Thousands of people flooded the streets of downtown Vancouver on Friday to join Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in her latest weekly climate strike.
Ms. Thunberg, a diminutive figure in blue sneakers and a long braid, spoke with commanding force. Before a crowd of roughly 10,000 people outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, the 16-year-old expressed solidarity with 15 “brave young plaintiffs” who launched a climate lawsuit against the Government of Canada that morning, and criticized world leaders for failing to take urgent action.
She invoked the name of Severn Suzuki, the daughter of David Suzuki, who delivered an impassioned speech at the Rio Earth Summit at the age of 12 in 1992, and who stood by her side on Friday.
“Severn told the world everything the world needed to know 27 years ago, and the science told our world leaders everything they needed to know 27 years ago,” Ms. Thunberg said.
“If people would have listened back then, the world would be a completely different place than it is today. But the world ignored her and world leaders continue to choose to look away from this crisis, even today.”
Ms. Thunberg’s speech came toward the end of an hours-long demonstration that included a march through the city’s downtown core.
Local speakers expressed appreciation for Ms. Thunberg’s advocacy and reminded demonstrators of the environmental work of young, Indigenous activists, such as Xiye Bastida, 17, and Autumn Peltier, 15, of the Wiikwemkoong First Nation in Northern Ontario. Ms. Peltier addressed the United Nations about the importance of water conservation last month, the second time she has done so in as many years.
The demonstration drew a diverse crowd of all ages, including many young people and parents with children. Crystal Blaze of North Vancouver said she brought her five-year-old daughter, Lyra, to the protest to teach her about the fundamentals of democracy.
Asked why she wanted to attend, Lyra, who held a small “I’m with Greta” sign, replied: “I need to listen to Greta’s news. She talks about the orcas, and she tries to save the planet from all the bad guys.”
Rose Dudley, a 78-year-old retired schoolteacher, said she was inspired by the youth-led protest.
“I’m so absolutely inspired by these teenagers, the way they’re so incredibly articulate,” Ms. Dudley said. “They’re leading the charge that we feel we should have been leading many years ago.”
She continued: “At my age, I’ve had the best, best years of life, and what’s coming is terribly frightening. I think a lot of people don’t take it seriously enough. We should be ashamed.”
Ms. Thunberg said it was “hopeful” to see the weekly youth-led climate protests, and that young people will serve as a “constant reminder” that governments are failing.
“We are not just some kids skipping school, or some adults who are not going to work. We are a wave of change, and together we are unstoppable,” she said to cheers. “We will rise to the challenge, hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and we will make world leaders act. We can and we will.
“And if you feel threatened by that, then I have some very bad news for you: This is just the beginning. We will continue.”
Shortly before Friday’s events began, a group of young Canadians filed a climate lawsuit in Federal Court in Vancouver.
They allege, among other things, that the Canadian government’s contribution to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change violates their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter.