Young advocates for the environment rallied outside Ontario’s legislature and in downtown Montreal on Friday to call for governments to take immediate action to address climate change.
The demonstrations that drew students, young children accompanied by parents, and others concerned about climate change together were among several similar events held around the world.
“For our future, for our life. For our planet, climate strike,” the crowd in Toronto chanted at the demonstration organized by a group called Fridays for Future Toronto.
Seven-year-old Ocean Tavares Holman attended that rally with his mother, saying he was eager to protect the environment.
“I want to save the planet,” he said.
His mother said she was compelled to come out with her son to support him and other youth in demanding action from those in power.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t done such a great job as adults and past generations of taking care of the environment for them, so I think it’s great that young people are taking the initiative to do what we haven’t been able to do, which is fix the planet before it’s too late,” Lara Tavares said.
Elio Weiss, 14, said he would like politicians to take the issue of climate change seriously.
“This is a very, very pressing issue that affects everyone, and being ignorant to that is one of the worst things you can do,” Weiss said.
Alienor Rougeot, who helped organize the rally, said Fridays for Future Toronto had a list of demands for all three levels of government that included calling on the re-elected federal Liberal government to deliver on climate promises made during the election campaign, and adding climate justice to the Ontario education curriculum for all grades.
“The crisis is real and we need immediate action,” she said.
Co-organizer Sigfried Hemming, 18, said he was happy to see many gather outside the legislature to support the group’s calls. “As long as there’s anyone here, then there’s hope and there’s movement,” he said.
At a similar event in Montreal, a large crowd gathered at the foot of the city’s Mount-Royal before marching toward the downtown area.
Yviane Lo-Lu was among a group of students from John Abbott College who had gone on “strike” for the day in order to attend the march.
“This is an important matter for us. We’re getting involved as young adults,” she said. “Coming here wasn’t just a one-time thing … It’s about showing a message to the government. All of these people are gathered here because we want change.”
Dr. Anne-Sara Briand, a member of the Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment who was at the event, said climate change isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s a matter of public health.
“Climate change is the greatest health threat of the twenty-first century,” she said, citing crushing heat waves, forest fires and extreme meteorological events as some of the risks she sees resulting from climate change.
“We’re worried for our patients. We’re worried about many of them being vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. And we want society and the government to take action on to prevent these impacts,” she said.
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, said he was inspired by youth who were speaking out on climate change.
“We know that we are running out of time to reduce climate pollution and bring global temperatures down before we cause irreversible damage from climate change,” Schreiner said in a statement.
Recent scientific reports paint a dire picture of the international effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.N. warned this week that more needs to be done if the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord are to remain within reach.
– With files from Jacob Serebrin in Montreal.