Hundreds of Whistlerites join global climate strike 

Nearly 600 gather at Lost Lake Park to protest climate inaction, organizers say

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEGAN LALONDE - Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton embraces Jade Quinn-McDonald, president of Whistler Secondary School's Student Environmental Club in front of Municipal Hall during a Climate Strike march in the resort on Friday, Sept. 27
  • Photo by Megan Lalonde
  • Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton embraces Jade Quinn-McDonald, president of Whistler Secondary School's Student Environmental Club in front of Municipal Hall during a Climate Strike march in the resort on Friday, Sept. 27

Hundreds of Whistlerites took to the streets on Friday, Sept. 27, joining millions around the world who participated in a global climate strike.

"I really feel like there was an energy at the march that I've never experienced before," said Aaron Murray, one of the Whistler march's organizers.

"It was that collective energy of, 'we can do this. It's possible to change.'"

Organizers estimate approximately 600 people braved pouring rain to march from Lost Lake Park, through Whistler Village to municipal hall to protest climate inaction, bearing handmade signs and sporadically breaking into chants along the way.

Leading the way were local students, inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, who began the Fridays for Future climate strike movement in 2018. Thunberg participated in a Montreal protest that took place the same day, alongside a crowd of approximately 500,000 people.

Whistler's march "couldn't have gone better," said co-organizer Jade Quinn-McDonald, president of Whistler Secondary School's (WSS) Student Environmental Club.

"I think it's great that we had so many schools come out," she added, praising local schools, which allowed students to attend, and even organized school-based activities as well to mark the march.

Friday's global strike came on the heels of worldwide climate protests a week prior, on Sept. 20, and was intended to bookmark the United Nations Climate Action Summit that began in New York on Sept. 23.

It also served as an example of just how quickly the movement has picked up steam since Thunberg first began skipping her Friday classes to protest. This past March, the movement made its way to Whistler for the first time when a group of 75 WSS students and supporters followed her lead, skipping their Friday classes to protest climate change in an effort spearheaded by then-Grade 12 student Matthew Ogilvie-Turner.*

Quinn-McDonald credits Ogilvie-Turner with inspiring her to get involved in this fall's strike. "He led the charge, and I guess I sort of saw this as following in his footsteps since he was a really great leader," she said.

Part of accepting this leadership role meant stepping into the spotlight when the march culminated in front of Whistler's municipal hall, where Quinn-McDonald read aloud a powerful letter she'd written to Whistler council—including Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton.

"It was raining, and it was very emotional, and I got to give the letter to the mayor," said Quinn-McDonald. "That was the perfect moment for me."

Said Crompton on receiving the letter: "You coming here today, and the people doing this all over the world, changes the way the world works.

"Keep doing this. Keep speaking to us, keep giving us the tools we need to talk to the provincial government and the federal government."

Following Friday's march, protestors packed into the Maury Young Arts Centre for a post-strike discussion.

"We wanted to create a space where we could inform the public on this issue, as opposed to just saying, 'Hey everybody get out and march and protest,'" explained Murray.

"Everybody seems to be talking about this issue, but it's just getting worse. Clearly the way that we're talking about it is wrong," he continued. "This [needs to be] a mindset change."

Quinn-McDonald gave an impassioned speech rousing the crowd to take action beyond just the march.

"I am here to let my voice be heard," she said. "I demand an end to the fossil fuel era. Last year alone, our government funnelled over $50 billion dollars into the extraction of crude oil. This is unacceptable.

"I don't know if it takes a village to raise a child, but today our village rose with the children ... I want all of you to feel empowered. New, innovative solutions are being discovered every day. These solutions won't be adopted unless we fight for them. This journey may be one of a thousand steps, but everyone here today has taken the first one."

Other speakers included Claire Ruddy, executive director of AWARE; Councillor Arthur De Jong (environment portfolio), and Conor Murray from Whistler-based startup Carbon Capture—before three of Whistler's candidates in the upcoming federal election (Green Party, Rhinoceros Party and the People's Party) took to the stage for a mini-debate.

Liberal candidate Patrick Weiler and NDP candidate Judith Wilson both participated in similar strikes on the Sunshine Coast on Friday, while Conservative candidate Gabrielle Loren made no online mention of attending any marches. The Green Party candidate Dana Taylor marched in Whistler.

(*Editor's note: Matthew is Pique editor Clare Ogilvie's son.)

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