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A million climate justice protesters can't be wrong: system change now!

Carolyn Egan

September 30, 2019

Over one million people came out to demonstrations on September 27th showing the broad commitment to climate justice across the country. 

The largest was In Montreal where the official count was 500,000 but there were also 1,000 rallying in the small town of Orllia, Ontario and hundreds on many Indigenous reserves . 

It was an extraordinary manifestation by people of all ages, but primarily the young who left their schools, colleges and universities, joining a global movement. 

Local coalitions sprung up in towns and cities sparked by Fridays for the Future, Extinction Rebellion and other environmental groups. Most marches were led by Indigenous peoples who have been in the forefront of climate action in every province. 

The numbers were greater than expected and polling is showing that the climate is a key issue in the federal election

In Quebec faculty unions supported the call for a climate strike, members left their campuses and joined their students going into the streets in the largest demonstrations the province has seen in decades. The Toronto Board of Education excused students for the day to attend the events. Elementary school teachers led their students on “walk arounds”.  

Steelworker stewards and activists came out from most workplaces representing their members at the Toronto rally. Though there weren’t shut downs, workers came out on lunch breaks and others took lieu time to attend events. 

At the Toronto rally a young journeyman from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who had just finished his apprenticeship, spoke to the tens of thousands who had gathered. He said, “Some politicians and businessmen try to tell working people that changing how we do things will cost jobs. They tell us that workers should oppose the environmental movement. I am here to say that there is no contradiction between good jobs and a healthy environment. We want to choose to use our skills to build a better world…

“The union flags in this crowd today shows our commitment to building this movement for climate justice…and that every community should share equally in our prosperity. That’s what this movement across the world is calling for, real action for climate justice, for economic justice and for social justice. Let’s start working together on that project today!” 

He got a huge applause from the mostly young crowd. He also spoke about the upcoming closure of GM Oshawa and how it must be retooled and put under public ownership to build electric vehicles starting with the Canada Post truck fleet which the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has been calling for. 

This is a key demand that should be a focus for activists in Ontario building on the links that have been forged between labour activists and the environmental movement in the organizing for September 27th. 

Others spoke on migrant justice, precarious workers and the need to integrate an anti-racist perspective in all that we do.

I saw homemade signs calling for “System Change Not Climate Change” and “Break the Rules of Capitalsim-100% Possible”.  

There is a tremendous opening in this movement for socialist ideas. People are seeing the horror of the environmental devastation all around us, the fires, the flooding, the hurricanes and it’s not stopping. 

They see the companies grasping for more and more profits, running rough shod over Indigenous lands, local communities and the workers they employ, using racism to divide us. 

The numbers out on September 27thshow that people have had enough and many are questioning the capitalist system itself.  We must build this climate justice movement and as we do, build a movement for a socialist future, where exploitation and oppression are things of the past.



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