'We have to do these strikes to save our planet': Students get ready for Friday event

High school students at College Jeanne Sauvé spent their lunch hour Tuesday gathering cardboard and painting signs in preparation for a major climate change demonstration Friday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislature, when thousands of Winnipeg teenagers are expected to walk out of class.

Thousands of teens expected to walk out of class in global general strike for Climate Action

Winnipeg high school students make protest signs out of recycled cardboard ahead of Friday’s climate strike at the Manitoba Legislature. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

High school students at Winnipeg's Collège Jeanne-Sauvé spent their lunch hour Tuesday gathering cardboard and painting signs in preparation for a major climate change demonstration Friday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislature.

Thousands of Winnipeg teenagers are expected to walk out of class as part of the Global General Strike for Climate Action, an international event which was inspired by Greta Thunberg.

The Swedish teen, who made headlines around the world again this week with her address to the UN Climate Action Summit, began a one-person climate protest in 2018, skipping school on Fridays to protest for action on climate change.

She has since sparked a worldwide movement, with other children and teens walking out of school on Fridays to join the call for urgent action. This week's climate strike is expected to be the biggest in Canada by far.

Madeline Laurendeau says she disappointed no youth selected under the age of 18 for Youth Advisory Council on Climate (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Grade 12 Collège Jeanne-Sauvé student Madeline Laurendeau has been rallying her schoolmates. She says youth learn more at a demonstration than they would during one day of class.

"We're learning more at these strikes than we are in one day of school.… We're learning about activism, we're learning about environmentalism," she said.

"We have to do these strikes to save our planet," says Laurendeau. "We do not have to do one day of school."

Collège Jeanne-Sauvé is helping its students organize. It's sending four busloads of teenagers and teachers to the strike, with some geography classes going as a field trip. 

But not all schools are on board. The Winnipeg School Division is not sponsoring trips to the event. Students can go, but they need advance permission from parents, the division says. Missed classes will count as an absence on student records.

Grant Park High School student Cole Osiowy says the division's position misses the mark.

Grade 11 student Cole Osiowy says Winnipeg School Division isn’t making it easy for students to take part in Friday’s protest. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"I think they could do more," the Grade 11 student said. "In their letter, they said they support youth activism. But this doesn't really look like supporting youth activism." 

He and some other students sent a letter to the school division, calling on it to support the strike, and saying they're disappointed the WSD is "not doing anything to make it easier on the students and teachers to attend." 

The letter points out that, in contrast, the largest school board in Quebec cancelled classes for Sept. 27, while the City of Vancouver endorsed the strike.

Amnesty International also sent a letter to schools around the world, asking them not to prevent students from going to the strike, nor to punish their absence. It calls the climate crisis "arguably the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history."

Osiowy is a member of Grant Park's "Green Team." The group drafted a permission slip to make it easier for students to approach their parents.

"If there's anyone who does want to go, and get excused, you can come through us," Osiowy said. "But it's still a relatively small effort as compared to what it would be if it was a full school thing."


Emily Brass is a journalist at CBC Manitoba and host of the podcast Type Taboo: Diary of a New Diabetic. She's also worked for CBC in Montreal, Toronto, St. John's, Victoria and London, U.K.


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