Teen climate action activist refuses to cave to cyber bullies

Extinction Rebellion activists demonstrate on Halifax bridge

CYBERBULLYING ISN’T ABOUT TO STOP KYRA GILBERT. Not even when it comes to death threats.

The 17-year-old Indigenous woman says the death threat that came among a recent barrage of insults, taunts, racial slurs and other threats aimed at her on the internet will not frighten her off. “I’m a young woman who fights for my community, for the water, and for your future,” she says. “And I’m not going to stop.”

Kyra was part of the October 9 Extinction Rebellion climate action that blocked all traffic on the Macdonald Bridge across Halifax harbour. Kyra was targetted by internet trolls after a video was posted online that showed her arguing with a woman angry about not being able to cross the bridge.

Kyra and others pointed out the total shut down of the bridge was carried out by the police—not the protestors. But the discussion with the woman turned into a shouting match. After a snippet of that got posted online the cyber abuse and bullying started.

Not really about me

Kyra says the video gives no sense of the whole situation. “But I also know this isn’t just about the video,” she says. “And it’s not even really about me. People need to take anger out on someone, and as a young Indigenous girl I think I represent things that they feel angry about.

“But I’m not just a video, or a meme, or a story on the internet. I’m an Indigenous girl who fights to protect the water.”

Kyra says her activism started when she was 16 and her mother and aunt got arrested for blocking access to a proposed Alton Gas extraction project on the Shubenacadie River near Stewiacke, NS. She says after what they did she felt like “I had more of a job to do as a youth.”

Media interview sparks confrontation

Kyra says she was on the bridge for about an hour when she was drawn to a loud exchange swirling around a woman telling a reporter how the protest would make her late for work. Some protestors spoke up to challenge her.

The posted video starts as Kyra joins the debate. “I asked her why she stopped for an interview, if she was going to be late,” says Kyra. “And because I was frustrated I said some things out of anger, and I have to live with those words.

“I have learned my lessons. There are things I wish I hadn’t said in the heat of that moment, but I’m not ashamed of being there and of speaking up.”

The firestorm of insult and invective that came down on Kyra, following the video post, did not drive her into hiding. Instead she decided to stand her ground, tell her own story and push back against the haters.

She wrote an open letter to the media to give people a fuller understanding of who she is and what she stands for. She said she was writing: “not because I want attention, but because I want people to know that they can’t silence us.

“A year ago I feel like I wouldn’t have been strong enough to get through this, but fighting for the water and with my community has given me so much resilience. And that’s what I want people to know.”

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