In Quebec, more than 150,000 students walked out of school and took to the streets Friday across the province as part of climate marches around the world.
“Discourse has to change about climate change,” said Jamie Latvaitis, a Concordia University student and organizer of the Montreal march. “We’re taking it seriously.”
The strike is meant to highlight what university and high school students call a lack of action from the federal and provincial governments to fight climate change. The protests are being held in co-ordination with 40 other countries to show the environment is facing a crisis.
In Montreal, students even formed human chains around six schools and forced the cancellation of classes. The protest kicked off at Mount Royal on Parc Avenue, before moving down through the city to Place des Festivals.
Patrick Bonin, who works with Greenpeace Canada, said he was there to support the province’s youth in a bid to strengthen the response to combat climate change.
“Students are in the street. There is hope because they are in action,” he said. “Now politicians need to act, need to listen to that generation which is already impacted by climate change and it will just get worst.”
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Echoing other voices in the protest, Bonin said there needs to be a concrete plan to save the planet from the effects of global warming and protect the environment.
“We all need to do more,” he said, referring to the public and elected officials.
The protests are unfolding in several other cities across Quebec, including Saguenay, Joliette, Rimouski, Baie-Comeau, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Gaspé and Sept-Îles.
In recent weeks, student associations in many CEGEPs and universities in the province have held strike votes to join the international movement to raise government awareness on the urgency of climate change.
Quebec elected officials weigh in
Quebec Premier François Legault said he commended the commitment of the province’s youth who are protesting to make their voices heard about the environment. He encouraged them to continue taking action for a more sustainable future.
“We will be a pragmatic government with respect to the environment,” he said on Twitter. “We want concrete results. No more words, we must act. And we will act.”
His Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government has faced criticism for its environmental policies.
Earlier this week, Québec Solidaire called on the province to invest $9 billion in green initiatives and public transportation as the newly-minted government’s first budget. The left-leaning sovereignist party was out in the streets on Friday.
“It is the young people who will suffer the damage done in the past,” said Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé. “I can only rejoice to see them mobilize in such numbers today, and I am proud to be with them on the streets.”
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna praised the young Canadians participating in the marches and encouraged them to continue taking action for a more sustainable future.
“They know climate change is real, and that the cost of inaction is enormous,” she said in a statement.
— with files from Global’s Tim Sargeant and the Canadian Press.