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UPDATED: Sackville youth call for greater action on climate crisis

Sackville's climate strikers march down Main Street on Friday morning.
Sackville's climate strikers march down Main Street on Friday morning. - Katie Tower

Students take part in global climate strike movement

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

Sackville youth once again took to the streets on Friday, joining the thousands of other Atlantic Canadians who took part in climate strikes as part of a growing student-led movement around the globe.

More than 300 students from Salem Elementary School right through to Mount Allison University walked out of class for the Fridays for the Future event, part of a worldwide campaign inspired by 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Thunberg has, since last August, been protesting outside Sweden’s Parliament every Friday to urge political leaders to tackle the issues related to the climate crisis.

The words 'How Dare You' were used often on signs in Friday's strike, a tribute to Greta Thunberg's comments to world leaders during a speech at a United Nations summit last week.
The words 'How Dare You' were used often on signs in Friday's strike, a tribute to Greta Thunberg's comments to world leaders during a speech at a United Nations summit last week.

The Sackville event, which also drew dozens of adult supporters, included a rally and a march downtown where many of the protesters voiced their concerns and spoke out about how governments have failed future generations. The students called on the policy makers of the schools, the community, the province and the country to take action.

Elise Vaillancourt, a member of the Mount Allison Students’ Union, said it was inspirational to see so many students out to Friday’s climate strike.

“We often hear that students and youth are apathetic and they don’t engage with any issues but looking around today, this is clearly not true,” she said. “So thank you for breaking down that stereotype one climate strike, one homemade sign and one community meal at a time.”

Sarah Gordon, a Mount Allison student speaking on behalf of Divest Mount Allison, said it’s encouraging to see the climate strikes around the world are starting to mobilize people towards action. She said the science has been clear for almost four decades but “the world is so caught up in what we’ve always done, it seems like there is no possibility for change.”

“But change is coming,” she said. “Today, we are the proof.”

She said millions around the globe are being “united by our horror and by our hope.”

And while we don’t have all the solutions yet, Gordon said there are many clear measures that can be taken now to slow down the impacts of the crisis.

“We must stop drilling for oil, we must stop the emission of greenhouse gases, and we must stop our planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels,” she said.

“But to do this, we must work together. To reach net zero emissions by 2050, we must work together. To invest in nature, we must work together. To elect leaders who are committed to protecting the environment and the Indigenous people of Canada, we must work together,” said Gordon. “We must continue to take individual action but this will mean nothing without collective change.”

She also called on everyone at the strike on Friday to use their civic right on Oct. 21 and vote in the upcoming federal election.

“Listen, participate, and above all, act.”

Friday's climate strike in Sackville drew hundreds of protesters.
Friday's climate strike in Sackville drew hundreds of protesters.

Tantramar Regional High School student Tess Cameron listed a series of demands the Sackville Youth Climate Change Coalition (SYCCC) put together, calling for action from the university and all three levels of government.

SYCCC is asking the federal government to impose a 65 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to reach zero by 2040. It’s also demanding the government avoid investing in any new fossil fuel extraction projects.

It called on the provincial government to continue to work towards modifying school curricula to include education on climate science and to stop resisting the federal carbon tax.

And it asked the town of Sackville to follow through with a review of its sustainable plan and to maintain communication with the public on the newly-implemented mayor’s roundtable on climate change.

Mount Allison students continued to call on the university to take a stand by divesting students’ endowment of the top 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies.

Second-year Mount Allison student activist Helen Yao spoke passionately about addressing the real roots of climate change.

“I am talking about patriarchy, racism, colonialism, capitalism and all the ways we have chosen to systematically exploit the land and the people,” said Yao.

She said it’s important to work towards a “just transition” towards a sustainable way of living, to respect the rights of those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – such as youth, women, queer and trans people, Indigenous people, people of color, low-income people and people with disabilities.

Yao, who works with Divest Mount A and Zero Hour, said the most effective solution will be one that includes “all people, not just some people.”

Memramcook-Tantramar MLA Megan Mitton agreed with Yao that the climate crisis goes beyond just being an environmental issue – it’s also a social and political one. So it will require real social and political change moving forward.

“It’s not about what we want, it’s not about you want, it’s about doing what is necessary,” she said.

Mitton criticized the New Brunswick government for not putting the issue at the top of its recently-announced priorities.

“I’m sorry but if your top priority is not climate justice or the climate emergency, then you’re doing it wrong.”

Mitton got emotional as she spoke to the large crowd, who marched from the Mount A campus to the Bill Johnstone Memorial Park to listen to a number of presenters at the rally.

“My heart is full seeing so many people here, demanding action and demanding a livable future,” she said.

“I want to end by chanting ‘we believe that we will win,’ because we need to stick with that idea. We need to believe that we will win and I truly believe that we will.”

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