On September 21, over 5,000 Montrealers joined the People’s Climate March at Parc Lafontaine in a protest against climate change, sending a message to the world leaders attending the United Nations’ (UN) first-ever Climate Summit in New York on September 23. Montreal’s event was one of 2,800 held worldwide in solidarity with the main People’s Climate March in New York City, which saw over 400,000 people take to the streets and claimed the record for the largest climate march in history.
The UN Climate Summit is intended to allow leaders from all over the world a space to discuss climate issues in preparation for the Conference on Climate Change happening next year in Paris.
In an email to The Daily, People’s Climate Montreal coordinator Jenny Loughran said she hoped the march would be inspiring. “Far too often people feel like its too late or that know [sic] one cares. This event was meant to bring people from across Montreal together under one cause. It is not too late to take to reverse the trends, but the time to act is now.”
The march in Montreal started off with performances by a variety of musical groups, including the Raging Grannies, all of whom sang songs against environmentally harmful practices such as fracking and pipeline projects.
After the musical performances, speakers stressed the importance of taking action to protect the environment. Many of the speakers and demonstrators expressed discontent with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s climate policies, urging for more action from the federal government – some protesters carried signs branding Harper an eco-terrorist.
Several people were also disappointed with Harper’s choice to not attend the UN Climate Summit. Harper will be sending Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq to represent Canada in his place. Phil Comeau, a protester at Sunday’s march, was one of many who objected to Harper’s absence from the summit. “I think that Canada should stop being a dinosaur and be part of our future,” Comeau told The Daily.
Grille, another protester at Sunday’s march, was equally upset by Canada’s lack of action with regard to environmental protection. She said, however, that the problem lay not only with Canada’s policies, but with the people as well. “It’s about time we learned that we should be proud to try and live with the minimum,” said Grille. “Right now, we admire people who are rich, but those people are destroying the planet.”
Carrying a sign that read ‘Degrowth Now,’ Grille explained that people should “minimize what [we] need,” and cited consumerism as an underlying problem. “It’s consumerism, but we have to change that. It’s the trend, yes, but it’s not sustainable, so stop talking about sustainable development, it’s a lie. We [need] to learn the other way around, [we need] to decrease our consumption [instead]. We have to. We are too many, we are six billion people,” Grille said.
Loughran also emphasized the need for a paradigm change. “Many countries who have yet to feel the sting of climate change are reluctant take action because they don’t feel the effects of Climate Change [sic] or they have the resources to deal with problems as they arise. What they don’t see are the poor island states that will be drowned, the rural communities that will no longer be able to scrape a living on marginal land, or the delta dwellers will be swept out to sea in hurricanes – climate victims are not massive carbon polluters, but they will be the first to pay the price of climate change.”
Echoing the urgency of others at the march, Comeau told The Daily, “I think that climate change is a big problem, and it’s getting worse every year. We’re almost at the point of no return, and it’s now or never that we have to change these policies.”