Outside the New Brunswick Legislature in Fredericton on May 10, more than 250 people, mostly youth, gathered to urge the elected representatives inside to take urgent action on the climate crisis. It was the third “Fridays for Future” climate strike at the Legislature and the crowd has been growing slowly each time. Rain was falling, as it was during the first rally on March 15 and the second rally on May 3. A summary of the mood – Weather: rain. Climate: warming.
The number of youths speaking out is increasing rapidly. At the second rally on May 3, several brave high school students took a megaphone. At the third rally on May 10, a long line-up of youth were waiting to speak at a microphone set up on the Legislature’s front steps. Earlier that day, inside the Legislative Assembly, Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South David Coon tabled a petition calling for urgent climate action signed by more than 800 people.
The number of people signing the petition is also increasing with each rally. One of the youths circulating the petition May 10 was Keegan Kelly, a grade 10 student at Fredericton High School. He told the NB Media Co-op that he was on strike from school to show support for environmental action. “This is an issue that’s larger than most other things going on,” he said. “If we don’t solve this, most of the other issues don’t matter.”
Many students at the rally were from École Sainte-Anne in Fredericton but students from as far away as Woodstock were also demonstrating. Their signs included: “Fridays for Future” and “Prenez vos responsabilités, pas mon avenir.” Climate change is not going away and neither are the youth, was the message that united the crowd.
Youth took centre stage. More than a dozen young people managed to swallow their fear of public speaking and stood up in solidarity with the thousands of people around the world holding their governments accountable for the lack of climate action.
Some students spoke from the heart, recounting genuine worries over an uncertain future that promises more frequent extreme weather events and a vastly different environment than the one they know today, while others came prepared with well-rehearsed speeches and songs.
Many École Sainte-Anne students not only demonstrated great enthusiasm but also chose to deliver their speeches in both French and English, highlighting the unity between both the linguistic communities on this important issue affecting everyone.
Also uniting all students was a clear consensus that short-sighted political divisions are getting in the way of the important work that needs to be done to avoid consequences that come with global temperatures rising above the 1.5 degree threshold that scientist predict as the tipping point.
In an interview with the NB Media Co-op, École Sainte-Anne student Pierre Arsenault said that some of his teachers understand the issue and “they won’t fuss about it if we’re missing school, they’ll be OK,” but others were: “less cool with it.” Arsenault explained that he was coming to the rallies because he believes in science, and science is telling us that because of human action, the climate is changing and having a negative impact on biodiversity, on us and on other animal species. “And I don’t want that to happen. I want a future where animals and humans are still alive.”
His sister Marianne Arsenault graduated from École Sainte-Anne several years ago and came to the rally because of her brother. She said that people need to vote to express their opinion, and “if they are too young to vote, then they need to send emails after emails and protest when they can.”
The crowd gave big cheers for the two Green Party MLAs who spoke. Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar received an enthusiastic response when she said that earlier in the week she gave notice in the Legislature of a motion to declare a climate emergency in New Brunswick. When she questioned the Premier if he believed we have a climate emergency, she was “horrified” by his response. In the house, Premier Higgs said that he was unsure how much of climate change was caused by human activity.
“Climate change is caused by humans. We need to listen to the scientists who are sounding the alarm bells. We know what we need to do. We have the solutions. We need to take action, immediately,” said Mitton. She led the youth in a rousing chant: “We believe that we will win!”
David Coon also received an energetic welcome. He stressed the importance of demonstrating at the Legislature, recalling that when he was in school, he saw students in the US stop a war, and change the world. “That’s what we’re going to do together. We’re going to change the world right here in New Brunswick.”
The next Fridays for Future strike in Fredericton is scheduled for May 24 at 1pm in front of the New Brunswick Legislature. Climate rallies will take place all across the globe at the same time.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick has a web page to send a letter to Premier Higgs to urge the government to take climate action.
For those of you that missed it, here’s a taste of some of the speeches that were delivered by New Brunswick students attending last week’s rally. (Hope it encourages you to join us next week!):
Corey Robichaud is a writer and website manager at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. Norm Knight is an NB Media Co-op reporter. Susan O’Donnell is on the editorial board of the NB Media Co-op and on the team of the RAVEN project.