There’s one thing that Diana Boston, a survivor of British Columbia’s atmospheric river floods, wants from oil and gas executives cashing in on record profits amid record temperatures.

“Come and watch the raw footage of a flood rushing through your house or their house burning down,” the Merritt resident told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

“I would like them to watch that, hear the terror in my voice when the cops and sirens are going in the streets, and you have to leave, and you have to leave now.”

On Thursday, oil and gas executives were summoned to the House of Commons environment committee to testify on emission reduction efforts and historic profits. Ahead of the committee hearing, Climate Action Network organized a press conference for climate survivors to speak. Industry executives appeared virtually for the committee.

“I’m not shocked they’re not here,” Boston said of oil and gas leadership, who didn’t travel to Ottawa for the meeting. “They’re scared to see how they’re ruining this country, this world.”

The survivors included Heather Mackay, a mother and grandmother who lost her home last summer in Kelowna; Darryl Tedjuk, a resident of Tuktoyaktuk, a fishing village threatened by rising sea levels; Meghan Fandrich, a resident of Lytton who lived through the 2021 fire; and Clémence Briand-Racine, an organic farmer from the Outaouais region struggling with extreme weather events and heat waves.

Many of the survivors spoke of the grief and sense of loss they faced after a disaster. Mackay and Fandrich discussed the loss of community and personal possessions that carry memories and meaning. Boston’s family lost photos and antiques from her grandmother, which were swept away by the 2021 floods. Tadjuk mourned the future loss of his home, which scientists estimate will be underwater in 50 years. He grieves for his future grandchildren and wonders if they will be relocated, broken off from the communal memories anchored to the land.

It’s why the group of survivors were calling on legislators to act on lowering emissions. They all champion urgency toward a proposed emissions cap.

“Climate change isn’t an abstract concept,” Fandrich said. “It isn’t something that will affect us one day. It’s affecting us today. It’s affecting my daughter who is still afraid of fire.”

“Come and watch the raw footage of a flood rushing through your house or their house burning down,” the Merritt resident told reporters at a press conference on Thursday.

Fandrich said she used to have a different understanding of climate disasters. She thought it would be scary to live through them, but on the other side of devastation, there would be a rebuild and a return to normalcy.

“I thought in the back of my mind when you heard a big headline [about climate disasters]: ‘That’s it right? They’ll be fine,’” she said.

Now, Fandrich speaks directly to her lingering trauma and worries about others as climate disasters become more frequent. She is fearful for her daughter, who has lived a third of her life “in a burnt-up town.” She wonders, “what’s going to happen to the generations after?”

It’s why Fandrich calls on members of Parliament to act and speak with Canadians who have lived through the trauma of climate devastation and still carry that trauma long after the event.

“I don't expect the policymakers to have thought about [climate survival], except that they need to fix it,” she said. “It’s their job to connect with Canadians.”

Environmental Defence action held on Thursday prior to testimonies from oil and gas exectuvies. Photo submitted

Canada is the first country to introduce an emissions cap policy, although concerns remain about further delays or details in its design. There are also worries that a forthcoming election may derail it.

Over the past year, oil and gas lobby groups have pushed the federal government to either weaken or abandon its plan to cap oil and gas sector emissions.

“What we’re asking the government to do now is to put all their effort possible to ensure that the cap is… implemented ahead of the next election,” said Alex Cool-Fergus, national policy manager at Climate Action Network, pointing to the fact that another government could undo any such plans if they are elected.

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre has kept radio silence on climate policy, save for his call to axe Ottawa’s carbon pricing.

— with files from Natasha Bulowski and John Woodside

Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

Keep reading