In my third year of undergraduate studies at McGill University, I travelled to Barbados for a semester-long exchange program. In this small-island developing country, I witnessed the disproportionate impacts of global warming on rural residents for the first time in my life. It was following this first-hand experience that I decided to join the global climate justice movement, with a desire to be the voice for those suffering in the climate crisis.
Upon graduation, I began to work for a non-profit in Ottawa, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), that conducts research and advocacy on environment-related Canadian federal policies. Here too, I continued to voice my concern for climate change.
But something didn’t feel right.
It was on a regular Friday afternoon at a climate protest in Parliament Hill when I woke up to the realization that my colleagues and I were the only people of colour throughout the march. In fact, within all of the environmental circles I have been a part of, I have never come across a single Black individual, or a person of Indigenous heritage. This made me realize that many of us, including myself, live our lives vastly unaware of the immense privilege we hold in being able to advocate for the environment.
Millions around the world, and thousands within our communities, simply cannot afford to fight for climate justice, burdened by the socio-economic crises they face on a day-to-day basis. Vocalizing our concern for climate change means that we must actively put on a magnifying glass onto those with lived experiences from climate impacts. It means we listen to their stories first. It means we prioritize their perspectives to secure an equitable society where the most vulnerable can be listened to.
In order to operationalize this at my workplace, I actively take part in monitoring, reviewing and analyzing environmental policies that impact marginalized communities in Canada, using an intersectional lens. I craft recommendations that not only call on the Canadian government to implement policies that are consistent with the principles of the Paris Agreement, but also inclusive and mindful of those faced with the greatest vulnerabilities in climate emergencies.
This is why for my current research project, From eco-colonialism to Indigenous-led climate justice, I am consulting with young Indigenous professionals across Canada to apply their stories and expertise into CPJ’s policy recommendations. To better educate and empower youths, I also publish monthly podcasts and infographic videos onto CPJ’s public-facing media platforms, which has allowed for a broader range of racialized youths to conceptualize the intersectional nature of public justice and tackle climate change together.
Only by creating a space where all voices can be heard, will our climate justice movement become strengthened and united by the diverse identities and experiences of its members.
Keira is a climate justice intern at Citizens for Public Justice, a public policy organization that promotes public justice by shaping key policy debates in Canada. At CPJ, Keira is currently engaged in climate justice advocacy and policy research. Prior to joining CPJ, she completed her B.A. in International Development from McGill University with a degree specialization in States and Governance. Keira worked as a workshop facilitator in Montréal, engaging youths in Québec to reflect on the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Keira is passionate about amplifying the role of public discourse and advancing rights for marginalized groups who are faced with greatest vulnerabilities in global climate crises. Having immigrated from South Korea at nine years old, Keira enjoys working collaboratively with people of different cultural, ethnic, religious backgrounds to promote changes that integrate diverse voices into the policy world.