'Stop denying the world is dying': Thousands gather in Winnipeg for climate strike
"If we don't pressure leaders to take action, then it's not going to happen," says co-organizer
Picket signs, chants and passion to change the world were on full display as thousands of Manitobans joined millions more across the planet for Friday's global climate strike.
The movement is being led by the world's young people, who say they're stepping up and doing their part to battle the climate change crisis.
"It feels very exciting. It feels like it's not the end of the road, but a landmark in the road," said student Madeline Laurendeau.
"This is the beginning of history and we are making history here today and everyone attending is making history. This is a big one. This'll make a change."
Manitoba's rally, on the steps of the provincial legislative building, was to take place from noon to 5 p.m., but hundreds of students chanting "stop denying the world is dying" began gathering a half-hour early, forcing police to close Broadway to traffic.
The international event is inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who became a renowned speaker after starting her own one-person climate protest with school strikes in 2018.
More than 10,000 Manitobans took part in the rally and march, including hundreds of students who cut school to participate or were given permission by parents to attend.
Siwaye Bisilo, a Grade 9 student, said she is inspired by Thunberg's influence, particularly how the climate activist "told it like it is."
"I hope the government will see it's something we won't back down from," she said.
Grade 9 student Naleisa Tshilembu took part because she cares about the environment and said she's not sure what her future will look like.
"I'm definitely worried," she said. "In 10 years, certain things are going to be irreversible and we're not going to be able to do anything about it, so the best time to do something is now.
Carolyne Marchildon is part of Manitoba Youth for Climate Action, as well as Manitoba Adults for Climate Action, and helped organize the strike.
"I think if we don't take action right now, if we don't pressure leaders to take action, then it's not going to happen," she said.
Marchildon just graduated with a degree in history from the University of Manitoba and said she thinks positive change is on the horizon.
"As a history student, I've seen how history movements have started from the grassroots and it's momentum like this, it's getting thousands and thousands of people in the streets that we've seen change."
It wasn't just a student strike, though. A number of parents took part because they're worried for future generations.
Christie Peters is a mother of two. She says raising her kids in this day in age is stressful.
"I believe we have the capacity to turn things around if we can all band together, but I also feel really worried. That's why I'm here," she said.
Friday's strike included a march, which went down Broadway to Upper Fort Garry and back via Assiniboine Avenue. Speeches and musical performances began at 2:30 p.m.
Winnipeg police told CBC News between 10,000 and 12,000 people attended and there weren't any incidents associated with the strike.
University students walked out of class to join Friday's event. Groups from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg held rallies on campus organized by climate advocacy group Our Time Winnipeg, before heading to the legislature.
"This is a historical moment in the fight against climate change," said Murray Jowett, a U of M student and an organizer with Our Time Winnipeg.
"This is the largest co-ordinated climate action the world has ever seen, and it's only going to keep growing."
It's called a climate strike to draw attention to the fact that people can no longer go on with business as usual, he said.
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released last October, said systemic change is necessary to avoid catastrophic global warming of 1.5 degrees C.
"Climate change is not going to be solved through individual actions. We need political will, but that only happens when enough people mobilize behind a collective vision, like we're seeing now, and pressure our politicians to step up," Jowett said.
Last week, hundreds of students gathered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights for a "die-in" as part of a call for climate action.
With files from Emily Brass, Ahmar Khan and Erika Rodeck