Students were in Nathan Phillips Square on Friday, May 24 to send a message to politicians and business leaders. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto Climate Strike takes its message to businesses

  • May 24, 2019

About 200 students with the the backing of their parents, grandparents and teachers sang and chanted their request for immediate and bold climate action at the latest #FridaysForFuture student Climate Strike Friday, May 24 in Nathan Phillips Square.

The event coincided with the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis groundbreaking Laudato Si’ encyclical on the environment and climate change.

#FridaysForFuture organizer Allie Rouge conceded the crowd was smaller than the 3,000 that showed up May 3 for a march from Queen’s Park to Toronto City Hall. But the opportunity to get their message to Toronto’s business leaders as the group marched from Nathan Phillips Square down Bay Street to Union Station was important, she said.

“We’re really asking everybody to act,” Rougeot told The Catholic Register.

Internationally, the May 24 Climate Strike was expected to attract about 1.4 million student strikers to nearly 1,600 strikes in 118 countries. There were 80 known strikes planned in Canada, all inspired by 16-year-old Swedish protester Greta Thunberg, who coined the #FridaysForFuture hashtag and began striking outside Sweden’s parliament last year.

Thunberg met Pope Francis briefly in April.

“To start making change you have to start educating,” said Emily, a high school student from Etobicoke who was leery of giving a reporter her last name or the name of her school. “People have to be aware there is an issue.”

Grade 7 student Zoe Keary-Matzne said she hoped “that the adults will take action on climate change,” as she drew a picture of the planet in chalk on the pavement of Nathan Phillips Square.

“We have a moral obligation to do this,” said veteran teacher Rosemary Boissonneau, who is now studying for master’s degree in theology at the University of St. Michael’s College Elliott Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology.

Boissonneau has been trying to get a Canadian chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement going in Toronto, along with its youth wing called the Laudati Si Generation. She’s had some encouragement from Fr. Frank Portelli of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth, but letters to bishops and the Toronto Catholic District School Board have not been answered, Boissonneau said.

There’s no excuse for not acting, said the former French teacher.

“It’s the planet. Nothing else matters,” Boissonneau said.

Laudato Si Generation was launched at the most recent World Youth Day in Panama, where 400 young Catholics presented Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle, archbishop of Manila and head of Caritas Internationalis, with a climate manifesto based on Laudato Si’. To date Laudato Si Generation has about 2,000 members between the ages of 15 and 30.

Toronto Development and Peace staffers showed up at the Nathan Phillips Square rally carrying a bag of garbage they had picked up on the walk from their office to the plaza in front of City Hall. 

“We come here as people of faith,” said Luke Stocking, D&P’s deputy director of Public Awarement and Engagement for Ontario and Atlantic regions.

For the generation that will live with the consequences of whatever policies we adopt now, climate change is a paramount issue, Stocking said. It’s also a deeply religious question about our ultimate and collective values, he said.

“Being here can be a prayer. The Holy Spirit is here,” he said.

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