Two months ago, I along with a group of young Egyptian climate activists joined people in dozens of places around the world to deliver letters to Canadian embassies in each of our respective cities, urging Canada to stop lobbying for the Keystone XL Pipeline and to move away from the Tar Sands. We posed for the above picture after delivering the letter to the Canadian Embassy in Cairo.

We hadn’t been able to meet with a high-ranking official to voice our concerns in person. However, Mohamed Yahia, a young climate activist, and I were finally granted that opportunity yesterday.

After passing through the standard security check, we were ushered into a meeting room by First Secretary Daniel Blanchette where Daniel Whalen–Second Secretary and political and Public Affairs officer– as well as Nadine Medhat–Media and Public Affairs officer–were waiting to meet us. Daniel Whalen was very friendly and welcoming, and immediately informed us that he had scanned and forwarded our letter to the Canadian Government. (He indicated our letter placed in front of him on the table). Throughout our meeting he took notes and showed interest in what we said.

He told us that he was indeed aware of the campaign surrounding the pipeline both abroad and in Canada and that the Canadian Government recognizes the environmental impact of building such a pipeline and sees this as a legitimate environmental concern.

However, the official position that he was permitted to communicate to me was that they see their relationship with the U.S. as one of cooperation and that it is in Canada’s interest to foster that relationship for the benefit of Canada’s economic well being.

When I mentioned that Obama might end up refusing the pipeline, he reiterated the stance that Canada wants to cooperate with the U.S. and said that of course if the U.S. decides not to build the pipeline, Canada can’t do anything about that. He laughingly added “we won’t build the pipeline till the Canadian border and hope for the U.S. to build their pipeline…we’ll just go ahead with other plans.”

This was my queue to bring the Tar Sands into the conversation, so I mentioned to him that Canada’s decision to develop the Tar Sands meant impacting local communities, as well as single-handedly pushing the climate crisis to a point of no-return. I mentioned to him that the Tar Sands have tarnished Canada’s image as an environmental leader, and asked how Canada still expects to meet it’s emission targets if they continue expoliting the Tar Sands.

He was caught a little off-guard by that question, and even hastened to reply with “I thought we were mainly going to discuss the pipeline.” However, he continued to state how the Tar Sands are a valuable asset to Canada and that the official stance is that Canada’s economic interest is the main reason behind any decision to utilize it’s resources. He apologetically stated that he couldn’t further comment on that issue.

I brought his attention to the Ethical Oil campaign, which I discovered he was not familiar with. The campaign aims to promote Canadian Tar Sand oil as somehow more ethical than oil from the Middle East. I proceeded to state how the campaign video is completely unethical both in it’s generalized portrayal of the Middle East and it’s promotion of any oil as “ethical”, let alone oil from the Tar Sands.

He showed concern and asked me questions about the campaign, and how the video is perceived by environmentalists and people in the Middle East. I replied that it was perceived very negatively by environmentalists and that it wasn’t seen by a lot of people in the Middle East -I personally hadn’t seen the video until recently – but that it was quite offensive to equate protecting women’s rights with buying Tar Sand oil.

After that part of the meeting was over, we had an engaging conversation about 350 and what we as young climate activists have been doing in Egypt, especially after the revolution. We also talked about how the climate issue was impacting the region and how solutions to the climate issue are also solutions to local issues such as sustainable transport. He told us that he owns a bicycle and would love to be able to ride it in Cairo. He was interested in being engaged with whatever activities we’re doing in Egypt.

We thanked him at the end and requested that he convey our concerns to the government of Canada, to which he promptly expressed that he would.

Nadine was quiet thoughout the meeting, but was taking notes. She walked us out and told us to not hesitate to call her in the future.

I realize the responses concerning KXL and the Tar Sands were confined to diplomatic ones, but at the very least we gave Secretary Daniel Whalen something to report back to the Canadian government, and added our voice to the myriad of voices opposing these disastrous projects.

For more climate movement news, follow 350 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram