Thousands pack B.C. streets to mark Global Climate Strike

Thousands of people gathered outside Vancouver City Hall on Friday to participate in one of dozens of climate strikes across the country.

Supporters began trickling in as early as 9:45 a.m.

GALLERY: Vancouverites pack the streets for climate strike

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

Climate strike protesters at Vancouver City Hall on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.

By 1 p.m. there were 7,000 to 8,000 demonstrators, many of them youth, packed into the square, with organizers predicting more would join once the march began.

Many carried signs with messages such as “This is not what we meant by Hot Girl Summer,” “Act now or swim later,” and “I’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time too.”

Samantha Lin, a student at Prince of Wales Secondary and an organizer of Sustainabiliteens, said she has been thrilled to see the growth of the movement since students held their first strike in Vancouver last December.

“We’re about a month away from the election, we want to bring climate to the forefront of everybody’s minds when it comes to that,” Lin said.

“This is one way we are doing that. I’m 17 years old, I can’t vote yet, a lot of people here are still in school, they can’t vote yet either. This is our way of making our voices heard.”

More than half a dozen cities in British Columbia, including Victoria and Kelowna, are playing host to climate change demonstrations on Friday.

Massive crowds gathered outside the B.C. legislature, including federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who was also in B.C., said he would not march, but that other Conservative politicians would participate in marches across the country.

Green Leader Elizabeth May and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau both marched in Montreal.

B.C. Premier John Horgan opted out of the march, citing meetings, but said he was delighted to see young people making their voices heard.

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Kelowna #ClimateStrike beginning!

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B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman issued a statement that touted the government’s CleanBC program but acknowledged that more work needs to be done.

“Our plan ensures that we’re open and transparent about our goals and how we’re doing in our efforts to meet them,” he said. “We expect to be held accountable, and we’re putting new mechanisms in place so British Columbians can do just that.”

Protesters point to dire warnings by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which predicts that emissions must be cut by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050 to avoid severe climate change impacts.

The IPCC released a report earlier this month warning sea levels could rise by more than a metre by the end of the century if emissions aren’t reduced, while a 2019 report by Canadian government scientists predicted increased wildfire activity, sea ice loss, and drought.

Friday’s global strike is one of two scheduled to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit and is timed for teen climate activist Greta Thunberg’s arrival in Montreal.

“I expect that you as well as other countries take your responsibility and do your part from a global perspective,” the 16-year-old Swede told protesters in Montreal on Friday.

“We are having so much impact that people want to silence us, we’ve become too loud for people to handle.”

Vancouver residents were being warned of possible snarled traffic in the downtown core.

The planned route intersects Beatty, Cambie, Hamilton, Homer, Richards, Seymour, Smithe, Robson and West Georgia streets.

Vancouver police will also be monitoring the event and police will be working to reduce the impact on traffic and the public.

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