Toronto climate strikers of all ages call on governments and corporations to ‘put people first’

Protesters of all ages took to Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon demanding immediate climate action as part of a global strike.

“We’re really trying to call on those in power and change makers to put people first and not just make decisions based on profit,” explained Fridays for Future Toronto organizer Chloe Tse. , 21 years old. The theme of the march, organized by Fridays for Future, was “people not for profit.”

After four months of planning, the goal of the strike was not to advance policy, but to start conversations on multiple climate and justice issues at all levels of government, especially with Ontario municipal elections next month.

Fridays for Future Toronto launched a list of demandsurging banks, corporations, academic institutions, investment funds and all levels of government to:

  • Comply with binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
  • Prioritize sovereignty, autonomy and indigenous rights.
  • Divest in fossil fuels.
  • Accommodating and caring for people affected by the climate crisis.

In a statement on the climate strike, Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said he too has been in the shoes of young activists, understanding and sharing their frustration at the pace of change.

“We must work together to reduce greenhouse gases, protect and conserve natural areas, and adapt to the danger of our new climate reality,” wrote Guilbeault, who founded the environmental advocacy group Equiterre and later worked for Greenpeace.

Tse encourages people to start conversations about the climate crisis in classrooms, at home, and at work “because to grow this movement and make a big difference, we’re going to need more and more people on board.”

Climate inaction protest signs are strewn across Queen’s Park at the Fridays for Future Toronto rally on September 23, 2022. Photo by Nairah Ahmed/Canada’s National Observer

Friday’s protest brought together people of all ages — Seniors for Climate Action, adult-led grassroots groups, unions, and youth-led Fridays for Future — to form a coalition leading the strike.

Protesters of all ages took to Queen’s Park on Friday afternoon demanding immediate climate action as part of a global strike. #TO #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrike

Youth-led groups don’t often participate in coalition-led movements because it can be difficult to work with larger organizations and multiple generations, said Aliénor Rougeot, 23, co-founder of Fridays for Future Toronto. But “after most of the pandemic that we just went through, we realized that we are going to have to go much further.”

Tse said that having more hands on deck has led not only to more participation but also to a greater diversity of people. “Fridays for Future is great for mobilizing youth and students, but adults bring their work, family and faith communities,” she said.

Fridays for Future has taken an economic angle in its message to young people, Rougeot said, as affordability has become a concern for many. “We are trying to emphasize that climate action can be affordable action and that many solutions can lead to affordability. Also, to convey that the big corporate powers and companies that make a lot of money are benefiting from inflation right now.”

To students and youth looking to get involved, Tse said, “No matter what your passion is, you will connect with the climate crisis because it is such a big, sweeping issue that touches every part of our lives.

“Let’s hope our voices are strong and heard today.”

Nairah Ahmed / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer

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