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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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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“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.
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.