Roughly one thousand people marched to City Hall in Yellowknife today as part of the Global March for Climate Change.
Yellowknifers joined the global student-led climate strike movement, as millions walked out across Canada and around the world. Marching from Sir John Franklin High School, through downtown and to Somba K’e Park, they carried banners and signs calling for urgent action on the climate crisis.
“Dene hide tanners and traditional harvesters have been forced to adjust their connections to land and culture because of the drastic changes in our traditional territories,” Dëneze Nakehk’o, a founding member of Dene Nahjo said. “These close connections have sustained us for generation upon generation since time immemorial. It is also the reason Indigenous Peoples should be on the forefront of climate solutions.”
Workers, teachers, parents and residents from all walks of life listened as students spoke from the steps of their schools.
“I am calling for justice,” Ella Kokelj, a Grade 12 student at Sir John Franklin High School who helped organize the event said. “My generation has been robbed. Our future has been stolen. Our leaders have failed us, and continue to do so by not taking the climate crisis seriously. We need to rise and demand action because we have a right to a future in a beautiful and healthy world.”
The strike came just days before the territorial election and mere weeks away from the federal election, with many candidates in attendance.
“Today, we’re striking and tomorrow we’ll continue to build a massive movement for a Green New Deal, in the federal election and in our streets and communities after that,” Pretty Ngo, a student spokesperson for the local chapter of Our Time said.
The strike gathered widespread community support in the days leading up to it, with the City of Yellowknife encouraging residents to strike, saying climate change was a “real and imminent threat”.
“I’d like to thank the students for organizing this event, for spurring the discussion, and for pushing for action,” Mayor Alty said. “I look forward to hearing from residents, businesses, community groups, and all orders of government on what we can all do to work together to address climate change.”
Students also heard from Indigenous youth and Elders about the dramatic effects of climate change on the land and the way of life that depends on it.
“The climate crisis is the most important issue in history,” Kyle Rogers, a Grade 11 Student at St. Patrick High School said. “If we don’t take drastic action now, we simply won’t have a future. Some say it’s too expensive to fix, but how can we afford not to act? If we don’t, climate change impacts will cost us far more than taking bold action now, while it’s still time.”
All three school boards avoided scheduling tests on the day of the strike to not penalize students who took part and several teachers brought their classes as a whole to the event.