Chants like “climate change is not a hoax” could be heard from outside the New Brunswick Legislature Building on March 15 as hundreds gathered in the rain with signs in hand. The protest was part of environmental protests happening around the world in recognition of climate change. Two older men in yellow vests tried to disrupt the rally but the protesters drowned them out with their chanting.
The global protests were sparked by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. She started the campaign Fridays for Future, where young people around the world began skipping school with her on Fridays to protest climate change.
Along with Canada and the United States, the National Post reported 100 countries participated in the protest.
Josh Shaddick, one of the organizers of the Fredericton protest, stood on the steps of the building and gathered the crowd into the “climate change is not a hoax” chant.
Shaddick, a student at the New Brunswick Community College in Miramichi, organized the event with his friend Antoine Zboralski, a student at the University of Moncton.
Chief Alan Polchies of St. Mary’s First Nation spoke at the beginning of the rally. He invited the crowd to sing traditional songs and gave thanks to the beauty of the Wolastoqey River.
“We have a responsibility to make a difference,” Polchies said.
As the rain fell, colourful letters on signs reading “There’s no planet B,” “Act now or swim later” and “Protect the planet, not profits” began to drip from the rain.
Among those holding wet signs in the crowd was first-year St. Thomas University student Grace Hickey. Her sign read “If solutions within the system are so impossible to find … we should change the system itself,” a quote said by Thunberg.
“I’m here because I believe in the future and climate justice,” Hickey said.
Hickey, who is studying environment and society, has participated in other Future for Friday protests but said this is the first time there’s been such a big turnout.
“This is the first national protest so it’s a big deal today.”
At Fredericton’s rally, people of all ages joined in Thunberg’s campaign. St. Thomas student Hannah Moore spoke at the protest, on behalf of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick where she works as a communications intern. She is also the co-chair of the St. Thomas Sustainability Council.
“We’re all in this together on this rock we call home,” said Moore.
Moore said she was excited to see Fredericton participating with dozens of other protests across Canada.
“It’s an issue for all ages, everyone has a role to play,” she said.
“Part of the rally is to get youth together and take action toward pressuring the government and industries towards climate action.”
Moore said that speaking to youth as a young person herself is impactful.
“[It’s] a more relatable way to send the message. Youth seeing other youth participating makes it more attainable.”
Joshua Sallos, a second-year STU student also attended the protest. Sallos said the rally at the legislature is like “using your body to show your vote.”
Sallos hopes this will encourage the province to adopt policies “to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to sustainable energy systems.”
David Coon, the leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick, also called on Premier Blaine Higgs to act against climate change.
“We need system change before the climate changes us.”
With files from Haley Stairs