremony.
“We thought it was good to show people something they can do to make a positive impact on their water, environment and build those relationships in their communities,” she said, noting the Water Walk is a “ceremony” that is open to everyone.
“We’re looking forward to it,” she said, adding people are encouraged to being a half a cup of water from a home source which could be anything from a brook or stream to tap water from their home.
“From wherever they want to bring the water; to give thanks, because it’s clean, or because it needs healing,” Bernard said.