Officially announced at a press conference held on September 17 at Upper Fort Garry, more than 100 volunteers in Winnipeg are coordinating a week of climate advocacy in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike movement happening around the world from September 20 to 27.
Sparked by Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, the strikes aim to raise awareness and action on the global climate emergency and encourage governmental and corporate policy reform to avoid environmental collapse. The last Global Climate Strike led by Thunberg saw 2.3 million attendees internationally in more than 4,000 cities within more than 125 countries.
“We are in a state of emergency. You can’t have a sustainable healthcare system, a booming economy, quality education, or good jobs if there is no planet to live on,” says Lena Andres, a 17-year-old, first-year university student. Andres is an organizer with Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, a coalition of students who have been walking out of classes every Friday to call for urgent action on climate change.
Led by the Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, Winnipeg-based youth are holding a week of public action beginning with a youth-led die-in at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Friday, September 20 from 1-2:30pm. Youth all across Canada made a public statement by laying on the ground to simulate dying and the possibility of mass extinction if action is not taken. The die-ins were planned across Canada on September 20 and they were - very impactfully - synchronized across time zones.
On Friday, September 27, a public strike is planned on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature from 12-5pm. At 1pm, a march from the Legislative Building down Broadway to Upper Fort Garry and back to the Legislative Building along the river will take place. A lineup ranging from Indigenous Elders to student strikers to climate scientists to social media influencers to local entrepreneurs will speak at the event. Between speakers, musical performers will share songs that inspire climate consciousness. Speakers and musical guests include Elder Betty Ross, Natalie Bell, JUNO Award-winning Indigenous musician, Vince Fontaine, Stephanie Nivera, John K Samson, JD & The Sunshine Band, the Resistance Revival Choir, the Riel Gentlemen’s Choir and more. With the grassroots publicity efforts to date, it is anticipated that more than 6,000 people will attend Winnipeg’s Global Climate Strike. Grassroots outreach is still underway in the final 24 hours before the event. With this in mind, the event organizers foresee the final attendance being upwards of 10,000.
All members of the community are encouraged to participate in the Winnipeg-based peaceful demonstration. Several schools and full organizations will be in attendance. For those who cannot attend the strike in person, the hashtags #climatestrike and #nottherestillcare are being promoted as a way to show digital solidarity with the climate strike movement.
"From September 20th to 27th, millions of people join the climate strike movement and demand serious action from the government in addressing the climate crisis. It is time for governments and corporations to prioritize people over profit. We have been living an unsustainable lifestyle and we cannot continue to consume fossil fuels at this rapid rate. There are solutions; scientists have come up with numerous methods of combating climate change so all we need is for governments to commit to ending the biggest crisis humanity has faced. I believe we are in the midst of a turning point in history and hope that the next generations will be able to look back at this time as an example of how powerful people are when they join together," says representative from the Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, Sunny Enkin Lewis.
“The power of youth continues to be underestimated,” says Andres. "The youth climate strikers are encouraging Manitobans of all ages to take a day off work or classes to join the rally at the Legislature on Friday, September 27, join the global climate strike and be on the right side of history.”
The Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and the strike organizers have seven specific demands:
Commit to bold emissions reductions targets of 75% below 2005 levels by 2030, reaching net zero emissions by 2040.
Reject all new fossil fuel extraction or transportation projects, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and price pollution.
A just transition to renewable energy and sustainable transportation infrastructure while guaranteeing an opportunity for fossil fuel workers in the new economy.
Enshrine in law the fundamental right to a healthy environment.
Adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Maintain and protect old-growth forests, restore cut blocks, reduce habitat fragmentation and strengthen the protection of species at risk.
Recognize Canada’s disproportionate role in the climate crisis and subsequent responsibility for the protection of the most affected groups.
Local members and supporters from matriarchal, two-spirited community activist group, Strawberry Heart Protectors, Lisa Strong and Cheryl James also attended the press conference and stood in solidarity with the climate strike movement and sang the Ancestor Song for local media. "The song calls on our ancestors to help us create solutions for the current climate emergency," said Strong. Local research scientist from the International Institute for Sustainable Development,Dr Scott Higgins also spoke at the press conference with specifics pertaining to his research speciality. “The massive algal blooms we see every year on Lake Winnipeg and Lake Erie are all becoming much more frequent and harmful due to the impact of climate change,” said Higgins. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to an unparalleled 50+ year environmental dataset, we have discovered that our mean annual air temperature has been increasing by slightly less than 0.5 degree Celsius per decade, the lengths of the seasons are changing, rainfall patterns are changing, and with these changes we are affecting the water quality of our lakes and rivers, and all of those who depend on them.”
Manitoba Youth for Climate Action and other grassroots organizers have a drafted a plan of action to achieve these goals inspired by the Green New Deal, legislation proposed in the US to address climate change and inequality. The Manitoba Green New Deal is a work in progress. The most current version can be found here.
What are the Global Climate Strikes? Watch this 60 second explainer video.
Global Climate Strikes - FAQs
Where are the global climate strikes happening around the world? View the map.
Primary image by Oli Frost