The global movement that is the #Fridays for Future climate strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg, exceeded all expectations for the number of demonstrators and the number of locations on March 15. In Canada, students marched in 55 cities, with the greatest showing in Montreal – 150,000 strikers – a greater turnout than Paris, London, Sydney , or almost any of the hundreds of cities and towns which participated. The Energy Mix highlights the global successes in “1.4 million students in 128 countries make March 15 #schoolstrike a global phenomenon” (March 15) .
Here are some accounts of the strike in Canada: From the National Observer: “Canadian children school adults about climate crisis” (March 15), which reports particularly on Montreal and Vancouver; “Quebec students join global marches to demand climate change action” (March 17) which reported that 150,000 students were on strike, representing 120 student associations. This amazing number is widely confirmed – including by an article in La Presse (in French). Also, “CCL Youth join March 15 youth strike for climate” from the Citizens Climate Lobby; “We know we are at a crossroads” in The Tyee (unique photos of the Vancouver strike); “Students in Canada prepare to strike for the climate” (March 14) in Rabble.ca .
CBC coverage consisted mainly of photos and brief interviews from across Canada, including: “Tens of thousands rally in Montreal”, and “Montreal students block schools ahead of climate protest” (which prompted the school board to cancel classes). From Halifax ; New Brunswick ; Ottawa ;Regina ; St. John’s Newfoundland ; Toronto; and Vancouver here and here .
Who are these young Canadian strikers? Of the many youth organizers across Canada, two have received special attention. Sophie Mathur of Sudbury, aged 11, was the first Canadian to take up the call of Greta Thunberg and has been profiled several times, even before the March 15 global strike. Early articles: “Strike For Climate: Fridays For a Future” appeared in Below 2C on October 31 2018 and “Young climate activist to strike Friday in Sudbury” in the Sudbury Star on November 2, 2018 . Most recently, on March 8, Sophie was one of five climate strikers interviewed by Sierra Club International, for International Women’s Day.
Rebecca Hamilton of Vancouver, aged 16, is a founding member of Sustainabiliteens , which organized the school strike in Vancouver. She is profiled in a new Greenpeace Canada series “12 Questions with #YouthClimateStrike organizer Rebecca Hamilton”. Both Sophie Mathur and Rebecca Hamilton were interviewed by CBC Radio in “Ignoring climate change is like ‘putting off homework,’ says teen in School Strike for Climate” on The Current on March 15 (transcript and audio), and also on CBC radio Day 6 on February 2, along with Dominique Deveaux of Fredericton, here .
Politicians Reactions and support for student strikers: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the strikers on Twitter, as did Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on her personal Facebook account, but there was no official reaction from the Canadian government. George Heyman, British Columbia’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change also used his Twitter account to express that he is “inspired by the concern and commitment of the students”. Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party, issued a statement of support which lists Green Party candidates who are supporting strikes in their local ridings.
Reactions from Unions: In Canada, the B.C. Teachers Federation tweeted a thanks to the students from their Annual Meeting , and at that AGM, activist Seth Klein addressed the meeting about the role of teachers in fighting climate change. The international confederation of teachers’ unions, Education International, has also supported the student climate strikers, with this Statement of Support (Feb. 28, 2019) and this blog post of February 22. A CBC report of March 1 also states that staff and faculty of Laurentian University in Sudbury have signed a letter of support for the strikers.
The International Trade Union Confederation issued a statement of support which states that “Unions in Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, the UK and elsewhere are taking part and many others are active in mobilising their members” and “Taking inspiration from young people, union representatives in workplaces will, in the last week of June, invite employers to sit down with the workers in workplaces to discuss plans to reduce emissions and climate proof workplaces.”
Canada’s next big student protest has been set for May 3. Updates will be posted on the Facebook Events page here. In the meantime, 350.org has posted “5 ways you can support the school climate strikes”.
And last word goes to Nobel-nominee Greta Thunberg, from her Facebook post following the March 15 strikes:
Once you have done your homework, you realize that we need new politics. We need a new economics, where everything is based on our rapidly declining and extremely limited carbon budget.
But that is not enough. We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. To get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other. We need to start cooperating and sharing the remaining resources of this planet in a fair way. We need to start living within the planetary boundaries, focus on equity and take a few steps back for the sake of all living species.
We are just passing on the words of the science. Our only demand is that you start listening to it. And then start acting.
So please stop asking your children for the answers to your own mess.