March 8, 2019

What We Can Learn from Canada’s Power Shift: Young & Rising

By Hope Ghazala, PSN Trainings Coordinator

I just got back from Canada, and I can’t stop thinking about all the lessons I took away from Power Shift: Young & Rising.

PSYR activists march in Ottawa

Photo Credit: Desiree Wallace / @prolibertate.photography

From February 14-18, hundreds of young people came together in Ottawa, Ontario, on the land of the Algonquin Anishinabe, to learn and talk and plan. The convergence featured workshops, keynote speakers, and panels on how a collective youth movement can act to address the climate crisis.

While Power Shift Network has held multiple Power Shift convergences in the US, this is the first time one of our current staff members has gotten to participate in the Canadian version. I think we could really benefit from incorporating aspects of Power Shift Canada’s culture into our work stateside.

This convergence was a truly by-youth-for-youth event. Power Shift Canada made a clear choice to have young people lead the planning of the convergence from day one, as well as have attendance be predominantly youth. The young people on their Organizing Team, Steering Committee, and volunteer crew worked diligently for months to bring PowerShift: Young and Rising to life, and to provide their peers with skills, resources, and a strong sense of community.

I also appreciated how Power Shift Canada worked to continually shed light on the fact that local is global. Throughout the convergence, there were discussions on how colonization, imperialism, and capitalism has led to globalization, migration, and poverty, as well as dependency on state and colonial powers. There were honest discussions on how Canada has been responsible for many local and global consequences of climate change, including displacement.

Throughout the event, conference organizers, facilitators, and attendees often referred to the political climate and policies in effect in the U.S. It’s notable that Canada's youth climate movement is not only centered in an awareness of the effects of foreign affairs but also incorporates an analysis of such affairs within their own organizing. 

Appropriately centering Indigenous folks on perpetually colonized land isn’t always easy and can always be improved. Nonetheless, Power Shift Canada worked to center Indigenous folks to an extent that I have yet to see in the US climate movement. During this convergence, I often witnessed Indigenous experiences incorporated in climate crisis analyses, verbalized land acknowledgements at almost every session, many Indigenous speakers, performers, facilitators, and participants as well as Indigenous languages inporated in conference materials.

Holding accessible space for young climate activists with intersecting marginalized identities to develop community, skills, and action plans is an art form. I’m so grateful that I got to experience and learn from Power Shift Canada, and I hope to bring some of these lessons back to our work here in the US.