A Calgary climate activist has set up camp in the snow beside the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa and says she intends to stay put until she’s allowed to hand-deliver a letter calling for more action on climate change to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I am staying here until I personally deliver this letter and until our government is doing what we need them to do,” said Tanya Bucknor, who goes by the name Ann Cognito.
This spring, Cognito set off from Alberta and travelled to the national capital using her kickbike and ride shares to “raise awareness about the climate crisis” and take her message and appeal to Parliament Hill.
Cognito said she’s been trying to make an appointment with the prime minister’s office since February but claims no one has ever responded to her.
In a petition posted on Change.org, Cognito said when she arrived in Ottawa she would ask Trudeau for his “personal and political commitment to maintain life — and human life — in this country and on this planet.”
Cognito outlines three demands for the Canadian government she said are in line with those of Extinction Rebellion, a self-described “international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimize the risk of social collapse.”
In her petition, Cognito calls on lawmakers to “tell the truth about how deadly our situation is,” to “reduce carbon emissions in Canada to net zero by 2025,” to “take further action to remove atmospheric carbon excess,” and to create “regional, national and international assemblies to make sure those things happen and to oversee the changes.”
“I make these demands because we have everything to lose — and our own future to gain,” she wrote.
In a statement emailed to Global News on Friday, Eleanore Catenaro, press secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister, said “hundreds of thousands of Canadians” write to the Prime Minister, and that the office responds to “as many as possible, as timely as possible.”
“Young people and Canadians across the country are counting on us for accelerated action on climate change, and ensure we have cleaner air, a healthy environment, and a more prosperous future,” the statement reads. “We hear them, and all of the Canadians who sent a clear message this election, that continuing to fight climate change needs to be a priority.”
In the statement, Catenaro touted the Liberal party’s climate change record, including the price on carbon, Oceans Protection plan and the ban on single use plastics, but conceded that more needs to be done.
“While we have made a lot of progress over the last four years, we know that more work needs to be done,” she wrote.
Cognito said she set up the campsite on Thursday morning, following a protest on Parliament Hill.
She says a government property manager visited her and told her she didn’t have permission to be on the site, and that if she didn’t leave the RCMP would be called.
According to Cognito, the RCMP threatened to arrest her at 3 p.m. on Friday, however, that did not happen.
An Ottawa police vehicle was parked near the campsite shortly before 3 p.m., but drove off.
Global News reached out to the RCMP for comment, but did not hear back by time of publication.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa Police Service said officers have been made aware of the campsite but the property it’s set up on belongs to the National Capital Commission (NCC). The NCC directed Global News to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), saying that department manages the War Memorial.
In a statement emailed to Global News on Saturday, PSPC said it too is “aware” that a protester is currently camped out near the memorial.
The department said it has informed the RCMP and Ottawa police of the situation and that the Ottawa police have “approached the woman” and are in contact with her.
In an interview, Lee Hunter, a spokesperson and organizer for the Ottawa chapter of Extinction Rebellion, told Global News that it is the position of both Cognito and Extinction Rebellion that “nobody has permission to be on this land here.”
“It’s the territory of the Algonquin People,” Hunter said. “This is a climate emergency, it is an emergency situation and she feels very strongly that she needs to talk to the prime minister and she needs to see some action.”
According to Cognito, an Ottawa police officer stopped by late Friday evening to make sure she was warm enough.
She said she was visited again by an officer Saturday morning, but that he was just checking to make sure she was “all right.”
By 1:30 p.m. ET, Cognito was still camped out by the memorial, and said she had not yet received any contact from the prime minister’s office.
“I will remain until they are doing what they cannot do and what they need to be doing,” she said. “I want a commitment to face this climate crisis responsibly. And I want to see it happening. I want to see change in place. We don’t have time.”
—With files from Hannah Jackson