Hundreds of people took over Gore Park in downtown Hamilton Friday afternoon for one of hundreds of climate protests across Canada and the world.
It comes a week after the first major global climate strike and several days after teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations, scolding leaders for not doing more to stop climate change.
The #FridaysForFuture movement, sparked by Thunberg, has been primarily led by young people and Hamilton’s event was no exception.
Students from McMaster University, Mohawk College and local elementary schools turned up in droves for the protest in the heart of Hamilton, including dozens of parents with their small children.
McMaster students started a petition to have the university cancel all classes so students could attend the protest without academic consequences.
WATCH: Thousands take over downtown core for Toronto’s climate strike march
Lane O’Hara Cooke, co-founder of #FridaysForFuture Hamilton and daughter of Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson, was one of several young speakers at the event.
“We are not immune to this injustice of the changing climate in the city of Hamilton,” said Cooke, referencing the air quality in the city centre and the high amount of marginalized residents living downtown. Her speech emphasized social justice’s role in fighting climate change, as well as a call for better public transit and more bike lanes in the city.
Lily Mae Peters is another member of #FridaysForFuture Hamilton with a background in science, highlighting the impacts of climate change on Hamilton’s environment.
Peters pointed out the warm temperatures and how many of those who gathered for Friday’s event were wearing short sleeves and summer-like clothing.
“The problem with rising temperatures is it leads to more evaporation, which will subsequently lead to worse and bigger storms,” Peters said.
“And Hamilton’s infrastructure is not prepared for the bigger storms that we will be getting in winter. The roads will start perishing easier. A lot of the buildings – as much as I love old buildings – are not prepared for the winter storms that we will have.”
Makasa Looking Horse, a youth leader from Six Nations who recently returned from the United Nations’ youth climate summit, said environmental issues are disproportionately impacting Indigenous people.
“In Six Nations – only 30 minutes away from here – we’re having a water crisis,” said Looking Horse. “Only nine per cent of our community is hooked up to the water treatment plant. And that should not be happening when we’re surrounded by Toronto and Hamilton. Everybody else has simple rights to electricity, to clean water, those are all human rights that we should have.”
“Climate change and Indigenous rights go hand-in-hand. When Indigenous people have control of their lands, they are much better off.”
Local NDP MPPs Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain) and Sandy Shaw (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas) stood across from the speakers during the event.
Taylor said climate change is one of the most important issues facing young people and it’s important that politicians listen to those who are speaking at the climate strikes.
“It’s the youth who are leading this charge, and the youth are saying, ‘This isn’t good enough, and you need to do this work for us’,” Taylor said.
“They’re demanding us to take action. And it’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re listening to these youth, and that we’re with them.”