The Nature of Things·Profile

6 young Canadians inspiring a generation of climate activists

These activists are joining millions of others in the fight for their future

These activists are joining millions of others in the fight for their future

(Grand Passage Media)

Young people around the world are taking action and rising up against inaction on climate change. In Rebellion, a documentary from The Nature of Things, we meet youth who are demanding their right to a future. Here are some impressive Canadians who are making their voices heard.

Sophia Mathur, 13 — Sudbury, Ont.

(Grand Passage Media)

"I decided to skip school because ... I was afraid for my future," said Mathur. "What's the point of going to school and studying for a future … that I can't live in due to the climate crisis?" 

At just 11, Mathur was one of the first people in the world to join Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future protest and is credited with bringing the movement to Canada. Mathur followed in Thunberg's footsteps and went on strike from school for more than a year.

In 2019, the Canadian Museum of Nature presented Mathur with a Nature Inspiration Award in the youth category, noting "how powerful a child's voice can be when talking to politicians."

Ella Noël, 19 — Montreal

(Grand Passage Media)

"I'm very angry that we're being left a kind of poisoned inheritance, basically," said Noël, a Dawson College graduate. "We were just born on this earth and we're kind of being left just all these problems … most of the people that are [protesting] in the streets, they're in high school. They don't even get a say in who's elected, and it's their future."

In September, 2019 she joined the massive global climate strike in Montreal with hundreds of thousands of others. "I'm taking action because I want change," Noël said. "This is important to me because my future is at stake. If things don't change, what future do we even have?"

Kahenientha Cross, 20 — Kahnawake, Que. 

(Grand Passage Media)
We're the generation who has to take that big pile of garbage and fix it. We have to man up; we have to woman up; we have to human up.

"I can't go back in time. I can't fix other people's mistakes," said Cross, a psychology student at Dawson College. "But … I can stop myself from committing mistakes, and I can influence other people." 

Cross points to her upbringing as the foundation of her respect for the natural world. "Everything that we take ... we use it for something," she said. "When I realized that not everybody has had that same mindset, it was kind of crazy because ... it's logical." 

That's why Cross has added her voice to the millions of young people crying out for change "We're the generation who has to take that big pile of garbage and fix it," she said. "We have to man up; we have to woman up; we have to human up."

John Nathaniel Gertler, 19 — Montreal

(Grand Passage Media)

"Climate change is the … single biggest issue humans have ever faced," said Gertler, a student enrolled in Dawson College's environmental program and a member of the Dawson Green Earth Club. "And it's not something that's 100 years in the future; it's not something that's 50 years in the future; it's something that's right now."

Gertler sees the climate crisis and human rights justice as intertwined.

"Climate rights are civil rights because everyone has a right to a livable planet and a safe future," he said. "This is important to me because we're talking about the future of all life on earth. If things don't change, we're going to look back on this like a huge missed opportunity." 

Sàj Starcevich, 14 — Melfort, Sask.

(Ben Nelms/CBC)

A member of the Carry the Kettle (Cega'Kin) Nakoda Nation, Starcevich has seen first-hand evidence of climate change close to home: unprecedented flooding in her community, and wildfire smoke and seasonal extremes that have hindered her from enjoying the outdoors. 

Starcevich has taken part in rallies and protests in Saskatchewan and Canada and was one of 15 young activists who filed a lawsuit in 2019 against the federal government for its inaction on climate change. "The youth have to step up because no one else has," she said.

Ira Reinhart-Smith, 16 — Caledonia, N.S.

Ira Reinhart-Smith is one of the 15 plaintiffs suing the Canadian government over their climate change response. (Robin Loznak/Our Children's Trust)

The sole Nova Scotian among the 15 youth to file the lawsuit against the federal government, Reinhart-Smith has seen rising tides and intense storms batter his home shores. Some of his friends and family have contracted Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness made more prevalent with the warmer temperatures. He lives in an area with one of the highest Lyme disease rates in Canada. 

The lawsuit was recently dismissed by Federal Court. "It's embarrassing that our government won't even consider that youth are being harmed by their actions," Reinhart-Smith said before the ruling

Watch Rebellion on The Nature of Things.  

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