June 7, 2023

By Darick Charbonneau, Spoke News

Hundreds of people turned out on Sept. 8 for Rise for Climate, an international display of protest and calls for change that saw over 900 different actions in 91 countries across all seven continents.

The Waterloo Region Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Waterloo Region Labour Council, among others, in conjunction with 350.org, partnered to bring local activists and speakers together to demand change and accountability from our elected representatives to better the lives of everyone living in Waterloo Region.

The crowd was filled with people from all walks of life, from young families to seniors and everyone in between, all taking advantage of art supplies and banner making to get in the mood to fight climate change.  As more people arrived, the sea of people slowly filled with colourful banners and signs proclaiming their demands and readiness to fight global warming.

After the crowd was fired up and chanting, the protest kicked off with a “die-in,” where protesters lay down and were outlined with chalk to represent the deaths that have already occurred due to climate change.

Following the die-in came an official acknowledgment that it was being held on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, before Myeengun Henry, the elected chief of the Chippewas of the Thames, spoke of how the Indigenous peoples are reclaiming their role as protectors of the environment.

He was followed by the Blue Sky Singers, an Indigenous group that sang two captivating, traditional songs for the crowd.

It was then that the politicians said a few words, with Mayor Berry Vrbanovic starting off, speaking of his earlier attendance at the “Hold the Line” event, a two-day cycling and folk music festival that highlighted Waterloo Region’s growth boundary, which protects valuable farmland from urban sprawl.

After him was Bob Jonkman, of the provincial Green party, who spoke of how cities are at the heart of driving sustainability and fighting climate change, while Laura Mae Lindo, of the provincial NDP, talked of the challenges of working in the current provincial government.

Bardish Chagger, a federal Liberal, reaffirmed the Liberal promise to impose a price on carbon if provincial governments do not set one themselves.

Conservatives from either level of government did not attend the rally.

Some of the protesters’ demands included a plan to implement Waterloo Region’s goal of an 80-per-cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a halt to the construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, among others.

A follow-up event, National Drive Electric Week, was held at Kitchener City Hall on Sept. 15, where participants could, among other things, test drive an electric vehicle.

Demonstrators gather at the Rise for Climate protest at Kitchener City Hall on Sept. 8. Photo by Darick Charbonneau, Spoke News

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