Protesters at 'climate strike' in Fredericton urge students to vote
'Stop denying the world is dying,' is message of one business owner who closed down for rally
Dozens of people gathered at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton on Friday as part of a global "climate strike" aimed at forcing political and industrial leaders around the world to take urgent action to deal with climate change and to end fossil fuel use.
Similar rallies took place in 150 countries Friday, with students taking time off school and work to attend.
The day of action in Fredericton started with poetry from Halifax poet and professor El Jones. The microphone was then opened to any participant who wanted to share thoughts and messages on climate action.
Daniel Nunes, a fourth-year student at UNB, was a lead organizer for Friday's for Future climate strikes in the area.
"These rallies are is based off an initial movement by Greta Thunberg" he said.
Thunberg famously started skipping school last year to demonstrate outside the parliament of her home country of Sweden, calling on lawmakers for more action on climate change. She's become a leader in the movement to end fossil fuel use and will be one of hundreds of young people taking part in the United Nations's first Youth Climate Summit in New York this weekend.
"She believes that there's no purpose to getting an education and getting a degree if the world would already be destroyed by the time she is old enough to actually use her degree and become a professional," Nunes said.
"What we wanted to do here in Fredericton is take Greta's message and kind of just disseminate it among students and also just provide them a chance to to speak on climate change to kind of vocalize their concerns."
Nunes wanted students at the rally to know how important voting and the issue of climate change are in the federal election coming up Oct. 21.
Election candidates were invited to speak at the rally and present their platforms on climate change and how they would increase "climate literacy," he said.
Two Fredericton election candidates, Liberal Matt DeCourcey and Jenica Atwin of the Green Party, both attended the event.
Shelby Harnish, the co-owner of local vegan food truck Veg Out, said she closed her truck for the day to attend the climate strike.
Harnish brought her dog and a placard that read "Stop denying the world is dying."
"I don't think it's a topic that even needs to be debated anymore," she said of climate-change deniers.
She encouraged people to vote.
"If you are of age, you need to take it upon yourself to use your power and to put people in charge who know what is right for our earth right now."
Fredericton South MLA and Green Party Leader David Coon, who was also at the rally, said he is inspired by young people talking about their concerns, since they see "the writing on the wall."
"They know that fundamental change is needed and we've got to start beginning those steps now to try to implement the actual changes that are required and do so in a democratic way," Coon said. "A way that is based on meeting the needs of our communities and assuring the well-being of all."
Grand Chief Ron Tremblay of the Wolastoq Grand Council came to the protest with his two young grandchildren. He said corporate and political leaders are "gambling with" the children's futures.
"Their mom pulled them out of school just to be here, just to make a statement that their future is so crucial," he said.
Tremblay was encouraged that people around the world are finally starting to see the Earth through the same lens as Indigenous people.
"Science is finally catching up to our philosophies, our theories and our beliefs about how we need to protect and preserve water, the Earth and the air for the future generations," said Tremblay, who is also known as Spasaqsit Possesom.
"Water has life, and the Earth has life, and the trees and the medicines that grow in it need to be protected," he said. Indigenous people have held these beliefs since time immemorial, he said.
Following the rally some of the crowd walked through downtown Fredericton in a march dubbed the "Extinction Rebellion."