Thousands take to Winnipeg streets to protest climate change inaction

City's largest demonstration in decades led by local youth activists

More than 10,000 Winnipeggers gathered at the Manitoba legislature Friday to show support for what appears to be the start of a worldwide climate revolution.

Sunny Enkin Lewis, an organizer with Manitoba Youth for Climate Action (MYCA), placed the strike in historical terms: “I believe that this is the crisis of our generation.”

This belief is common among many children, youth and adults the world over.

Sparked by teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, citizens of countries across the globe went out on strike to send a message to their local politicians.

The Fridays for Future movement was initiated by Thunberg, who, beginning in August 2018, called for people to strike in front of their town halls every week in the hope that it will influence change.

Thunberg also urges people to spread the word on social media with the hashtags #FridaysForFuture and #ClimateStrike.

“Scientists have told us that we have 11 years to change our ways before the climate reaches catastrophic levels and we’re not seeing the kind of political action that should come out of this scientific evidence and facts,” said Enkin Lewis.

“I’m here because I want the politicians to give us a right to our future.”

Beginning at noon, marchers gathered in front of the legislative building for the largest demonstration Winnipeg has seen in decades.

Pre-march ceremonies included performances by local musicians and speakers. Throughout the afternoon, many spoke from an Indigenous perspective and addressed the impact that climate change is having on their communities.

 

“Climate is changing, why aren’t we?”

The march, led by children and drummers, departed at 1 p.m.

Among the sea of people marching and chanting were waves of children and young adults holding signs that read “Climate is changing, why aren’t we?,” “Stand now or swim later” and “Respect your mother.”

There were even more direct messages like, “Did you buy the Earth dinner before you fucked it?” Marchers held these signs high while speakers addressed the crowd, voicing the urgency of the situation.

Marchers adopted the seven demands of Climate Strike Canada, including a call for “bold emissions reductions” that aims to legislate a 65 per cent reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030.

Other demands call for the separation of oil and state, a just transition to renewable energy in a way that prioritizes affected workers, enshrining environmental rights into Canadian law, prioritizing Indigenous rights by implementing the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, conservation of the nation’s biodiversity and the protection for vulnerable groups most affected by the climate crisis.

Carolyne Marchildon, a recent U of M graduate and member of MYCA, called the warming climate an existential threat and said there is nothing more urgent she could focus her energies on.

“It connects with every single other issue,” she said.

“So whether that be poverty, or environmental racism, or all these kinds of things — climate change will worsen all of these issues.”

On the Fort Garry campus, students from the school of art and faculty of music banded together to create pieces made entirely from recycled materials, some of which came from the faculties of engineering and architecture or a local landfill.

A monument, described as a found-object collaborative art installation, outside the Fitzgerald fine arts building was assembled by students from professors Mark Neufeld and Shep Steiner’s class, Art and Labour: 100 Years After the General Strike.

Neufeld said the project was inspired by the monument unveiled this summer commemorating the 100th anniversary of the general strike.

“It’s thinking about the past but it’s also making things for the future, so with that in mind it just seemed like an obvious thing to try to get the students to make a collaborative project for the climate strike,” he said.

The multi-faculty installation was created to bring awareness of the climate crisis to campus, said Ellen McGregor, a third-year fine arts student.

“It’s very interdisciplinary, interfaculty, which is really, really great,” she said, “especially for something like this — a global strike is such a collective endeavour.”

“Before this class I wasn’t even sure I was going to the strike and I think a lot of us have dived headfirst and become involved,” she added.

The five-member faculty of music eXperimental Improv Ensemble (XIE), directed by professor Gordon Fitzell, also had a part in the installation, creating instruments from re-purposed waste.

“We all went to the dump together, we found stuff that could potentially be acoustically interesting and they compiled everything into some freaky little instruments and designs,” said Alison Burdeny, a first-year music composition student.

UMSU held a walkout at 11 a.m. Friday with hundreds of students attending the strike.

Third-year engineering student Jack Osiowy said he hoped the march would make clear to policy makers that climate change is an issue crucial to the community.

“Hopefully it’ll bring a little more attention from the city here — and hopefully to the provincial government as well — that there’s a lot of people in Winnipeg that care about this and that it is important to the people of the city that something be done” said Osiowy.

Carly Van Mil, a fourth-year nutritional sciences student, predicted that the strike represents the beginning of a more consistent push to face climate change.

“I think something this big can’t be ignored, and I think it’s important for the momentum to keep going,” she said.

“I think that this will be the start of something that is bigger.”