The Qualicum Beach youth climate activists known as “Fridays for Future” think youth should have a say in the future of the planet and they are bringing their message to Ottawa with the help of local Member of Parliament Gord Johns.
“We want a voice in parliament,” said 15-year-old Teegan Walshe, in a news release from Johns’ office. “We can’t vote but we are the ones most affected (by the climate emergency).”
The Qualicum branch of Fridays for Future has been staging an environmental “strike” on the steps of the Qualicum Beach town hall every Friday for over a year. But after meeting with MP Johns and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh during Singh’s recent tour of the riding, Walshe and her fellow activists were inspired to bring their activism to parliament.
“If you want to change something you have to go through politics as that is where the decisions are made,” said Walshe.
The result is a petition asking the federal government for legislation requiring every MP, regardless of party affiliation, to consult with environmental youth leadership in their riding prior to bringing any bill affecting greenhouse gas emissions forward to second reading in Parliament.
Johns will present the petition in the House of Commons once copies are received in Ottawa.
“Their commitment is inspiring,” said Johns. “This is the kind of leadership we need. The climate emergency is inter-generational and we need the youth to be part of the discussions and the solutions.”
The NDP has been pressing the government to lower the voting age to 16, and Johns was a leader in the nationwide ban of single use plastics, according to the release.
Meanwhile, Walshe says they are out most days after school for hours at time collecting signatures, and the response has been “overwhelmingly” positive.
“The most common reaction we get is encouragement and support,” Walshe said. “People seem to be relieved that somebody is wanting to make changes. People have seen that youth care about this.”
Fridays for Future has also forwarded copies of the petition to Fridays for Future groups in Ontario and sponsored an electronic version so it may garner signatures nationwide.
The electronic petition is available for signatures here: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-4318
Johns is co-presenting a Youth-Led Climate Forum with Fridays for Future April 13, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the East Hall of the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre. Johns will moderate and panellists include Indigenous climate activist Kalilah Rampanen, Walshe, Lily Woodbury from Surfrider Pacific Rim and Guy Dauncey.
— NEWS Staff, submitted