Manitoba

'Do your job,' Manitoba teen climate activists tell re-elected Trudeau government at rally

A crowd of Manitoba teens gathered at the Legislative Building Friday had a message for re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "do your job" and address the climate crisis.

Crowd wore party hats during 'satirical celebration' of Justin Trudeau's re-election

A student peeks out from behind a sign that reads 'Congrats Trudeau: Now do your job' at a climate rally in Winnipeg on Friday. (Sam Samson/CBC)

About 50 students at the Manitoba Legislative building on Friday morning shouted a strong and direct message:

"No more emissions, screw the politicians."

The crowd was gathered for what's become a weekly student climate strike — the first one since Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party were re-elected to form a minority government.

Many of the students wore party hats for what they called "a satirical celebration" of Trudeau's re-election.

"We're celebrating Trudeau getting into office, but now Trudeau, it's time to do your job," said Grade 11 student Jaden Burkowski.

"Yeah, he striked with us on Sept. 27, so he supports our demands," said Grade 12 student Cam Beers. "We expect him to fully implement our demands, as well as declare the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

Grade 11 student Jaden Burkowski wore a 'satirical' party hat to Friday's climate strike. (Sam Samson/CBC)

The declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples' basic human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land, among others. In 2016, the federal government officially endorsed the declaration, almost a decade after it was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

But a bill introduced in 2016, which was described as "an act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," died in the Senate when the Oct. 21 election was called and Parliament was dissolved.

The students said they hope the prime minister will make the climate crisis a key issue during his second term, despite what they called a "disappointing" first term. Many students referred to the government's purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline — an expansion of an existing pipeline that will carry oil from Alberta to B.C. — as an example of Trudeau's missteps on climate action.

The Liberal government bought the existing pipeline for $4.5 billion in 2018, in a bid to overcome the opposition of the B.C. government to the expansion. The purchase was a point of controversy during this year's federal election.

About 50 students gathered on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature on Friday for their weekly climate crisis rally. (Sam Samson/CBC)

When asked how much faith she had in the new minority government, Burkowski burst out laughing.

"So far, we haven't seen much of a change," she said. "It's not only our planet, but it's his too. He needs to get his ass into gear and do something."

The students wrote letters to Justin Trudeau, which the group planned to send later Friday.

Manitoban among teens suing Ottawa

While members of Manitoba Youth for Climate Action were at the rally in Winnipeg, one of their own was playing a national role in Vancouver.

Madeline Laurendeau, 17, is the only Manitoba plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Friday against the federal government.

The lawsuit by Laurendeau and 14 other young people, aged 10 to 19, argues Ottawa has violated their fundamental rights by contributing to the warming planet, and demands a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Grade 12 Collège Jeanne-Sauvé student signed on because she's not old enough to vote yet, but she wants to make a difference.

"I think we're all pretty excited and moved that we get to be a part of this huge case, and that we're involved in this radical case — the first of its kind in Canada," she said.

Laurendeau said air quality affects her severe asthma, and the climate crisis affects her mental health.

Grade 12 student Madeline Laurendeau is the only Manitoba plaintiff in a lawsuit involving 15 youth who are suing the federal government. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"I have pretty severe anxiety, and also some issues with depression. An ongoing climate crisis and the threat of extinction really magnifies that to me," she said.

"It's like there's nothing I can do about it, which is kind of what anxiety loves to feed off of. I'm involved with the local strike group, and really that activism is what helps me, because I feel like I'm doing something positive."

Laurendeau planned to join 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and other teen activists Friday in downtown Vancouver today for a rally billed as a post-election demonstration, intended to push Canadian leaders to take action on climate change.

About the Author

Sam Samson

Journalist

Sam Samson is a multimedia journalist who has worked for CBC in Manitoba and Ontario as a reporter and associate producer. Before working for CBC, she studied journalism and communications in Winnipeg. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email samantha.samson@cbc.ca.

With files from Rhianna Schmunk

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