Women and their role in the climate crisis was the key issue explored at the St. Margaret’s School International Women’s Day event on Sunday, March 8. Elizabeth May, former Green Party leader and current MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands, attended the event as the keynote speaker. In her speech, May addressed the hardship women face in the pursuit of climate activism and gave the audience five recommendations for getting more involved in climate activism.
The event hosted five speakers, including May, all of whom were women assuming important roles within the climate movement. Panellists included Larisa Hucheson, Capital Regional District; Megan Humchitt, elected Heiltsuk Tribal councillor; Vicki Husband, forest and marine conservation advocate and Ines Khouider, St. Margaret’s student and youth climate activist.
May addressed the perception that she has quit government after stepping down as the Green Party Leader, and assured the crowd she will be running again as MP for Saanich–Golf Islands and hinted at future plans.
“I would like to run for speaker because women are good for cleaning things up and there’s a mess there,” May said.
Quickly moving onto the theme of the panel, May pulled out a book to show the audience, “Gender Gap” by Bella Abzug. May noted Abzug was one of the first women to be elected into U.S. Congress and, “she was one of my most favourite friends in the whole world.”
May noted the gender gap is a political and economical gap that continues to be a hurdle for women in positions of power and women trying to effect change environmentally and in their communities.
“Misogyny is not just that women don’t get treated fairly, it is that people hate us,” May said.
The panellists all touched on women’s connection and role in climate change, and the work and hurdles that people doing the work go through to make a difference.
Humchitt, who grew up in Bella Bella from the traditional lands of the Heiltsuk people, touched on her experience of the Nathan E. Stewart diesel spill in 2016. The 2016 spill polluted the shores of Bella Bella with 110,000 litres of oil.
Humchitt said the effects on the area were not only physical but also an assault on her culture and the traditional clam industry. Since the spill, Humchitt and her community continue to work to fix the effects of the incident. Her community continues to try to hold government and the Texas-based company responsible for the spill.
Humchitt shared her feelings on the weight that is put on the people fighting for land preservation. “It is hard work and it is scary work especially in the social media age … We need to amplify the voices that are calling for change,” she said.
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