Climate Strike attendees hope to spur change

Nearly 60 people gathered in Memorial Square to attend the Prince Albert Climate Strike on Friday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Crystal Frenette is hoping for an echo, and not just the one that lingers like the sounds of the ceremonial drums used to open Climate Strike Prince Albert in Memorial Square.

She’s hoping for something that will last a little longer and go a little further, ideally to areas where decision makers contemplate their next environmental policies.

“I hope that it echoes across the whole world and across all of Canada and across Saskatchewan,” Frenette says as nearly 60 climate strikers drift away following the end of the noon hour gathering on Friday. “I hope that it echoes into every board room, chamber, and council room that people need to have a better plan than what is put forward by most of the politicians nowadays.”

Frenette isn’t alone in that hope. Climate change has become one of the most talked about issues in recent weeks, largely due to 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Thunberg started a two-week journey across the Atlantic in August to take part in a United Nations climate summit. Since arriving in North America, she’s spoken in front of UN delegates, criticized world leaders, and inspired the third international “climate strike” of 2019 to demand better policies that will halt climate change.

On Friday, she marched in Climate Strike Montreal, an event that organizers and environmental groups say more than 500,000 people marched in. There were similar protests across Canada, in cities like Vancouver, Halifax and Yellowknife.

Prince Albert’s Climate Strike gathering wasn’t nearly as large, but attendees made up for it with passion.

“There are plans out there,” Frenette says. “There are balanced budgets that are put forward out there, and we have the possibility to change. It’s just that our government officials need to listen to the people and to the kids who have been saying for decades that we need to change. We don’t need to change in 50 years. We need a plan now.”

The specifics of that plan are up for debate. Thunberg has called on world leaders to listen and act on the best available science, and for protesters in Prince Albert, it starts with a sustainable economy. That means focusing on reducing power consumption and purchasing more local food that’s grown in a sustainable manner. 

“I hope they went away with the idea that the food on our fork can take us away from climate change (and) mitigate it if we start choosing whole food produced through regenerative agriculture,” Prince Albert Council of Canadians spokesperson Nancy Carswell says. “I hope that they see, collectively, a lot of our consumption is just empty, it’s pointless.”

Getting those policies in place is another matter. Federal election candidates Estelle Hjertaas (Liberal) and Harmony Johnson-Harder (NDP) attended the climate strike, as did Prince Albert Carlton NDP candidate Troy Parenteau.

However, Carswell says it’s going to take more than just electing the right officials to get the proper policies in place. She’d like to see Canada bring in a new electoral system.

“Proportional Representation, will be most helpful in putting the solutions to climate change into place because then we won’t have the flip flop from one political party to the other as they gain power,” she says. “That sustained collaboration will get us there faster.”

Carswell and Frenette were the two main speakers at the Prince Albert Climate Strike. There were several parents will infants or toddlers in attendance, but adults made up the vast majority of Friday’s crowd.

Thunberg has faced plenty of criticism since starting her journey. Some, like People’s Party of Canada leader Max Bernier have suggested she’s being used as a shield to deflect any criticism of the climate change movement.

“The green leftists want us to focus on the feelings of this girl so as to prevent any debate on the radical ideology she is pushing,” Bernier wrote in a series of Tweets on Sept. 2. “She and her parents are responsible for making her an international figure at the centre of political controversies. (It’s) not the rest of us.”

Bernier also called Thunberg mentally unstable, and wrote that she suffered from “depression and lethargy, and lives in a constant state of fear.”

Bernier later said he did not mean to attack Thunberg personally, and only intended to show that she was being used as a “pawn.”

Carswell says she has no problem with Thunberg speaking up. In fact, she wants to make it easier for young people to do so by lowering the voting age to 16. If 16-year-olds can accept responsibilities like learning how to drive, she says, they should be able to vote too.

“It’s ironic that they can’t vote, although they can do those other things.”