Kelowna was just one of the hundreds of locations across the world to participate in the Global Climate Strike on Friday (Sept. 24).
Nearly 50 people rallied outside of city hall before marching down Bernard Avenue and delivering a letter demanding climate action to Kelowna-Lake Country MP-elect Tracy Gray’s office.
“We thought it was important to get out here because although climate activism isn’t thriving in Kelowna, we’re still here and we still gotta make some noise,” said Ben Cuthbert, a member of Fridays for Future Kelowna.
The event was a collaborative effort between Fridays for Future Kelowna, Okanagan Climate Hub, Extinction Rebellion Kelowna and 350 Canada.
“I’m so glad the youth are here, because we’re here for you,” said Tracey Davis of Okanagan Climate Hub.
Devon Murray, a 13-year-old student at Dr. Knox Middle School, said that she was overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance.
“It’s so upsetting to see that we still have to talk about this, that I have to skip school, make posters and do all this work just so we can be heard, addressed and it’s not fair,” said Murray, who credited her teacher, Ms. Dominelli, for inspiring her to take action against climate change.
“We have it easy — there are so many people that have it so hard. It’s just so unfair. I’m just so happy to have everybody here,” said Murray.
At around 11:30 a.m., the crowd gathered outside of city hall, where they made posters with messages that included “There is no Planet B,” “Smokanagan = Climate Emergency” and “Climate Action Now.”
Short speeches were made and the crowd made their way towards Bernard Avenue at around 12 p.m. Equipped with their signs and a giant banner that read “Climate Emergency, Act Like It,” demonstrators repeated chants as they walked, such as “Uproot the system” and “Climate action is what we need, not billionaires and corporate greed.”
The group marched down Bernard Avenue, drawing the attention of on-lookers and halting traffic along the way. At the intersection of Bertram Street and Bernard Avenue, the crowd looped back down Bernard before turning onto St. Paul Street, where Gray’s office is located.
“I just want to know that Tracy understands just how seriously this emergency needs to be taken,” said Cuthbert.
“Also, I really want to hear her acknowledge that all these crises — Indigenous law rights, racism, sexism, unequal COVID vaccine distribution — all these crises and issues are all tied together. You can’t talk about one without talking about them all. I just want to hear her acknowledge that.”
While Gray wasn’t present at her office, Cuthbert taped a letter demanding climate action on the building’s entrance. The letter, signed by Fridays for Future Kelowna, reads as follows:
“Dear Tracy Gray, MP, This summer, the Okanagan was on fire. We can’t go on like this. As our voice in Ottawa, will you:
- Recognize that we need to cut emissions immediately and work to end the extraction and burning of fossil fuels?
- Work for a just, global COVID-19 recovery by fighting to end IP restrictions on vaccines?
- Condemn state violence against land defenders and environmental activists, and respect and listen to Indigenous peoples?
“Everything is connected. We are counting on you to fight for our future.”
Kyle Rogers, a first-year political science student at UBCO, said that he hopes that Gray recognizes that climate change is a real issue.
“Corporations aren’t going to do anything unless they’re forced to. They’re incentivized to make the most money,” said Rogers. “At the moment, climate action isn’t in business’ best interest. I’d encourage her to make it so that is in their best interest.”
When reached for comment, Gray said she doesn’t comment on correspondence received from constituents or protests but added she has “been clear that in Ottawa I will fight to end the Liberal’s hypocrisy on the environment.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. with comment from MP-elect Tracy Gray.