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The march heads for Parliament Hill. Photo: Matt Gergyek/Fulcrum

Protesters call for concrete measures from elected officials to tackle climate crisis

Thousands of young people took to the streets of Ottawa on Friday for the Global Climate Strike, hoisting signs high into the air and sending chants ricocheting between the highrises of the city’s core before marching on Parliament Hill.

Inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was at Montreal’s march on Friday, the strike calls for concrete action from elected officials to tackle the climate crisis. Hundreds of marches took place across the globe, drawing millions of people.

On the University of Ottawa campus, the march kicked off on Tabaret Lawn, where a group of about 300 students gathered for 10:30 a.m. The university didn’t cancel classes but says it will ‘accommodate’ those who attended the strike and encouraged students to do so.

“I’m spending all this money studying here and if there’s nothing that’s going to be here in a few years because of climate change, what’s the point?” said Meghan Robitaille, a biomedical science student at the U of O. “I’d like to rectify that so we can all have a future,”

Robitaille held a sign reading “We can’t drink oil, we can’t breathe money, it’s our future!”

“They can’t ignore this many people coming and asking for change,” she added.

U of O president Jacques Frémont waved to the crowd from the steps of Tabaret Hall before the march set off, weaving through Sandy Hill toward the ByWard Market and picking up dozens of people along the way.

“Save our land, save our seas, there is no planet B!” the crowd chanted, along with “Indigenous rights are under attack. What do we do? Rise up and fight back!”

As the march passed the United States Embassy on Sussex Drive, the crowd took to chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”

The march from the U of O campus connected with hundreds of protesters in Confederation Park before taking on some the busiest streets of Centretown, stopping traffic while pedestrians watched the procession continue to grow from the sidewalks.

“This is what democracy looks like!” the marchers chanted. 

The march turned to Wellington Street and connected with a sibling march from Gatineau to march on Parliament Hill, the lawn overflowing with people. A number of speakers, including Indigenous scholars and activists, spoke to an estimated crowd of about 5,000 people, according to the Parliamentary Protective Service.

“I knew it was going to be huge … but seeing the turnout was so powerful, feeling all the urgency and energy,” said U of O alumna Emily Trudeau, her voice nearly gone from chanting.

“It’s clear now people are not just going to sit back and accept the inaction our government has shown. At the end of the day, it’s people that have the power to change things.” 

U of O political science student Jaivika Kataria said she valued the intersectional approach of the march, highlighting the Indigenous and class issues it touched on. 

“It’s long overdue, we should’ve been doing this 20, 30 years ago, but it’s officially going to be too late if we don’t start now,” said Kataria. “It’s young people who are actually going to be affected by climate change.”

U of O software engineering student Fatimah Vakily put her reasons for marching bluntly.

“This isn’t a joke, these are our lives and this is our future,” she said. “If you can’t step up we have to take matters into our own hands. Your money isn’t going to matter when we’re all dead.”

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