Hundreds expected to leave classes for climate protest at legislature on Friday

As many as 1,000 Greater Victoria students and teachers from high schools and post-secondary institutions are expected to walk out of classes on Friday to protest failures to combat climate change.

The students plan to gather at noon at the B.C. legislature to listen to speeches and music.

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The Victoria event is one of about 1,000 planned worldwide, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who led the first climate-change strike by students last year. Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday. If she wins, she would become the youngest Nobel winner ever just ahead of Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won.

Events are planned in at least 50 communities across Canada, according to the Green Party of Canada.

“Imagine being a child and suddenly realizing your prospects in life have been potentially irreversibly compromised by the adult world’s refusal to take action on the climate crisis,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands. “What would you do?”

Organizer Antonia Paquin, 21, a second-year student at the University of Victoria, said she is taking the issue personally, since climate change will affect her directly — not just her children or grandchildren.

“What really has me concerned is that it doesn’t seem like our politicians are even concerned about the scope of the problem,” Paquin said.

The students will be supported by members of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

Six members of the union’s social justice committee will attend the rally, and each high school in Victoria has been sanctioned to allow one member teacher to leave school to attend.

Jason Gammon, president of the union, said attendance of the teachers was a gesture of solidarity with the young people.

Jordan Watters, chairwoman of the Greater Victoria school district, said no action will be taken against students or teachers who leave school to participate in the protest.

Watters said in many ways the district feels compelled to support students and teachers taking part.

“We don’t want students to miss out on instruction minutes,” she said. “But we also encourage students to have a voice about topics they are passionate about.

“Social responsibility is a core value of the district and we want to work with and inspire our students to create a better, more sustainable community.

“Obviously, the students are leading the way on this.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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