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Introducing Building the Whirlwind

People across Canada face significant threats and challenges. And yet, people are building social movements that offer compelling visions and spur collective action. From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter to Wetʼsuwetʼen, we have seen many movements spur to action in the past few years - and there is no shortage of reasons to keep the momentum going.

Nicholas Von Hoffman dubbed eruptions of demonstration from movements as “moments of the whirlwind.” But how were these whirlwinds built, and what makes these moments happen?

We wanted to identify the strategies and the practices that grow movements today and to understand how and why collective demands generated in movements surge at certain moments, creating tectonic shifts in society, particularly in a Canadian context.

The result of this work is the new report, Building the Whirlwind

It looks at the context and circumstances surrounding September 2019, when half a million people took to the streets of Montreal to call for climate action. Using first-person interviews and a multi-faceted look at different corners of the climate movement, we look at the complexity of one “moment” and identify how it came to be. We dive deeply to tell a rich, layered story. 

I hope you’ll take time to hear from people involved in this one moment, from this one whirlwind. It might be useful in creating your own. 

Explore Building the Whirlwind


Moments like this often don’t have one leader or spokesperson able to tell the story, but are the result efforts that are, by definition, collective and plural. They bring together disparate groups for one objective, and this is exactly how this moment came together. This principle guided our inquiry, from researching collaboratively to our approach to interviewing movement builders to writing this report.

As a result, this report features many voices who speak to the experience and insights of many sectors, coalitions, organizations and collectives. While recognizing that our interviews did not include everyone or every group involved, we offer these voices of individuals who operated and collaborated in an ecosystem which gave the historic Montreal climate protests of 2019.

Download the full Building the Whirlwind report or explore the digital version.