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YK activists call on CBC to hold ‘climate crisis debate’

Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen spoke to a crowd of 30 outside the CBC's Yellowknife studios on July 17, 2019
Our Time Yellowknife organizer Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen addressed to a crowd of 30 outside the CBC's Yellowknife studios on July 17, 2019. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio


Activists gathered outside the CBC’s Yellowknife office on Wednesday evening to demand the broadcaster arrange a climate debate among federal political leaders.

Around 30 people turned up outside the broadcaster’s studios on Forrest Drive, some bearing placards stating “11 years” – the time the United Nations has said the world has left in which to rein in the effects of climate change.

The group joined other protests nationwide, each demanding the CBC at a federal level host a political debate focused on the climate emergency and the Green New Deal.



Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen, who helped to organize Wednesday’s rally in Yellowknife, told Cabin Radio he feels the CBC is “passing the buck” on the call for such a debate.

“We think that in a situation of emergency, Canadians deserve to know which of our leaders has a plan like the Green New Deal,” he said – referring to a non-partisan initiative which claims to provide “a comprehensive plan to transform economies to address the scale of the climate crisis and deepening inequalities.”

Gagnon-van Leeuwen said: “I was on the CBC morning show this morning, and during that show I was read a clip from the official response of the CBC head office – who say it’s not their job to organize a debate on climate change. It’s the job of the federal leaders’ debate commission.”

In turn, Gagnon-van Leeuwen says, the commission has said it is up to the CBC to hold such a debate.



“We think it’s disappointing that these two public institutions, that were created and mandated to inform Canadians, that are funded by Canadians, are passing the buck on the issue of the climate emergency.”

Thirty people gathered in front of the CBC on Wednesday to demand the public broadcaster hold a leaders’ debate on climate change. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio

“It’s the debate commission who determines which media organization will host the official leaders debate,” Chuck Thompson, the CBC’s head of public affairs, said in a statement provided to Cabin Radio.

“Any decisions around topics of the debate would be driven by the editorial group that will be producing it.”

Thompson said the CBC knows climate change is an important issue for Canadians, adding the broadcaster will continue to cover climate change extensively, including as part of its election coverage.

Gagnon-van Leeuwen said he was happy journalists from the CBC’s Yellowknife bureau were covering the rally. Northbeat, the CBC’s northern evening news show, featured the rally among its top stories.

Paul Falvo, the Green Party’s NWT candidate for the coming federal election, was in Wednesday’s crowd.

Falvo told Cabin Radio he feels CBC has a responsibility to bring the issue of climate change to Canadians.



“If that’s not an election issue, I don’t know what is,” he said. “This is the survival of future generations that’s at stake, so it’s hard to think of a more important election issue than our continued existence. We’ve only got a few years to act.”

The gathering was one of more than 20 across the country, organized to coincide with the CBC’s various 6pm televised newscasts.

CBC North reporters broadcast live from a protest in front of the public broadcaster’s Yellowknife headquarters. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio