British Columbia

Here's why Vancouver teens are staging a climate strike

Youth in Vancouver and across the province are preparing to march out of class this Friday to protest politicians’ lack of action to address the climate crisis.

'We have the potential to be the largest voting bloc,' says one organizer

Climate activists march along Burrard Street in Vancouver on Sept. 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Young people in Vancouver and across the province are preparing to once again march out of class this Friday to protest government inaction on the climate crisis.

The protests have been timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit underway in New York.

Here's why the climate strikes have mobilized children and teens since last week.

Why are young people taking part in the global climate strike?

The global climate strikes mobilizing youth in more than 150 countries were inspired by the #FridaysForFuture movement launched by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The teen began cutting classes on Fridays in August 2018 to stage protests outside the Swedish Parliament.

Thunberg will be taking part in the climate strike in Montreal this Friday.

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg speaks during the Climate Action Summit at United Nations HQ in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

In Canada, youth are calling on politicians to adopt a climate action plan to reduce carbon pollution to zero by 2050, similar to the Green New Deal championed by American progressives.

Avery Shannon, a youth organizer for Vancouver-based group Our Time, says it's especially significant that Canadian young people are mobilizing in the middle of a federal election campaign.

"We have the potential to be the largest voting bloc," said Shannon. "So Our Time is organizing to get young people out to the strike, get people on board with our movement, aware of what's happening, and help push for a Green New Deal from our political leaders."

What is happening in Vancouver and across B.C.?

Environmental youth groups and student associations have planned to meet at Vancouver City Hall at 1 p.m. on Sept. 27. They will then march across the Cambie Bridge to the intersection of Hamilton and Georgia, where there will be speeches in front of the Central Library Branch ending at 5 p.m.

Events are also taking place across the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in the province, including in Victoria, Tofino, Kelowna and Whistler.

What is a school strike?

Students plan to show up to their classes on Friday morning before walking out as a group to join protests calling for action on climate change in their cities.

The Vancouver School Board and the Surrey Schools district have both decided to excuse students who participate in this Friday's climate strike provided they have their parent or guardian's permission. Elementary school students will have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to attend.

Climate activists perform a die-in outside the Teck Resources building in downtown Vancouver on September 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Vancouver-based universities have also issued statements ahead of the Sept. 27 strike with Emily Carr University of Art and Design announcing it is cancelling all classes on Friday. The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are leaving it up to individual instructors to decide whether to cancel their classes. 

"It's hugely significant for those institutions to, from their level, endorse the strikes," said Shannon. "It shows their commitment to the students themselves and gives them agency over their decision which is incredibly powerful for young people."

Who is organizing the Vancouver events?

Vancouver's climate strike is led by a number of environmental youth groups and student associations including Sustainabiliteens Vancouver, a group that organizes strikes from school one Friday per month. The local Vancouver chapter of Our Time, a national campaign calling for a Green New Deal in Canada, is also involved as are groups at SFU, Capilano University, UBC, and Emily Carr

Wasn't there a climate strike in Vancouver last week?

Yes. Global climate strikes also took place on September 20, just ahead of a United Nations emergency climate summit. Hundreds of young people of all ages abandoned their classrooms Friday morning and gathered at the base of the Vancouver Art Gallery. A "die-in" protest was later staged in th Pacific Centre shopping mall across the street.

Shannon says it's been a rolling week of events since last Friday including another die-in in front of the Environment Canada offices in downtown Vancouver and protesters taking over intersections.

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