Elementary, high school and university students marched to Queen’s Park — signs in hand — for Toronto’s second climate action strike.
The protest was held on Friday, April 5, at noon in front of the Legislative Assembly building.
At least 100 students, parents and organizations like Greenpeace and Cowspiracy showed up to support climate action.
Aliénor Rougeot, 20, was the main organizer of this strike.
The University of Toronto student had taken part in the previous national climate action strike in March, where she gave a speech on behalf of the university students.
“I realized I needed to do more, so I offered to help, and kind of ended up taking the lead on this,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “When I realized that climate change was not only about nature but about human rights, I decided to become specifically a climate activist.”
Rougeot says her “love and empathy for nature” came from her childhood. She grew up in southern France, where she was surrounded by the beauties of nature. Her mother shared her compassion for nature and all living things with Rougeot. But she didn’t realize how big a part of her life it was until she got older.
When Rougeot went to university she joined committees to help make the school environment more sustainable. But she felt held back. She wanted to make change outside her school as well.
“I was working in a bubble and that my small individual progress was being constantly countered by governments and big corporations who didn’t care and were not taking climate change seriously,” Rougeot said.
That’s when she decided to join the first strike, and then took charge for the second. With the help of organizers from the previous strike, Rougeot started working towards the next one.
She contacted student leaders, made Facebook groups, and reached out on Snapchat to send her message out to students about what she was trying to achieve in this strike.
Students of all ages came out to give speeches, sing songs and organize chants in front of Queen’s Park.
They shouted “The trees are not pleased!”, “Keep the oil in the soil!”, and “Rod Phillips, where are you?!”, referring to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.
The chants attracted glances from some people inside the Legislative Assembly building. But as we discovered, the politicians were not scheduled to sit that day.
Stephen Scharper, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, was leaving a biodiversity conference on climate change when he heard the students’ chants.
“For me it was a call, a symbolic call for other students and other faculty and people who are empowered at the university, this is all our fight,” he said. “They’re literally calling us to join them because this is different, this is not a situation or a normal social movement, this is about the future of all flourishing of life on the planet.”
When Scharper came over to join the students’ strike, he made an impromptu speech letting the students know he had heard their message and is proud that they are fighting for their future.
“It is a very frightening thing they are facing, they are taking action but I think it’s shameful that they have to do this,” Scharper said.
Scharper and his students, Diana Wei Dai and Sharika Khan all shared admiration with the protestors who decided to cut classes in order to raise awareness about the future.
“I think the fact that we are here today is a testament to the fact that raising our voices does have an impact,” Khan said.
The next large scale climate strike is set for May 3 at Queen’s Park at 12:30 p.m.. This time, the event will include a march to Toronto City Hall, where they will be bringing their demands to the municipal government as well.