An enthusiastic and colorful crowd of several hundred gathered outside the provincial legislature in Fredericton on March 15 to protest against the government’s inaction on climate change. Despite the pouring rain, the energy was palpable with hundreds of witty placards with messages to change hearts and minds.
Most of those gathered were young people responding to Greta Thunberg’s call to strike to stop global warming and climate change. Thunberg is the 16-year-old Swedish girl who sparked off a global movement when she skipped school to protest the lack of climate action of the steps of the Swedish parliament. Josh Shaddick of Miramichi organized the Fredericton demonstration inspired by Thunberg’s example.
Maggie Paul of St. Mary’s First Nation opened the Fredericton proceedings with a prayer and a song. Hannah Moore, a St. Thomas University student and intern with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, congratulated all the young people for turning out. She called on them to educate and empower themselves in order to make their voices heard. “Let’s take our future into our hands now. Let’s make a difference. We can’t afford to wait any longer. Dependence on oil and gas has to end now.”
David Coon, Green Party of NB Leader and MLA for Fredericton South, told the crowd he had been waiting for this moment since he had got elected, four years ago. “It is your time,” he told the young people. “Time to create the political will for change, to work together to create a movement so strong in New Brunswick that the premier and the government will have to act. Time to end for once and for all the kind of society that throws away people as easily as it does plastic.”
The youngest speaker from the platform was Nathan Van Duzee, 12, of George St. Middle School, accompanied by Alex Dawson from the same school. A large contingent attended from Nashwaak Middle School including Nadia Woodward, Emily Keats, PIper McCullaigh, Amelia Gagné and Matthew Graham. The francophone community was represented from the platform and Rose Myatt was there with others from École Sainte-Anne.
Also in the crowd, Rachel Bensler from Alberta, a student at the Renaissance College leadership program, echoed the call for change, stressing that a Green economy would not only be better for the environment but also profitable for the province. Niklas Ernst, a UNB political science student, made the important point that it was the countries in the southern hemisphere who had contributed least to global warming but were going to suffer the most with rising sea levels.
To close proceedings, Moon Joyce led the crowd in a rendition of Marie-Lynn Hammond’s ‘Temagami Chant’, sung enthusiastically by all : ‘If we abuse the planet/ If we ravage the land/ We might as well be cutting off/ Our own right hand/ For we and the earth are one/ Under the moon, under the sun.
The rally was an impressive demonstration of the will for change. It showed that young people are not going to wait forever, and they demanded that politicians take note. Young people also led rallies on March 15 in Sackville and Moncton.
Gerry McAlister delivers the Brief in Fredericton. He is a friend of the RAVEN project – Rural Voices and Action for the Environment. Additional photos by Jill Watson.