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‘Best way to fight climate change is to go to school,’ Quebec education minister tells students taking part in climate march

Greta Thunberg (L), the 16 year old climate change activist from Sweden, participates in a School Strike for Climate reform on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 13 September 2019.
Greta Thunberg (L), the 16 year old climate change activist from Sweden, participates in a School Strike for Climate reform on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 13 September 2019. EPA/SHAWN THEW

Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge is insisting that the best way for students to fight the climate crisis is to simply stay in school on Sept. 27.

“The best way to fight climate change is to go to school. Of course, the solutions are in the school, but in Quebec, we have the right to express ourselves to go in the street and say what we want to say,” he said Wednesday.

“It’s a free country. It’s a free province and it will stay that way.”

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This comes after the province’s largest school board, the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), announced Tuesday that it will be cancelling classes for all students in its elementary and high schools on Sept. 27, turning it into a pedagogical (PED) day for the climate march.

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READ MORE: Quebec’s largest school board takes the lead and cancels classes for Sept. 27 climate march

Officials told Global News that the decision was made after massive absenteeism due to weekly student marches during the last school year.

CSDM school board president Catherine Harel-Bourdon said she is not encouraging students to attend the march, per se, but the board is asking parents “to have some discussions with their children.”

“They’re going to be under the responsibility of their parents that day,” she said Tuesday.

WATCH BELOW: Greta Thunberg leads climate change protest in Switzerland

Greta Thunberg leads climate change protest in Switzerland
Greta Thunberg leads climate change protest in Switzerland

Other school boards, including the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSMB), will not be following in the CSDM’s footsteps, saying it will be business as usual in their classrooms.

The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) noted that Sept. 27 was already a designated pedagogical day for its elementary and high school students.

RED MORE: Quebec premier won’t seek meeting with climate activist Greta Thunberg

In higher education, some CEGEP teachers unions have voted to strike that day, and Concordia University has stated that it will be cancelling classes for the afternoon. McGill University will not be cancelling classes.

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WATCH BELOW: Quebec students strike for climate change

Quebec students strike for climate change
Quebec students strike for climate change

“I understand that some CEGEPs have decided to change their calendars to accommodate some students who want go to walk against climate change, but I don’t think it’s right to say the school system or the city will be paralyzed,” Roberge said.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has said she will attend the march in Montreal. There are no plans for the 16-year-old to meet with Quebec Premier François Legault during her visit.

READ MORE: Quebec students take to streets as part of global marches against climate change

François Geoffroy, with the group La planète s’invite au parlement, said he believes her presence will encourage more young people to attend the march.

According to several activist groups, at least 860 cities around the world have protests planned for Sept. 27.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

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