The global climate strike movement has picked up pace across the world with protesters taking to the streets in a bid to coax world leaders to adopt ambitious climate change policy.
In the beginning, school strikes were inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg who started protesting all alone with a “Fridays for Future” movement. In just a year, the 16-year-old has captured the world’s attention and last Monday she addressed world leaders at the United Nations asserting that they need to do more. On Friday, she participated in the climate strike movement in Montreal which drew hundreds of thousands of people. According to the organizers, 315,000 people had participated placing the Montreal event among some of the most attended environmental marches in history.
Thunberg told reporters, “It is very moving to see everyone, everyone who is so passionate to march and strike. It is a very good day, I would say.”
Schools, colleges and universities were partly suspended on Friday-the day Canada Climate strikes were held across many cities in the nation. City governments and some businesses also encouraged staff to take the day off. Although the march takes place in the middle of Canada’s federal election campaign, four out of six major party leaders namely Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and NDP leader Jagmeet participated in the marches. Even the city public transit was free for the event which attracted demonstrators of all ages.
The mostly peaceful Montreal march saw a man get tackled and arrested by police after he approached Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was walking side by side with his family.
Léa Ilardo, a 21-year-old university student who helped organize the march, expressed her to the BBC that this march would serve as a demonstration of the importance of climate action.
She said, “Why should we study or work when the survival of humanity and the planet is called into question?”
Ron and Sue Alward, both in their 70s, seasoned activists for decades believe widespread interest in environmental issues “waxes and wanes depending on some unsuspected event, like say, Greta [Thunberg]”.
But Mrs. Alward added that the real problem remains as, “How do we get the politicians on board? The whole system needs to change”.
Canada’s current target is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% over its 2005 levels by 2030. Climate Strike Canada is also calling for net greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 75% over 2005 levels by 2030 which is a much higher goal than promised by any of the campaigning parties.
.The students driving this march hope it will help create a “break from the status quo”.
Ilardo said, “The strike is not the final point. For us, it’s just the beginning.”