On Sept. 27, millions of Canadians took to the streets across the country to protest inaction on climate change.
“Today, we are nearly 500,000 people gathered here in Montreal, but there are also 52 protests everywhere across Quebec,” said the spokesperson of La Planète s’invite au Parlement (LPSP), François Geoffroy.
In a historical association of 21 environmental organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Pour le Futur and Greenpeace, LPSP took on the responsibility of planning the massive strike. It took place at the tail end of a worldwide cry that took place between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, during which over 150 countries protested the climate crisis.
According to Geoffroy, more than 200,000 students were given permission to strike on Friday. The growing youth movement taking over the climate crisis led school boards across Canada to cancel Friday’s classes in support of their students’ decision to demand more from the government.
“We want laws, we want specific plans which will force our government to reach the objectives set by scientists, in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” said the LPSP organizer, to an energetic crowd. “We want to make this transition everybody’s business. We want to build it with workers, communities that are currently struggling with their dependency on polluting industries. We want to build it with the most vulnerable; they need to be part of the solution. We need to build it with First Nations because they have a lot to teach us and for once, we should listen to them.”
Beginning at Mont-Royal, the protest was symbolically opened by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, alongside Indigenous youth. “To the front lines for Mother Earth” was the first banner you could see them holding as they travelled through downtown Montreal, chanting and calling for action.
Prior to the march, Thunberg met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, where it was reported by various media that she told him he was not doing enough to protect the environment. Indeed, the past few weeks have seen a rise in critiques towards Trudeau’s environmental speeches and his government’s decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“If people in power won’t take their responsibilities, then we will,” Thunberg said at the end of the protest. “It should not be up to us, but somebody needs to do it. They say we shouldn’t worry, that we should look forward to a bright future. But then, they forget that if they would have done their job, we wouldn’t need to worry. If they had started acting in time, then this crisis wouldn’t be this crisis, it is today. The climate and environmental crisis are beyond party politics.”
Friday’s event was beyond historical. It was not only Quebec’s most important protest yet, but also the largest climate strike during the Global Week for Future, a series of international protests asking for climate justice.
For whatever reason people decided to protest, it demonstrated the power of union. No one was in school or at work, because this is an emergency and we will not be bystanders, Thunberg said during her final speech.
“The people have spoken and they will keep on speaking until our leaders listen and act. We are the change. And change is coming.”
Feature photo by Alex Hutchins