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Extinction Rebellion rallies at Montreal auto show

Protesters in front of the Palais des Congrès where the annual Auto Show is taking place. .
Protesters in front of the Palais des Congrès where the annual Auto Show is taking place. . Extinction Rebellion Quebec / Facebook

Around 14 protesters from climate activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) gathered at Place Jean-Paul Riopelle to protest the annual Montreal International Auto Show.

For members of the organization fighting climate change, the fair glorifies the “car culture” and represents “a major obstacle to the establishment of structures for sustainable mobility”, they wrote on their Facebook page.

XR Quebec spokesperson Coralie Laperrière told the Canadian Press that the group is “against car addiction”, which she claims the Montreal auto show encourages.

“It is a pity that people think that we have something against motorists. On the contrary, we think that there should be more solutions for motorists. It is not normal that in Quebec we hear the sentence: ‘We have to have a car to get around,'” said the protester.

According to her, it is up to governments to put in place sustainable mobility structures so that people can truly make the choice not to have a car.

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READ MORE: What is Extinction Rebellion and what does it want?

“This is the second burden on personal finances after housing. We have to find accommodation, but we shouldn’t have to have a car,” she said.

According to data from the State of Energy in Quebec 2020 report, gasoline sales smashed a record in the province in 2018. For the first time in history, Quebecers consumed more than 10 billion liters of petrol, more precisely 10.6 billion.

In response to the efforts of the organizers of the Montreal auto show to highlight electric vehicles, Laperrière says that we are not tackling the right problem.

“We really have to move away from the self-driving model. If we changed all petrol cars tomorrow morning to electric cars, that wouldn’t solve the problem of congestion and urban sprawl,” she told the Canadian Press.

Climate activism group Extinction Rebellion turns to crowdfunding to cover legal fees
Climate activism group Extinction Rebellion turns to crowdfunding to cover legal fees

For XR, the real issue is public transit and sustainable transportation, everywhere in Quebec.

The Montreal auto show devotes an increasingly large section to electric vehicles and technologies enabling people to travel without fossil fuel. This approach is intended to be in line with current social transformations, although ecologists do not see it in the same light.

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The entire “level 7” of the show organized at the Palais des Congrès de Montreal is devoted to the “Electric Zone”. There are 20 models of electric vehicles from various manufacturers, new technologies for charging stations or motors available to convert heavy vehicles.

In the middle of the day on Saturday, the area reserved for these zero greenhouse gas emission vehicles was crowded.

Spokesperson Denis Talbot told the Canadian Press that customers have been demanding this offer.

READ MORE: ‘The planet cannot wait’: 25 climate activists arrested at Montreal protest

“Customers don’t just want to see big trucks that consume a lot of gas. They are young families, with children, and they want to go green,” Talbot said.

According to data contained in the State of Energy in Quebec 2020 report, produced by the chair in energy sector management at HEC Montréal, there were 31,864 fully-electric vehicles in circulation in Quebec in 2018 and about the same number of hybrid vehicles.

“People have already made the change at home with recycling, compost, they are changing their habits. There, we are tired of putting gas in the vehicle,” he added.

“This year, we are even taking another step towards sustainable mobility by offering a place for bikes and electric scooters. Modes of transportation that you might be surprised to see in a car show.”

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— With files from The Canadian Press’ Ugo Giguère