Students, families and friends concerned about the state of the climate gathered to march through the streets of Yellowknife Friday as part of a global climate strike.
Thomas Gagnon-van Leeuwen, organizer of the local chapter of Our Time, a youth led environmental movement pushing politicians to support a Green New Deal, estimated there were more than 1,000 people in attendance.
Participants joined with an initial greeting from the main organizers Our Time and Dene Nahjo, as well as a prayer from Dene elder Therese Sangris, before heading along 52 Avenue to St. Patrick High School, where a number of students and staff awaited.
Students then marched onto Franklin Avenue to the the post office for a rally before a final gathering was held at Somba K’e Civic Plaza.
Along the way students could be seen carrying handmade signs that contained numerous messages demanding more action be taken by governments to address climate change.
Chants could be heard in the streets like, “Hey ho, climate change has got to go,” “Get up/ get down/keep fossil fuels in the ground,” as well as call-back yells that inspired support for the idea of climate justice.
Several NWT elections candidates were out marching along with the crowd and some shared social media posts later in the day noting their participation in the event.
City of Yellowknife politicians and city staff were also present. On Wednesday, the City of Yellowknife had announced in a news release that it was in support of the global climate strike
“The City of Yellowknife recognizes the immediate need for action to combat climate change and supports the global climate strike,” stated the release. “We encourage residents to participate and support in this global day of action.”
A number of union leaders attended including David Bob, president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada North, and Loretta Kaminski, of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
A number of students told Yellowknifer that they were attending the march because they were concerned for their futures and what climate change might mean for them.
Serena Jenna, 13, and Liam Hamel, 14, both of Ecole Allain St. Cyr, said they had to do what they could to stop the deterioration of the planet.
“In 20 years or 50 years what are we going to say to our children or grandchildren when they are stuck on a dirty rotten Earth?” said Jenna when asked why she attended the march.
“We are going to just say sorry your life is so sucky, but…..?
“This is our only Earth. We haven’t the resources, nor the technology, nor knowledge to go onto another Earth, so we have to take care of this one because it is the only one we’ve got. Once it’s rotten, it’s rotten. We can’t fix it.”
She said it was a good example of democracy with many people coming together to fight and try to address an important issue.
Lindsay Debassie, a program director with FOXY and SMASH, was present with her co-worker Amanda Kanbari, a special projects and education coordinator.
They said they attended because they wanted to show support for the global movement and are concerned about the impacts of climate change on youth and Indigenous people.
“We work with youth and we are an Indigenous organization and preserving our land is important to us and important to our future and our children,” she said.
“I’m impressed with the turnout and I love the signs. It is amazing to see so many youth engaged and speaking out on such an important issue.”
Ellie Taylor, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at St. Patrick High School, arrived at the march with her classmate Makayla Lane. They said they were really pleased with the sea of people who attended the event.
“We are trying to express the importance of the change that we need because if we don’t make a change our children and grandchildren will grow up in a world where coral reefs don’t exist, glaciers don’t exist and areas are going to be flooded and people are going to die,” said Taylor. “There are going to be droughts in different areas of the world. Everyone says it is not real and they say ‘I don’t feel it getting warmer, it is pretty cold right now.’ But that is not true.”
Ellen Reyes and Jessica Pacunayen attended and brought a biblicaly themed sign with them.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” stated their sign, which is a variation of a statement contained in the Book of Genesis.
“It is a good reminder that it is also biblical that we need to take care of the planet,” said Pacunayen.
“We need to remind people that this issue is not just about us but that it is about everybody on this planet,” she continued. “We have a duty to uphold.”