Students across Maritimes march to join Youth Strike 4 Climate
A large and passionate group of high school students marched through downtown Halifax on Friday demanding action be taken on climate change.
“We as youth are fed up with government inaction on climate change,” said Julia Sampson, a Citadel High School student. “This is our future, this is our planet and the future of our children and grandchildren, and if they don't start acting and start changing, we're going to have big consequences.”
The protest was part of “Youth Strike 4 Climate” a global movement started in Sweden by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.
Thunberg began staging Friday school strikes to protest political inaction last August. She has since delivered speeches at the United Nations climate talks in Poland and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“We are trying to send a message that the Canadian government needs to stop building pipelines everywhere, stop abusing the Earth and start trying to phase out coal and accomplish goals that are going to help the environment,” said Willa Fisher, also a student at Citadel High School.
Mitchell Aguinaga, who attends Sir John A Macdonald High School, says “I feel like we get this stereotype that teenagers don't really care about the environment or don't care about things in general, so this is really super encouraging to see a group full of motivated, enthusiastic students who are excited for change.”
Rallies were held across the country including one in Moncton, and it wasn't just high schoolers -- people of all ages came out to support the cause.
“One of the children in our class came in, she wanted to make a sign for climate, so we started making these signs,” said Julianne Harnish of Tiny Labs For Early Learning. “They worked really hard, they came up with what to say, we've been talking about climate a lot in our classroom and it's really caught on.”
But organizers from Halifax's Citadel High say their school was not supportive of Friday's rally.
“I got in trouble for putting up posters, and then they said if I put up anymore, I could possibly get a suspension,” Fisher said. “So basically the administration was not at all supportive, and I'm really disappointed in that.”
When contacted, Citadel High administration said they had no comment on the issue.
The family of another Citadel High student claims that he was told he could face removal from his position as student council co-president, if he attended the rally.
Susanne Brown says her son Ivan Andreou was told that in his role as co-president of the school, he would not be permitted to attend.
“They told him that the school administration did not endorse the missing of instructional time, so as a representative of the school he would not be allowed to come,” Brown said. “He was very shocked, he did not know that this would be a choice that he would have to make, but he made a decision to stay as co-president because he thinks he can create more change in the school and amongst the student body.”
Even without her son, Brown and her family came out to support the rally.
“This problem at Citadel, I don't want this to distract from the real cause, but it does show that the powers that be are not taking this seriously enough,” Brown said. “Sure this could be an endorsed school based activity, why isn't it?”
This was the second Friday school strike in Halifax, with the first held on March 15.
Organizers say they will continue to hold monthly rallies until they see a change in attitudes.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.