Climate Justice Radio

Episode 1 - Orientation with Niklas Agarwal

April 01, 2021 Niklas Argawal Season 1 Episode 1
Climate Justice Radio
Episode 1 - Orientation with Niklas Agarwal
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What is Climate Justice Toronto anyways? How do we organize? And how can you get involved? These are some of the questions that host Alex and guest Niklas Agarwal answer in this first episode of Climate Justice Radio.  Niklas, who has been organizing with CJTO since it’s early days, discusses some of the key values guiding our work, and explains some of the questions you may have had about CJTO like why do limit our organizing to young people? And what’s the justice in climate justice really all about? You also get to learn a bit more about Niklas himself as he introduces the episode with a land story and closes out by telling Alex about how he started at CJTO. 
The episode also includes the first of many Temp Checks, this week Chloe Lederman and Savi Gellatly-Ladd take you through some current events update. They discuss Biden’s decision to revoke the permits for Keystone XL, the resistance against Enbridge’s line 3 pipeline, farmers protests in India, Ford’s temporary eviction ban and the struggle for more permanent solutions to the housing crisis, the fight to defund the police in Toronto by 50% and the campaign for paid sick leave. Follow the links in the resource section to take action and find out more. 

Finally, you don’t want to cut this episode short, the last section is an opportunity to learn a movement song with Savi and Chloe. Listen and feel free to sing along to People Gonna Rise Like The Water. 


Land Story Toolkit 

Temp Check 

@Resist_Line_3 on instagram and @ResistLine3 on twitter


@KeepYourRent and 

@SURJ_toronto and 

Climate Justice Toronto

@ClimateJusticeTO on Instagram

Climate Justice Toronto on Facebook 

@CJusticeTO on Twitter

Intro Music

Single Voice  0:08  

This is Climate Justice Radio

Alex  0:33  

Hi folks, and welcome to Climate Justice Radio, Climate Justice Toronto's brand new podcast. Climate Justice Toronto is a grassroots group of young people across the Greater Toronto Area committed to building a powerful, irresistible movement to stop the climate crisis by confronting its root causes, capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy. This is our very first Climate Justice Radio episode, which means you are our very first listeners. Welcome! What can you expect from Climate Justice Radio? This podcast will cover a wide range of issues connected to climate justice. Everything from how to get involved, like this episode will cover, to climate anxiety, and solidarities across movements. Our goal is to engage you, our climate justice radio listeners, in the co-creation of a climate justice movement that is playful, accessible, and intersectional. We'll be highlighting local stories of organizing, art-making and community building. I'm your host Alexandra Simpson for this episode. Before we get into today's episode, we want to mention that we are recording these interviews over zoom with our phones and the phones of our guests. So we apologize if the sound quality is a little questionable at times. We hope to remedy this in the future when we can meet in person with our guests once again. On today's episode, we're going to introduce you to CJTO by taking an in-depth look at our main principles, objectives, why these are important to climate justice, and how you can get involved with CJTO. Joining me today is CJTO member and organizer in the CJTO orientation group, Niklas Agarwal, did I say that correctly Niklas?

Niklas  2:16  

Yep. (Laughter)


Alex  2:17

Okay, great. Niklas, do you want to tell us your pronouns and maybe what you've been working on at CJTO?

Niklas  2:26  

Sure. So hi, everyone, my name is Niklas. I use he/him pronouns. I've been, I feel like, kind of, dabbling all over the place, but I think kind of my main homes are the structure, committee orientation, and also data-finance stuff.

Alex  2:42  

Cool. Well, before we get into what CJTO is all about, we want to begin with the land story and at CJTO, we have members prepare land stories at the beginning of our general meetings. And we'll be doing this today for Climate Justice Radio as well. So how we do land stories is different from the typical checkbox style land acknowledgments. CJTOs land stories aim to have members understand their history and relationship with the land, and encourage other members to reflect on how our work can support Indigenous folks in Tkaron:to as well. So Niklas has graciously agreed to do our land story for today. And Niklas, I'll pass it on to you.

Niklas  3:26  

Thanks, Alex. One other kind of preamble I actually want to say is that, I think it's kind of interesting, like, Alex, you and I are recording this over Zoom during the Covid 19 pandemic. And I think thinking about kind of the digital space as a way of also situating this because we are operating digitally and people will be, folks will be listening to this podcast on whatever device they use, but kind of thinking that stolen land is still kind of really incorporated with this in terms of the infrastructure required to really operate our meeting this recording, and that like servers and data centers and internet towers rely on exploited land and labor all around Turtle Island and beyond. And I think my own, my own specific migration story to this Turtle Island is quite complex in some ways. I'm mixed race of Indian and German descent. And so my dad is from the South Asian continent, specifically within the region of the Punjab and grew up in a city called Bombay or Mumbai as it as it's now known, and I was always kind of like really confused about why that happened. And it wasn't until I heard another scholar or an activist from the west coast named Harsha Walia speak about this, who talked about the Green Revolution and how that kind of came to India and and green revolution not in terms of environmentalism, but in terms of industrial agriculture. And I don't know really, I'm still learning a lot about that. But as kind of Western institutions such as like the IMF and other organizations like that brought agrarian technology to India, they really kind of like exploited the land and really kind of like, caused an ecological and economic disaster in specifically the Punjab region, which was like the breadbasket of the South Asian continent. And so that forced millions of Punjabis to immigrate, many to Canada, but also internally, internally within India. And so it's, it's interesting to me that, like, my, my ancestry is coming kind of like, from this diasporic origin, even within the continent, but like, that's kind of as much connection that my dad has to his history is like, Oh, yeah, we're the cover from this region. But what is like the history beyond that, there was another CJTO member who did a land story, a few, I don't know, a meeting a while ago, and she talked about how, like her family can trace their ancestry back to like, the kings in Ireland. And I just thought like, that was just incredible knowing being able to like have that record of your family because so much like for me, that is, like, just so unknown. And then when you kind of think about, like, why, like, why is that the way it is, a lot of it is due to actually the the colonization of India and the sub… the South Asian continent, by the British, and how kind of the partition of Punjab one after the Indian independence, really kind of separated families and lineage and kind of really broke like, ancestral knowledge. So like, I think, as an organizer with with Climate Justice Toronto, we really talk about, like Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity, and like those same like the British, and that same kind of idea of like, dividing land in drawing maps, drawing lines on a map in arbitrary ways was what what happened here as well. And so that's kind of one side of my life. And then, on the other side of my life, I come from... of European German descent, one really kind of heinous thing that came out of the world war two area was the eugenics program, which really sought a way to classify humans based on really arbitrary things like skull size, and kind of other kind of really false characteristics. And and then after World War Two, when the Nazis were defeated, you know, the eugenics program still has lived on and eugenics has gone all around the world and kind of have embedded themselves within institutions. And even a lot of the Nazis’ ideas around eugenics were inspired by the British and their actual experiments on Indigenous children in the residential school system. So just another link that is like just really horrific to think about, but it's within kind of my own identity. And so I have this interesting tension of being like part colonized but also part of the colonizers, but then also, like nuance to each of that, because, for example, my dad used to teach me how the British use the divide and conquer idea to kind of rule India and use that mentality. But then so much of that has actually been embodied within my own community, there's like a really kind of colonized thinking that happens where like colorism and then anti-Black racism is really prevailing in the indigenous community around your skin tone, and kind of your intelligence and also cast as part of that. And so, like my same father, who taught me about, like, how the British were so bad, and how they did divide and conquer is also a big fan of the current fascist in power in India, Modi, who is using like Hindu Muslim tension to really increase capitalist production within within the country. It really makes me think about how colonization is so embodied and kind of happens within communities and, and how kind of hurt and broken a lot of people are. And it's part of the reason why I'm an organizer is to really kind of like help change that and kind of build people's power, and so that kind of extends into my climate organizing, which is the main work that I do, which is to kind of like really peek behind the curtain of really the climate crisis and really kind of expose what is happening with that all being said around like my history, like this is how I come to this land I've grown up here my entire life. And I have really kind of found it a home and I think there's so much more to be unpacked, specifically around people of color, how a lot of us like have families who have like fled warfare or have like fled violence. And then we're like taught that Canada is a safe country where it's like meant for us to be here. This is like our chance for a new home and like we have to be really grateful to the state. And so a lot of that unpacking is to really hold that truth which is like yes, this is our new home, but also this is like really based on the exploitation of Indigenous and Black people. And so to end I want to list some of the nations that land I am currently occupying and kind of pay my respect to that. So I want to acknowledge and honor that Toronto or Tkaronto is on the territory of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Wendat, Mississauga of the of the Credit First Nation and many other nations recorded and unrecorded and recorded who have title and and have taken care of this land. So I want to acknowledge the current treaty holders and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the territory, this territory is subject to the dish with one spoon wampum belt covenant agreement, which is an agreement between the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee that binds them to peacefully share and care for the Great Lakes region. As settlers  we come to this land by way of Treaty 13, also known as the Toronto purchase between the crown and Mississauga, a very flawed and unfair treaty process. And so as a kind of final note, I just want to say that this is a reminder that we are all treaty people and we seek to uphold other covenants such as the two row wampum belt, and covenant chain agreements.

Alex  10:33  

Thank you so much, Niklas. That was, that was a fantastic land story and a really good reminder of how understanding our own complex histories can help us understand the complex, interwoven oppressions that still exist today, and I think is a really great reminder that we need to keep working and keep understanding these histories. So I think that was fantastic. Thank you so much. If folks are new and they're just maybe for the first time starting to think about their own land story. What might be a good place to start?

Niklas  11:01  

That's a great, great question. So we actually have a resource. So my first thing would be message us on Instagram to get that resource. But basically, you want to kind of really think about your own story of how you got to this land and really kind of, like, unpack it, because part of it is like part of honoring, like your truth and kind of acknowledging like who you are, and being open to that. Part of it is like protocol, like some Indigenous nations, like the proper protocol, when you are entering the new territory is to like, say, who you are, who your family members are, and kind of like that as well. And so those would be my two things. I think there's a lot of resources kind of coming out nowadays are kind of provoking this like rethinking of a land story. So look at people like Hayden King, people, like Eve Tuck for some additional things.

Alex  11:50  

That's great. So let's let's dive in now to what CJTO is all about. And I wonder if we can just start at a really basic explanation. What is CJTO?

Niklas  12:01  

CJTO is a youth movement dedicated to fighting the climate crisis by addressing its root causes of colonialism, capitalism in white supremacy

Alex  12:11  

And what are some of the ways that CJTO does that?

Niklas  12:15  

Yeah, so we do that through a variety of ways. And I think as our group has evolved, we've kind of tested different things and kind of have tried different things. And really, I would say, are really kind of still trying to figure out like, what exactly our theory of change is, I think it really kind of depends on the current political moment, and what is important. But I think kind of encompassing all of it is the idea of creating a mass movement, the idea is that we're just not, we don't want to just be a group of 10 people, we want to be something that is really attracting a lot of people to our community, and is really kind of creating like a mass change. And kind of really, through a decentralized approach that means you can start your own join us and you start your own thing. And you do if there's energy, you can start organizing around it, as long as it kind of aligned aligns with us politically. But you know, we've done things around the 2019 federal election, running candidates that we thought had a chance to really kind of make a difference and adopt the platform of a green New Deal. We held as part of that we held a sit in at the CBC and and held protests that other broadcasters demanding a debate on the climate crisis in the federal election. Several times we did that. We have... we did solidarity action for indigenous folks, so for the Wet'suwet'en crisis that was happening... that is still ongoing, but was really escalating this time last year. And we've also recently been doing a lot of mutual aid and fundraising. And so over the summer, I think we've raised around $30,000, for different initiatives, such as a frontline gratitude fund, and then also a Black and Indigenous solidarity fund. As, like, as a group of people who have... you know, to be frank, a lot of us... this is not necessarily who we want to be, but the reality is a lot of us are people who have gone through the formal education system. And a lot of us do have like, we ourselves, or we may have connections to people who have monetary resources that are like actually... can be able to redistribute some of their wealth. And so, so that's kind of what we have been focusing on, especially during COVID, as we haven't been able to organize in person as much. But, you know, like I said, it's I think, really, the movement is really kind of like up to you and think depending on what the current ideas are interested in and kind of who's in it, the group kind of really evolved to kind of meet those ideas.

Alex  14:31  

That's great. And I think that's something that's so true is it really does feel like CJTO is constantly evolving and, and reacting is maybe a bad word, but bringing itself to issues that are in the moment and need to be addressed. And then the other thing I want to bring up is you said that CJTO is a youth led movement. And I'm wondering if you could speak about the importance of a youth led climate justice organization.

Niklas  14:57  

This is great and one of my favorite questions. I'm really happy you asked me that. When you think of it very superficially, it can, it can be seem like oddly disclusionary (sic). Like why like, why is it youth lead? Like even as a young person you're like, like, I thought we're trying to carry mass movement here, like, why are we just young people? Like, shouldn't we really kind of be focusing on like, everyone. I was actually talking about this recently, with Upping the Anti. There's, there's an article coming out soon with a few CJTO members who are interviewed there as well. But I think there's kind of two reasons why we really kind of make that distinction. One is for a strategic move. And this is something actually, to be honest, I don't think was super strategic in the beginning. But it's something as I've learned more about organizing, I've reflected on that's actually very strategic. And it's the idea that young people actually have been at the forefront of social movements for most of history and revolutions. And I think there's someone on Instagram, and slash in real life, who's a who's who's a friend of a friend of mine, and really kind of comrade of CJTO’s Cricket Guest. And she posted recently on her Instagram about how the Black Panther movement, like how Angela Davis and all these people were like, in their early 20s was the one this is happening. And I think that really was just like, Whoa, like, yeah, like young people are, are the ones kind of being these kind of leaders, leaders of the movement. And even as a young person, I didn't even know that and that was like that, that was really inspiring even to me. So I think there's there's kind of like that aspect of it, as well as that we are often the kind of temperature check of like, of where society is moving. Another kind of aspect of the strategic point of that is that we also as kind of the cousin youthful faces and youthful personalities, the society really, values youth. And so like when a bunch of youth make trouble, you often get headlines, you often get attention, because it's like, it really kind of plays into like something that I think Western society is really into, maybe like not for good reasons. Like maybe like we should really embrace all age, but like young people are really valued and seen as kind of like pure and kind of naive and so to be taken a stand a strong standard, really kind of like I think, buckles the establishment a little and they get kind of shaken up when that happens. And then the other kind of side behind strategy is that I think that as, as people, when the original kind of founders of CJTO we're kind of people, including myself, who maybe had have dabbled in kind of some environmental work or some other kind of activism work and found that spaces that we had been in before that were not always the most welcome to younger voices, and kind of were dismissive or kind of hostile or kind of, or even really unorganized. I think there is kind of something about being organized that was that, I find that CJTO is quite good at. I think just like basic things like Google drives and these kind of things. And so part of it was kind of this kind of like wanting to create a space where we could really feel like we could be heard and really could organize to like our strongest potential. And then the main part of it is really the strategic elements of our youthfulness.

Alex  18:04  

That's great. That's so so many great points in there. Yeah. And it definitely is a very particular space. Like if you ever come to a CJTO meeting, there's just such a respectful environment that's created by everyone in there and really just being very conscious and aware of the amount of space you're taking up and and making sure that the mic is being shared. And I think it is a very, you know, particular to CJTO that that environment’s being created quite well.

Niklas  18:32  

Totally. And I really don't want to hate on older people, because I think there's like so much to learn and like we really do need everyone in this. But yeah, like how many times as you as a young person have been in a meeting and you're like trying to talk and an older person is like just dominating the conversation and you can't get a single word and you just like kind of leave feeling really weird about that. And I think you really nailed it was like we wanted to really create a space that was like, welcoming and everyone got a chance to speak, because it's it feels really almost like demoralizing to be there.

Alex  19:04  

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to ask you if you could talk about some of CJTO’s main principles, and maybe talk a little bit about why they're important or what CJTO is thinking about at this moment in terms of principles?

Niklas  19:21  

Sure, that's a great question. And I'm really happy you brought that up because I think that, something I think about alot, like with one of my friends Cricket is that CJTO, especially, I think, during the pandemic has been really digital focused. And kind of, I think there is this thing that can maybe come across that like we are like this, like glamorous, 100% put together organization and like, I think there's like a danger to that because there's like so much expectations that get put onto it. It's like, hey, actually, we're still really figuring things out. And so I think actually, the principles is a really good question where it's like, Yeah, that's a great question, what our principles, I have some ideas, but we actually are in the process of really kind of formalizing those and kind of naming them. And it's so important because like, how are you going to bring someone to a new movement and be like, Hey, would you like to do his work for work with us? But we don't really have principles that align us, right. So it was one of the first gaps that was cut, we kind of as we, as our evolution of our group, we like started, what's the saying, we started looking at like all guns blazing like it just like, went going. And then kind of around October, November 9 2019, it was like, maybe we should try to build some of this, this kind of like identity that we have. And so the principles have kind of been a work in progress. And I think that as we've been really focused on our structure, and their structure processes is kind of coming to a hopeful close within the next few months. And I think then, hopefully, the principles, we will to really kind of focus on that because I think that is a really critical point. But that is not to say we're principle-less, I definitely have some things I can talk about. So one I think is some political principles are really important is number one, like Indigenous solidarity. I think that Indigenous folks are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. They're the ones who were actually really doing a lot of the grassroots front work, standing up to this Canadian, Canadian state and corporations to name a few like Wet’suwet’en, Tiny House Warriors, 1482 Land Back Lane, Mi'kmaq war.. resistance out east. And this is not even Canada wide this is like globally right. And so if we're really gonna be fighting for climate justice, it needs to fight for Indigenous solid... Indigenous sovereignty and rights and control of the land. And so that is why I think that's a really grounding principle. Another one, I'd say that, to be honest, was something that came later for CJTO and has been something that really was, was a really big learning moment. And kind of something that kind of made us really have to reflect was, is the principle around abolition and and... sorry let me just rephrase this quickly. Our principle is abolition and also, we are anti anti-Black racism, because I think that we're anti-racist is fine. But we also want to name that we're specifically trying to denounce like anti-Black racism. And I think that as like something that folks can look to CJTO did a really great post about why we're abolitionists on our Instagram. It's quite beautiful. And I can't I can't really go into all the details of it right now. But essentially, this idea that like the carceral state, like the state that imprisons people, it also lit... quite literally imprisons our imagination in prisons, the earth, in prisons, so many things and really controls control so much. So after the society that really to like have climate justice means an end to all prisons as well. And so I think that is a kind of a new principle that we've really been focusing on. And then it feels a few other kind of things are principles around Migrant Justice. So supporting the end of all borders, supporting free movement of people. You know, the climate crisis disproportionately affects people in the global south, so how is it fair to then say, Sorry, you can't come to Canada, you can't have access to jobs here. Like there's a lot of injustice in that Disability Justice. This is also something that hasn't really been kind of provoked by members within CDA to, in really grateful for that the idea that you're organizing needs to really match match the pace of disabled folks and kind of folks of all different abilities, because how are you going to create a society that leaves people behind, and another way. And then obviously, being an anti capitalist is a really, really huge and important one. And sorry, I could talk forever. I think a few kind of ones that are like beyond politics, but are also quite political is actually the idea of like, a future beyond survival. And this idea that like, we can actually have a society that is beautiful and healing and can be good for us. I think that's why we really kind of like sing in our meetings and have like, and try to make them fun and make the organizing fun. Because when you're doing this work, when you're like anti this anti that anti that it can be quite draining, right. You're constantly fighting. And so if we ourselves are not creating an environment that feels uplifting, then what's the point of that work? Because we want to move eventually into a society that is happy, and that is good for... good for people. And so I think we try to embody that within our own organising.

Alex  24:16  

Yeah, yeah, that's such a good point. And it's so important to know what you're against, but also know what you're working for. And I think that you, as you said, kind of helps keep the momentum going, and prevents burnout from people. I wonder if you could speak to… so you know, climate justice is in the name. And so you've already kind of touched on a little bit, but why why do you think it's important for climate justice activists to also think about things like racial justice, abolition, worker rights, Disability Justice, why are these things important as well? 

Niklas  24:49  

It's a big question but I don't think I'll ever get tired of answering it right. Because I think it's it's so important. And there's like so many different ways you could approach this but one thing that I've really I've really personally been interested in unions lately in the labor movement? That's kind of a field of interest of my own, just because I think it's quite misunderstood on the left, especially for environmentalists. But, you know, in unions, they often say things like, a harm against one worker is a harm against all, you know, solid solidarity forever. Because it's very true. Like the idea that you're harming one worker means that you've harmed the entire union. And so I think when you think about like, why should why is it important to talk about racism? Why is it important to talk about migrants? Why is it talk? Why is it important to talk about abolition? Why is it important talk about workers? It's because literally, a harm against one is a harm against all like, we're all battling these same economic, political, social systems. And so if we are united in our causes, we are actually building our power, like, as strong as it can be, right? Because that means like, if I'm showing up for labor, that means that when lab…  when I'm in trouble, labor will be showing up for me. And I think that is kind of stuff from like a strategic point. It's very important in that way. And then another part of it is kind of like this understanding climate change as like an actual issue. Because it's not it's not very a clear issue. Like, for example, environmental issues of the past. And Naomi Klein talks a lot about this like, like for instance like the ozone layer, like how that was a quite like unified, like, Ban aerosol, Ban aerosol, some un maneuvering, and like that was kind of done. I know, it's still an issue. I know, I don't really know. But the climate change is such like a interconnected issue, right? It's like the causes are diverse, the effects are diverse. And so you really see climate change embedded in everything. Climate change is a racist thing. It is caused by people who are predominantly from the global north who are European or European descent, it affects predominately black and brown people all around the world. It is a capitalist capitalist issue, because it is like, caused by the economic system that knows no end and that exploits people. It is a migrant issue, because migrants are the ones who are dispersed by capitalism, and then are then forced to like work, work for industries that cause climate change. It's an abolition issue, because people in prisons are dying, because they don't have air condition, because it's like too hot in the prison. And because the same those are like very specific things. And then kind of on a theoretical level, it's this like, same idea unites them, all of people being disposable, people being the planet being disposable. It's all very, very connected. And so that's why it's climate justice as a principle is incredibly important.

Alex  27:36  

That's so great. Yeah, thank you for taking us through that because it's so important to make those connections in movement building and for folks to understand. So my next question for you is, what are some examples of successful activism that CJTO has worked with, or supported, or done in the past?

Niklas  27:56  

One of the earliest things we did, which I'm really proud of was something called the summer convergence, which isn't necessarily activism in the sense of like, an, like a direct action or like a rally or something that we were doing, it was our second kind of really big gathering. And we kind of really modeled it off of a conference that a lot of us had met, had met and kind of wanted to do like a mini version of that. So really kind of focusing on attracting like a wide audience to it, than having like, learning games, trainings as part of it, and then really building people's capacity as organizers. And we held it in Christie pits. And I believe it was July, July 2019. And when I look, when I look back at that event, I am kind of like shocked that we organized it because so many of us like, it was also just like a really, really busy month like me, like a bunch of us had traveled during that month. And we're like we went to we went to a training. But it was like such an amazing event. I think we got around 30 people out on the go a week on a Saturday at Christie pits. And it was a lot of people's first time introduction to CJTO and actually, I can see a lot of people who are like really active CJTO members now or kind of were in the past year. That was like how they got involved. Like they came they came to that it was just so wild. We we played some really silly games. We wanted to have a presentation by this photographer who photographed Indigenous firefighters in Northern Ontario and kind of the realities they face of fighting like increased wildfires due to climate change, but it's but then at the same time being... their departments being extremely underfunded by the federal government I guess. And just kind of like that, that kind of combination when we talk about the climate crisis and kind of thinking of it more more kind of broadly and and how it really impact communities and we were like okay, like how do we have a presentation where we showcase people's pictures outside. And so we like ended up at Christie pits there's like the pool and underneath the pool there's like all these like storage lockers that are not really publicly accessible but one of our members had the key and we like, showed it in this bunker and we like all like paraded around Christie pits from like the picnic bench into the bunker and just like, looked at these presentations. And then afterwards, we like came back out and it just started like torrential downpour in on us. And we like all went under the pavilion and Christie pits and like, did a canvassing training. And as like the waters were literally like flooding in Christie Pits because it's like a dome. The water is braked for a second. And then everyone went out and like canvassed around the park and it like stormed again, everyone's like, came back. And then we were supposed to do like an outdoor barbecue there. But then because it was just like such horrible weather, I live kind of close by, and we just kind of all did like a little caravan to my house kind of carrying all our supplies, and had a really nice backyard barbecue. And I think that it was such a community building moment. And I think a lot of that kind of friendships and kind of strong bonds were built then. And so I think when we talk about like activism, like so much of it is about actually the connections you have to other activists and organizers. And so I think for me, that was such a successful event, because I feel like our community kind of really came together on that day. I think the other kind of really incredible organizing to happen was this past January with the Wet’suwet’en solidarity actions, I... To be honest, I wasn't really involved with them. So I can't I can't really talk a lot about it. But I just know that CJTO like having built our capacity during the federal election and in kind of during the September 27 climate strike, it was really well positioned in preparing like we knew that would so it was probably gonna escalate again, as a guardian article came out about how the RCMP was like licensed, like was prepared to like kill land defenders. And so in December, we had started preparing, like we had started making some like posters and had started planning for some direct actions and then we're kind of waiting for when the call will go out. And then, literally, CJTO started, we did like a sit in, I think at Chrystia Freeland office first. And then we did disruption of the RBC headquarters. When we started at Chrystia Freeland, there was zero media tender, there was like nothing at all, in the national discourse. And then, by the time that the Rail Blockades started, enough support had started to be built up, that it just like, took off across Canada and just really blew up everywhere. And then I think, CJTO’s kind of, the biggest action was when we did Carolyn Bennett's constituency office occupation overnight with the young Indigenous land defenders. Were you there?

Alex  32:50  

I was, yeah, I was there for the first few hours.

Niklas  32:54  

Oh, that's amazing. Like, I wasn't even there. I was, I was actually traveling at the time. And, yeah, maybe you would, you could talk more about like the energy but from like, the pictures, and when I heard about it, it was just super electrifying, super powerful. And I think it's kind of different, because, like, we were not actually looking to have like a meeting with with Carolyn Bennett. Like we knew what she would say. But it was mostly about kind of making a statement and kind of really putting pressure on the government. And so just like all the trolling that was happening to the to the government during that time, and kind of like, there's like a really great TikTok on our account, if you've ever seen it. And so I think that is just like another really incredible, incredible action. And so, yeah, I think looking looking at it kind of like that, when I first talked about which was like, very, like, building community and this one are very, really powerful. And kind of how when you build that community and build that capacity, organizing becomes really easy.

Alex  33:46  

Yeah, that's such a good point. Yeah, it's really important to have that community love there. And the kind of know that you have comrades before you kind of start doing these these actions and had the capacity to do that. And there's definitely this wide range of actions that CJTOs undertaking like political education, awareness building, and then to the more kind of direct action activities as well. And I'm curious, because all this this is the things you were talking about are fairly recent. And then of course, with COVID-19, organizing has had to go online. So it might be interesting for folks to know what online organizing has been like and where CJTO is heading with their online organizing at this point.

Niklas  34:30  

CJTO launched, I think, like three different fundraisers that have raised 10s of 1000s of dollars, I think around $30,000, there was the Frontline Gratitude Fund, which distributed funds to frontline workers, there was the Black and Indigenous Solidarity Fund that redistributed money to help pay for rent and kind of other essential things to Black and Indigenous folks across Toronto, and was putting priority on on our, on those of our membership as well. And then I think we've also done a few different kind of other things. As well, I think that's kind of in the direction that a lot of that organizing has taken place. Because it's, it's a little bit more easier to do than say organizing a rally. It's a lot of digital organizing, which I think has been incredibly strong. Like, I think you're the Digi-comms meeting team. And I went to one meeting, I was like, well, wow, there's so many people here. And they're so excited. And there's like, so many projects on the work right now. And I think that is kind of one area in it. And this is somewhere where I think it's quite challenging. Like, I don't think it's easy to be like, Oh, yeah, we'll just do digital was like, you know, switching to digital organizing. I think, I think it was quite a challenge, and is still quite a challenge. And I would actually, I would say that we still have a lot to kind of like learn and kind of grapple with a lot of kind of institution building. Yeah, like, I've been reading so many documents on like, organizational structure, like that's like all I could have been thinking about and also like orientation and stuff like that. So it's a lot of kind of, like behind the behind the scenes work.

Alex  35:52  

Yeah, almost like a nice time to like, focus on those things, which might be hard to otherwise and of course, so important to move money around where it needs to be. So fundraising is also so wonderful.

Niklas  36:07  

And I definitely don't want to like romanticize the pandemic, but it did give us a time to be like, okay, like, this is actually like, we're being forced like this, like a sign from above and we’re being forced to really stop and think about origin, because it was getting to a point where it was really kind of burning people out, and has kind of made us really have to like slow down.

Alex  36:24  

Yeah, great points. And if someone's listening today, and they're thinking, Oh, man, CJTO is so cool, I want to get involved, how would they do that?

Niklas  36:35  

Get out, get onto our slack page, our Slack, essentially. So if you go to any of our social medias, you'll find a link tree linked, and on there, you'll find our email list. And when you sign up for email, you'll get an auto generated email that will send you a link to get onto our slack page. And from there, you'll be able to, you'll be able to find what meetings are happening and kind of what actions are taking place, keep one eye on slack. And then also, of course, follow our social media, because I think that's where a lot of amazing resources are being posted right now.

Alex  37:04  

Yeah. And I was wondering if you can maybe mention there's different pods in CJTO that you can become a part of, I was wondering if maybe you could just list off a few that folks could get involved in depending on your area.

Niklas  37:17  

Yeah, I think some of the main, the main kind of focused... focus areas right now is so is Digi-comms. And so digital communications. And within that you can work on a podcast like this, you can work on our blog, you can work on a newsletter, you can work on our social media, you can work on our website, you could also then join our action safety channel, which is really focused on how to make actions more safe in Toronto, and then also also how to show up for kind of actions and kind of offer our support, you can join our community care team, which is all about making making CJTO a safer place for all types of people. And so it does work around like community building, but then also kind of confronting disability injustice and fighting anti-Black racism within our own organization. And there's also the CJTO orientation group, which is working to build an orientation for new members to CJTO. And there's also, of course, the structure team, which I'm mostly part of, which is really focused on that internal structure building. And then lastly would be out finance and data and admin team which is always looking for new people because it’s always a bit challenging as people who are… like a lot of us are managing systems we’ve never managed before so it’s learning a little on the fly so if you have experience budgeting or if you have an understanding of how back end data systems work people are always needed there. People are always like, Oh, I don't know how to get involved. I don't know if I really have the skills. And really there's a place for everyone. Like, there is something for everyone to do and if you feel that there isn't created, like suggest it, and I'm sure other people would want to join you in doing that. Like I think, see, CJTO is kind of like a group where it's kind of you make what you want to do. And so there's enough interest, like a new kind of project and start

Alex  39:03  

Cool. That's amazing. Thank you so much and and I wanted to end with a question to hear how you got involved with CJTO and and how are you we're, I guess what were your journey to activism was and maybe we can inspire some folks to join us in CJTO.

Niklas  39:20  

So I've always been like that environmental kid, like from such a young age at grade four, I think I was always kind of that one that cared about the environment or like from like watching An Inconvenient Truth from a young age. It was the kind of something that really inspired me. And then I went to this really amazing conference in 2012 when I was 17, which was called Power Shift 2012. And it was kind of the first time I thought I was being taught about thinking about climate change as an issue of like social injustice. how far we've come as a society since then. That like that was like revolutionary in 2012. Right? But that was it was mind blowing for me to think about like how Indigenous rights were at the forefront of the climate crisis and like hearing about hearing from people who lived in Alberta and the tar sands, and at that same time that I was 17, Idle No More happened. And so I remember I was like, I'm like 17 I like don't know much I go to this conference with a few of my friends like we like, on this like school bus together, we go there. We like ditch school for a week to go to this conference. And then I come back and like, Idle No More's happening. And there's like round dances happening across Canada, in the city, in the Eaton center. I don't know anyone who does activism, I just know myself. And so I like shyly go by myself and kind of go to go take part and around dance. And I remember I met Naomi Klein there at one of those round dances. And just and it was just like, Oh my gosh, like I'm such a bit. I'm such a big fan. Idle No More really shifted the landscape in Canada for Indigenous rights, where I think I think a lot has…  a lot happened out of that. And so from there, I kind of went to university and kind of got caught, I feel like I kind of got caught up in the university, like sustainability bubble or in the sense of like, just kind of doing things that really tinkered around the problems, I was still pretty new. So I was kind of like, just do what is available to looking kind of retro actively back on you. I think, I think well, why did the work that I did, and I think a lot of it is because of the community and like the the group that I that I was part of which I really loved, which maybe wasn't doing the most life changing work, but was a super strong community that had potlucks and that people were really kind and we played games together. I feel like I made like, like my own personal learning was really prioritized. And so the community I think, is what really stuck stuck me there. And I think thinking back back on it, I think that's why organizing has to be so much about relationships and relational organizing, because that is actually what keeps people coming back, right? I guess, is the community, not necessarily the politics of it. And so I had this I saw, I mentioned I stopped doing that. I was like, oh, because I was really really unsatisfied from the work. And I was like, okay, like, what am I like, what am I doing? I was kind of like, unsure. And then I remember, it was I think, yeah, the summer of 2018. When I was sitting in my apartment, I was living in Vancouver at the time where I was going to school. And Justin Trudeau came on the news and announced that the Canadian government was purchasing the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the trans mountain pipeline extension, and would be like, sinking our public funding into it. And I remember just sitting there completely enraged, and in shock and just like sitting in look, looking out to the mountains and just that kind of landscape. And just feeling this like fire, like consume my entire body. It's like feeling really hot and just be like, How is this even possible? I was part of that generation in 2015 that was like our first time voting, we voted for the liberals because we had like been told that he would.. that they were going to do something, we had grown up under Stephen Harper and seeing like the horrors of conservatism. And so it was just a total slap in the face to me and in total kind of like enraging moment. And from then on, I knew that I needed to do something. And I think it was I mean, sometimes people want to tell like stories of like origins, they like a lot to be done, let us see. And then I did the thing. And then this thing happened. But I think a lot of is kind of like circles because like I had this really like enraging moment. And then I went on vacation, and then I came back, I moved back to Toronto and was kind of like lost again and didn't know what to do. And it's kind of just like, confused. And I was kind of felt like my momentum was really kind of, like depleted then. But then I went to a conference that was also called Power Shift. But this time we run by a different organization, and it was focused solely on young people. So Power Shift: Young and Rising. And that happened in the winter of 2019. And that is really where the seeds of CTO were, were planted. A lot of us met each other there or kind of were connected to each other there. And it was a super energetic moment. The green new deal was really talked about, you know, uniting these struggles in the climate movement were really talked about and I remember coming back and being like, okay, like this, I need to do something and I just like emails that list of people I had and be like, hey, like, does anyone want to meet? Like I feel like the NDP was in town to do like a town hall and was like I really feel like we should go bird dog this this town hall and like tell Jagmeet Singh that we really need a Green New Deal. And then like two people replied to me on that email, and then I was like, okay, that's like two more than people than ever before. And so then we met up and then we did this action and it was like Wow, that was so easy. Like he just responded to us and said that Yeah, they would do a Green New Deal like what like how is it that easy? Then we connected with people who are doing Fight for 15 and Fairness work who would who would who are doing the work within the climate caucus there to try to try to really bring decent work and the climate movement together and it was just like this incredibly energizing moment it was like this like it felt like in a global context climate was really talked about like with Greta and then AOC in the south, and like in South In South America, there was like the Chilean protests, and in Hong Kong, like the protest, like there was just like, I feel like a really big buzz of like activism in the world at that time. And so I really remember like a March, April, May of that of 2019 as being so exciting and just like, going to all these events and meeting young people being like, Hey, we should do things and then CJTO, we weren't even CJTO, we were just kind of like this, like whatsapp group, we were kind of meeting once a month, kind of like to test the waters of what we wanted to do. And then from that, CJTO was born and we did stuff in the election and then did stuff for Wet’suwet’en And that's kind of how I landed to where, where, where I am today. And I think that what really kind of like, the overall message for me was that like, anyone can organize like, literally, you just need, I think two other people like if you have three people, you can do something. And like we are stronger together and your power builds as you as you as you get more people and you can do bigger actions and kind of more targeted actions. There's all these organizing theories and books and whatever, but you can learn them as you go. I think it's really the passion, the drive, and the intention to do good in this world that I think it was really all you need to organize.

Alex  46:13  

That's such a great message to leave this off of anyone can organize, just in finding your place in the movement. And there's there's places everywhere for you know, whatever you have to offer. That's so great. And I'm glad we also got to hear the origin story of CJTO by asking you how you got involved (Laughing) so it was a double win. That's, that's great. Thank, Thank you so much, Niklas, for being on our first episode of CJTO radio. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Niklas  46:45  

No, yeah, I think this is, this is an incredible experience. I think there's so many so many great organizers, within within CJTO that I've met that have really taught me so much. I remember so this quote before there was like, You don't just like educate people and hope they get organized. It's like you actually learn by organizing by actually doing the work. That's when you like, learn about different I different politics and why migrants are migrant rights are really important. And like, I think if you just like talk at someone, you're not really gonna learn much, but it's about getting someone doing an action together, debriefing it talking about how it could be better talk about how have you considered this Have you thought about this kind of analysis and really building that capacity to see capacity together, through like, mutual respect of another person be like, just because you don't know this thing doesn't mean that you're less of a human, it means that you're just not there yet. And then together, I'm committed to take you on this journey. And we're going to learn together and I think that is so much about what organizing is.

Alex  47:44  

Thanks. That's such a great place to leave it off today. And and thanks, Niklas. I'm sure we'll have you back on here sometime.

Niklas  47:53  

Thanks, Alex. And thanks everyone who's who's organizing this I'm excited to listen to the rest of the episode and kind of see what is talked about beyond beyond just my voice.

Alex  48:02  

Nothing Nothing. Beyond your voice.

Musical Interlude

Chloe L  48:11  

Welcome to our segment called

Savi and Chloe 48:13

Temp check. 

Savi 48:16

This is where we'll give you the rundown of current events in our community, powerful movements around the world, and a different call to action each episode for our listeners to participate. 

Chloe 48:28

February news, Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Leaving oil lover Justin Trudeau very disappointed. The cancellation of this pipeline needs to be the first of many. We hope that a Green New Deal is next on the list of climate action priorities.

Savi GL  48:45  

Meanwhile, Enbridge’s line three pipeline is being built across Anishnaabe land in so-called Minnesota. The building of this pipeline is a threat to the land, water and the health, safety and sovereignty of indigenous nations. Check out @resist_line_three on Instagram for more updates.

Chloe L  49:08  

And Billy India, the largest organized strike in history is taking place as over 250 million farmers and workers protest Modi's right wing government's new agricultural laws that will prioritize agricultural business and strip away crucial protections for farmers. We need protections for workers now. Check out @Justice4 (as in the number) Indian FarmersTO on Instagram for more information and updates.

Savi GL  49:36  

On January 14, the Ontario government issued a temporary eviction ban, which only lasted two weeks and still allowed for eviction orders to be issued. This is unacceptable and we need affordable and emergency housing, rent forgiveness and for evictions to be taken off the table completely during COVID-19. Checkout @Keep Your Rent on Instagram for more updates.

Chloe L  50:02  

We're calling on John Tory to defund the police by 50% and invest in community support and services. Sign the open letter at That's, and keep updated with @SURJ_Toronto on Instagram.

Savi GL  50:22  

Our call to action this week is to advocate for paid sick days. At any time, and especially during a pandemic, workers need to have protections and livable wages. Let's make sure politicians hear our voices on the streets and online to bring back this crucial protection without any more delay. If you haven't yet, please take a moment now to sign the petition at This petition gets sent electronically to your local provincial leader and Prime Minister Trudeau. 

Chloe L  51:00  

And on May 21, wherever you are, whenever you can, speak out for paid sick days. We'll be sharing the actions of 15 and Fairness supporters like yourself throughout the day on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So follow and post with the hashtag paid sick leave saves lives to be a part of this important conversation. More information on how you can participate can be found on I think it's time to sing.

Savi GL  51:27  

Music and songs have been a crucial tool to help build power within social movements throughout history.

Chloe L  51:34  

So every episode will be teaching a powerful song that's used to unite movements and to inspire the masses. Today song is:

Savi GL  51:43  

People Gonna Rise Like The Water.

Chloe L  51:45  

Will you sing it with me? 

Savi GL  51:47  


Chloe L  51:48  

All right, let's go line by line. The people gonna rise like the water. We're gonna calm this crisis down, your turn. 

Savi GL  51:58  

The people gonna rise like the water. We're gonna calm this crisis down. 

Chloe L  52:04  

Nice. I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground, your turn.

Savi GL  52:13  

I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground,

Chloe L  52:21  

Killing it. Now I do the same thing again. The people gonna rise like the water. We're gonna calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground together. 

Together  52:37  

The people gonna rise like the water, we're gonna calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground. 

Chloe L  52:51  

Amazing job. 

Savi GL 52:53

Now you know a powerful tune you can teach your family friends or even bring to your next zoom meeting. 

Chloe L 53:00

Thanks for singing with us. We'll see you next time. 

Musical Interlude, Singing  53:02  

The people have gonna rise like the water. So we're gonna calm this crisis down. I hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground. The people gonna rise like the water. We're gonna calm this crisis down. hear the voice of my great granddaughter saying keep it in the ground

Alex  53:41  

Climate Justice Radio is produced by Climate Justice Toronto. This episode featured original music by Stephen Hegerat, editing by Bella Lyne and Stephen Hegerat. The host for today's episode was Alexandra Simpson with special guests Niklas Agarwal, news content and sing along by Chloe Lederman, and Savi Gellatly-Ladd you can find us on Twitter at  CJusticeTO on Instagram at Climate JusticeTO and on Facebook at Climate Justice TO you can also sign up to join Climate Justice Toronto on action network. That's CJTO you can also find all these links in the description below. Thanks for listening folks. Remember to hit that subscribe button for more great Climate Justice Radio Episodes. Yours, in solidarity CJTO. 

Interview with Niklas Agarwal
Temp Check