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Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on on Thursday, November 19, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)
Minister of the Environment Jim Prentice speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on on Thursday, November 19, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)

Shawn McCarthy

Hell no, they won't go Add to ...

The seven activists who have occupied Environment Minister Jim Prentice's office in Calgary say they aren't leaving until he agrees to their demand for much deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions than the government now plans.

More likely, they'll be removed by police. And they promise to go peacefully.

The seven - six men and a woman - say they all hail from Mr. Prentice's Calgary Centre-North riding, and have been active in anti-poverty and environmental issues in the city.

Their genteel act of civil disobedience is meant to amplify their message that Canada is blocking progress at international climate change talks, and that Ottawa should move more aggressively to cut emissions that are linked to potentially catastrophic changes to the global climate.

"The plan is to stay here until Minister Prentice changes his mind and agrees to set targets for reducing emissions by 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020," David Wilson, a 34-year-old activist and writer, said in a phone interview from the sit-in.

Mr. Wilson said the minister's staff had been "very polite" in dealing with the intruders. Indeed, he said the minister himself had always between "respectful and polite" when he had met in the past with some of the members of the group.

The Calgary action is likely the first of many over the next two weeks, leading up to the opening of international climate change summit in Copenhagen where global leaders hope to reach a political accord on a new treaty to cut emissions.

But the Harper government will not be moved - certainly not by demonstrations by environment activists.

"We won't be changing our target as a result of an office occupation," said Mr. Prentice's spokesman, Bill Rodgers.

Ottawa pledges to reduce emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020.

"The minister has consulted widely on this issue for the past year. . . The Canadian target is realistic and ambitious."

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Update As expected, the sit-in at Mr. Prentice's constituency office ended early this evening when police arrested the activists. The seven protesters face criminial mischief charges and will appear in court next month.

Follow on Twitter: @smccarthy55

 

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