Hundreds of students 'die' on steps of CMHR as part of call for climate action
‘We know we’re on the right side of history,’ says 17-year-old climate activist
Hundreds of students crowded together on the steps of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Friday afternoon as part of an unusual type of protest: a "die-in."
Chanting together — messages like, "1.5 to stay alive," a reference to the demand to limit global warming to 1.5 C. a limit set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to avoid climate catastrophe — the students gathered on the steps and sidewalks outside the museum.
Then, at 2 p.m. they dropped to the ground in solidarity with similar protests across the country.
"We are in revolutionary times," Manitoba Youth Climate Action representative Lena Andres told the crowd. "And we are revolutionary people."
The 17-year-old climate activist and university student said the die-in protest was a symbol of what could happen if global climate change continues at the current rate.
Andres said she isn't angry with older generations for creating the conditions for climate change, but she hopes their involvement in fighting climate change will go beyond just words of support.
"We forgive them for making mistakes, but we're asking them to come and join us — because if you're saying that you're proud of us and you're inspired by us, we don't want to hear that. We want you to actually take some action," Andres said. "We know we're on the right side of history."
Andres said the group is trying to make climate activism as accessible as possible, and to show people the connection between Indigenous rights and climate justice.
"Indigenous land stewardship has done more to provide safe spaces in the environment, they've done more to protect the land, than any government measure ever has," she said.
'It feels like we're part of something bigger'
Others at the protest on Friday shared her sentiment. When most of the students fell to the ground for the die-in, one person stayed standing, fist in the air.
"I'm standing here because I'm not dying. I refuse to die," the person yelled, adding that they would stay standing for seven minutes to represent the seventh generation principle: that decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future.
"My ancestors fought so hard for me to be here," they said. "Indigenous people are never going to die. We're going to stay here and fight for our lands, no matter what it takes."
For some students, the protest on Friday was a chance to stand up for something they felt strongly about.
"I don't think it's fair, what we're doing," said Courtney Tosh, a Grade 12 student at Miles Macdonell Collegiate. "It's like walking into someone's house, destroying everything and leaving without even feeling any bit of guilt. And I don't think that's right."
For others, the threat posed by climate change makes them worry about future generations.
"I think it's really something to think about, because if you do decide to have children, it's something that's going to impact their life," said Tatianna Connor, another Grade 12 student at Miles Macdonell.
Some students came away from the protest feeling hopeful.
"I do worry about it, [but] I have faith in humanity," said Jamie Xie, a Grade 11 student at Grant Park High School. "It feels like we're not alone. It feels like we're part of something bigger."
In addition to the nationwide die-in protests on Friday, there will be a week of climate action leading up to a general strike for climate on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building on Sept. 27, organizers from Manitoba Youth Climate Action said.
With files from Emily Brass