Hundreds of Toronto Students Ditched Classes To Demand Climate Change Action

“We’re not gonna die anytime soon, and if we do, it’s gonna be because of this.”
Global Climate Strike Toronto
All photo courtesy of Sherina Harris

Hundreds of students in Toronto joined protesters around the world for the Youth Strike for Climate on Friday.

Protestors chanted “The trees are not pleased” and “time is ticking” outside Queen’s Park. Students ranging from elementary to university ages braved the wind and waved signs and posters.

The strike was organized by Fridays for Future Toronto, which was founded after the first youth climate strike was held last August by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish parliament. Thunberg, who was 15 at the time of her first strike, has protested every Friday since.


As Julie Dzerowicz, Liberal Member of Parliament for Davenport, Ontario began speaking, protesters began chanting “No pipeline!”

“You can say go faster, you can say do more, but I want to let you guys know we are taking action,” Dzerowicz said, citing the federal government’s efforts to phase out coal and to ensure that 90 percent of Canada’s energy comes from green energy by 2030.

VICE spoke to some of the students who protested on Friday.


Rebecca Arshawsky attended the Youth Strike for Climate at Queen's Park.

Rebecca Arshawsky, Second-year architecture student at the University of Toronto

Why are you here?
I think the governments in general have a really skewed perception of what we have to prioritize and what we have to value in our current system, especially from a capitalist perspective where money is really valued. If we re-contextualized the Earth as the priority value, then we’re gonna have a sustainable future. Especially for younger people like ourselves, we need to really fight for that, because we’re the ones who are going to experience the impacts later on. Why should other young people get involved?
We’re not gonna die anytime soon, and if we do it’s gonna be because of this. I feel like a lot of people I’ve talked to, especially young people, are very demotivated to continue on with their studies, like I was. Because I was like, the planet is not going to exist, what’s the point? It’s really important to promote the fact that climate justice should be a value. It should be valued, and especially for our future and our education so that people are motivated to do something about it.

Joseph Purcell

Joseph Purcell holds a sign at the Youth Strike for Climate.


Joseph Purcell, First-year psychology student at York University

Why are you here?
I’m here because I care a lot about the environment and the policies that the Conservative government in Ontario is passing and are trying to pass for the environment, even not just the environment, but affecting our province in general. They’re regressive, and they actively harm our generation and previous generations and future generations on all fronts.

What do you want to see governments do?
I want them to take a look at what’s been done and what they’re doing and one, admit their faults and two, do something. Our provincial government isn’t doing anything, our federal government isn’t doing anything, and other provinces [like] Alberta, they’re actively harming the environment with the oil sands pipeline. I want them to do something.

Why should other young people get involved?
It’s our future. We’re gonna feel the full brunt of what’s been going on since the industrial revolution. It’s been a slow burn, but it’s not going to be a slow burn for too much longer. It’s already starting to hit fast. We had almost minus 40-degree weather a few months ago. Forty years ago, that would be a freak occurrence. Now, that’s just Tuesday in the winter.

Tia Aprile

Tia Aprile stands with Heaven Carvalho.

Tia Aprile, Grade 12 student at Pine Ridge secondary school

Why are you here?
Personally, I think climate change is one of the biggest problems that we’re facing in the world today and I just don’t think that the global leaders are doing enough about it, especially down in the United States. I think that students coming together—saying this is our future and this is what we want you to do, we’re the future voters, we’re the future of the world—is really important because this is something that’s going to affect us in the long term. The people making decisions right now about how it’s going to go are not doing enough.”

What do you want to see governments do?
I want to see more on limiting carbon emissions, because I don’t think the carbon tax is enough. Especially now that Doug Ford is suggesting taking away the carbon tax, I don’t think they’re doing enough to make sure that big companies, people, cars are not polluting as much as they should be. And I think that we should be making more of a change to renewable energy than we are right now.”

Why should other young people get involved?
This is an issue that’s going to affect them. It’s not just one group of people, one person, one country affected by this, it’s a global phenomenon. It’s going to affect cities on coastal lines, it’s gonna affect our air. It affects everybody. I think everybody should be involved because it’s not just one person, one group, one country being affected by it. I also think it’s everybody’s responsibility to take care of the Earth. We all live here. It’s all our planet. If you honestly don’t care about the impact you’re leaving, then you’re part of the problem.

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