Marches are planned in at least 85 Canadian cities and towns today as part of the international climate movement. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian youth take calls from drastic climate action to the streets today

OTTAWA — Thousands of Canadians are expected to hit the streets today demanding “widespread, systemic change” to halt the scary impact of a warming planet.

From St. John’s to Tofino, B.C., and as far north as Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, marches are planned in at least 85 Canadian cities and towns, as part of the international climate movement.

A number of international movements are coming together for one, massive climate change protest at the end of what they call “Week for Future.”

There was another international climate strike day last Friday, but in Canada the major events are taking place today.

More than 46,000 people signalled on Facebook they plan to attend the event in Vancouver, nearly 11,000 for Edmonton, and 5,000 in Halifax.

Some school boards and universities are cancelling classes during the protests or telling students they will not be penalized for missing class during that time.

Several retailers and workplaces are closing, at least for the duration of the protests, including Mountain Equipment Co-op, Lush Cosmetics, and Bridgehead Coffee in Ottawa.

“As a collective of young people from across the country, we aim to steer Canadian society off our current path of ecological and social catastrophe,” says the mandate of Climate Strike Canada, one of the groups spearheading the marches. “Drastic climate action is the only option for humanity.”

Coming as it is in the midst of Canada’s federal election campaign, three of the five national party leaders will be marching. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is marching in Victoria. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Green Leader Elizabeth May will both be in Montreal, where the Swedish schoolgirl who started it all will also attend.

Greta Thunberg began her climate strikes with weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish legislature last year, and in a few months kids around the world joined her cause. On Monday Thunberg delivered a scathing rebuke to world leaders at the United Nations climate summit in New York City.

“For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear,” she told them. “How dare you look away.”

Also on Monday she filed a complaint with 15 other children alleging five UN members —Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey — failed to uphold their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by not doing enough to stop the climate crisis.

Thunberg said they are the five biggest emitters who signed the convention, though Canada ratified the convention in 1991 and has annual greenhouse-gas emissions greater than all but Germany in that list.

The world’s biggest emitters, including China and the United States, did not ratify the convention.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer will be in Vancouver Friday but did not have plans to participate in a march there.

Climate Strike Canada has a list of demands that includes:

— Canada’s recognizing its “disproportionate role” in the climate crisis

— enshrining the right to a healthy environment in law

— rejecting any new fossil fuel development or transportation projects

— setting “bold” targets to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to just one-quarter of what they were in 2005 by 2030.

Canada’s current goal is to cut them to 70 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, though Trudeau and May have both promised to exceed that and to make Canada carbon neutral by 2050.

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