CSDM, Concordia, Dawson cancelling classes for Sept. 27 climate protest

Several Montreal academic institutions say classes will be cancelled to allow students to attend a climate protest next week.

Several Montreal academic institutions say classes will be cancelled so students can attend climate march

Thousands of protesters flood the streets of Montreal during the march for climate, on March 15, 2019. (Martin Ouellet-Diotte/AFP/Getty Images)

Quebec's largest school board says it will cancel classes on Sept. 27 so students can participate in a protest calling on governments to take concrete action on climate change. 

"Considering the effects of a popular movement to attend the day of mobilization for the climate, the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM) decrees Sept. 27, 2019 in institutional pedagogical day," said a release from the CSDM. 

Elementary school students will still have access to childcare services.

The school board joins other academic institutions — including Concordia University, Dawson College and Cégep du Vieux Montréal — that have cancelled classes for the march.

"The gesture … allows us to recognize that the preservation of the environment and resources is essential to the survival of any society," the release said. 

To make up for the missed day, the CSDM has cancelled two pedagogical days that were scheduled for Nov. 29 and April 24.

François Geoffroy is one of the organizers of the protest, with the group La Planète s'invite au Parlement. He says he's very pleased by the board's decision. 

"It is time to act. It is urgent," Geoffroy said. "We hope school boards all across Quebec will join that important day."

He said since the climate protest in Montreal last March, the movement has been growing. He hopes it will create waves that impact the federal leaders in their campaigns leading up to the Oct. 21 election. 

"We hope all candidates from all parties will grab this occasion to put forward strong climate leadership, because we don't have time to stall anymore," Geoffroy said. 

Last Friday, Concordia interim president Graham Carr said classes will be cancelled from 11:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 27.

"Climate change is one of the most significant challenges of our time and an important priority for the entire Concordia community," Carr wrote in a letter published to Concordia's website. 

Dawson College has also decided to cancel classes for the protest. 

"Sept. 27 is a day to raise awareness about climate change. It is not a day off," the school said in a release on its website. 

While McGill University will not be cancelling classes, an email sent out to students from the administration indicates that faculty and staff are being asked to be understanding with absences on that day.

The English Montreal School Board will hold classes as usual, but says parents can choose to allow their children to attend the climate change rally. Lester B. Pearson School Board has a pedagogical day on Sept. 27. 

Just over a week ago, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg announced she would attend the Montreal protest. 

Thunberg made headlines around the world by sailing across the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-emissions sailboat to attend the United Nations climate summit on Sept. 23 in New York. 

With files from CBC's Lauren McCallum