Many people will have mixed emotions when they remember 2020. COVID-19 inflicted a lot of suffering and upended our world, exposing inequities along the way. Yet the year was also full of solidarity and kindness, with people coming together to comfort one another and to find a way forward together.
For Our Kids entered 2020 as a fledgling network born just a few months earlier. We have an organizing model that seeks to plug in climate-concerned parents and grandparents, so COVID-19 could have meant the end to For Our Kids as everyone understandably focused on the virus instead.
But something amazing happened. Our community hung together and adapted. We saw the parallels between COVID-19 and climate change in terms of both the challenges they pose and how we solve them. We pivoted to calling for a green and just recovery. We kept organizing and we kept growing. We got on the radar screen of elected officials. We got noticed in the media. We made our mark and set ourselves up to go even bigger in 2021.
At the core of all this are the local team or group leaders. These are mostly moms, with a few dads and grandparents, who stepped up to do the work of anchoring something in their area. And, many haven't done this before, so it's always amazing to how the love for their kids translates into the courage to lead. If you are reading this and think you could never do something like that, drop us a line and we'll happily introduce you to one of them whose story will convince you that you can!
There are so many highlights to 2020 - here are a few of them:
- In January, For Our Kids Niagara ran a successful push to replace the head of their local conservation authority who is a climate denier.
- Also in January, Babies for Climate Action - Greater Vancouver took their kids in to have a meeting with BC Attorney General David Eby to talk about their concerns.
- In January a group of parents in Québec circulated a large open letter calling for climate action on behalf of their kids.
- In January Port Hope for Future produced a great collage of pictures of local parents and kids adding up to a call to action on climate.
- In February we released the video "The Talk" - a tongue-in-cheek version of the awkward conversation teens sometimes have with their parents, with a twist.
- In February parents, students and teachers successfully convinced the Cowichan Valley school board to declare a climate emergency and develop plans for reducing emissions and doing more climate education.
- In February, Fridays for Future Guelph made "love your mother" Valentine's cards for local banks to draw attention in the media to their investments in fossil fuels, and hand delivered them (including one teen who closed his account).
- Other parents, both on their own and in groups, made Valentine's cards for decision makers encouraging them to act on climate change.
- For Our Kids Vancouver took the Valentine's message directly to the front door of MP Joyce Murray, posting a big heart that said "Stop Teck" (a proposed oil sands mine).
- Pour Nos Enfants / For Our Kids Montréal persisted in trying to get a meeting with Justin Trudeau (who is also an MP there) by showing up in person at his office.
- Parents for Future Toronto and Fridays for Future GTA took a "Kids Reject Teck" banner all the way to Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
- For Our Kids Niagara struck again in February, helping the St. Catharines city council strengthen its climate targets.
- On February 28, For Our Kids Montreal got a shout out from MP Rachel Bendayan in the House of Commons, probably the first mention of our organization in official Ottawa.
- In early March For Our Kids launched our BC electric school bus campaign, generating good media, and resulting in an early commitment by the BC government to buy 15 electric school buses.
- In early March a For Our Kids group in Ladysmith delivered “love letters for the planet” to their local MP, asking for action.
- On March 27 we offered the first of many Zoom events, this one with a child psychologist on "Coping and Well-Being in Unpredictable Times."
- On April 17 we hosted Clean Energy Canada Executive Director (and mom!) Merran Smith for a webinar on how to build back better after covid.
- On May 8 we hosted a Mother’s Day Zoom event, “Mothers’ Voices on Climate Action,” featuring our team leaders talking about their experiences, along with musical guests the Reid Jamieson Band.
- Then we went offline a little when we partnered with Mères au front on the "Green Hearts" campaign, with parents across the country making green hearts with climate messages for MPs, often delivering them to their office doors. This drew media, such as this in Vancouver, and this in Ottawa. The local group Babies for Climate Action – Vancouver turned their green hearts into this video.
- In late May the movement for Black lives exploded across North America and around the world. This was a moment both for action, with some of our parents’ groups participating in local rallies, as well as for reflection about For Our Kids and whether we are doing enough about systemic racism within our own network. We struck a justice committee of team leaders to develop this draft statement.
- Over the Father’s Day weekend in June we secured the rights to show the new climate documentary 2040, featuring a father looking for climate solutions for his daughter. This included a contest with prizes donated by LUSH.
- Over the next months, local teams then organized eight great Green & Just recovery virtual town halls with elected officials from First Nations, local, provincial, and federal levels, which included the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as well as the BC Environment Minister, among many others.
- Local teams and individual parents also participated in various government processes regarding recovery from COVID-19, such as with these submissions to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology and submissions to the Finance Committee, including this joint submission by three local groups.
- Media has started noticing For Our Kids, such as when Ottawa EnviroCentre interviewed Marianne and Erin from For Our Kids/Parents for the Planet Ottawa Gatineau, and this Conversation Lab podcast.
- In September For Our Kids Montreal spearheaded the filing an amicus brief in the “La Rose” youth lawsuit where 15 young Canadians are suing the federal government over failure to act quickly enough on climate change. Unfortunately, our brief was not accepted at this stage, and the youth are also appealing the initial judgement not to proceed with the case.
- On October 1 we partnered with MD Moms 4 Healthy Recovery to put on a webinar "Climate and Your Child's Health" with a panel of specialists.
- During the BC election in October, local groups reached out to candidates of all parties to share their concerns and ask them for their policy positions. This included some covid-safe in-person meetings outside and inside (over Zoom) with candidates around Vancouver, as well as online surveys with the groups promoting the results. Parents also used the opportunity to generate some media.
- In early November the Toronto team spearheaded a great Divestment 101 online workshop with speakers covering both pensions and banks and their role in the climate crisis.
- In November local teams weighed in at the local government level, asking for updates on municipal climate action, and adding their voice to the debate - this included this outdoor art display in Ottawa and a successful push for bold climate action in Vancouver!
Phew - that's a lot in a year, particularly during a pandemic! We've been so inspired by the dedication, skill, and creativity of all the parents in the network who have already made a huge impact. And we feel like we're just getting started. New teams continue to form across the country as our voices get stronger pressing for action - for our kids.
Best wishes to all during the holidays, and we look forward to working with you in 2021.
Galen, Lella, and Matt