Char Nelson brought along the young people in her life to attend Friday’s climate strike, noting it felt important for her to let the children know that their voices are valuable and need to be heard. Before arriving, they asked her how many people would be in attendance at the climate strike. She told them it didn’t matter. Raven Nyman photos.

‘It’s time to change’: Young people lead Ashcroft climate strike

‘Our children are very passionate. The climate has changed… they are facing a future without hope’

Wielding handmade signs that read, “The planet and the people before profit” and “There is no planet B”, Julia Franes and Willow Winwood led a group of young women on the front-lines of Ashcroft’s climate strike on Friday, Sept. 27.

Franes and Winwood spent their afternoon marching together for a cause alongside groups of children, families, and seniors who filled the streets of Ashcroft to show their support for climate action. At least 100 people joined in the march.

As the crowd wove through the village, the young and old held hands and sang songs, their voices carrying the words of dreamers like John Lennon, beckoning those around them to join in together to imagine a better world.

Ashcroft was one of many communities taking part in climate strikes across the province and throughout the country on Friday. The community’s climate strike was organized and led by young women, who used social media to invite their peers to show support for protecting the environment.

“Each of us can make a little bit of a change,” said Ashcroft resident Theresa Takacs, finishing up a sign to use in the event.

Along the walk, those marching were joined by crowds of school children, similarly determined to share their voices.

Global climate strikes have become a common occurrence in the past year as young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s “Friday’s for Future” movement gains momentum world-wide alongside her demands for immediate climate action.

Read more: Students skip school, join climate strikes across B.C.

Julia and her sister Hannah Franes were born in Ashcroft but now attend university in Kamloops and Vancouver respectively. Despite studying in the Lower Mainland, Hannah felt determined to bring awareness to her hometown. She organized the climate strike online with the help of her sisters and elder organizers Marina Papais and Daniel Collett.

Papais thought that only a handful of people may show up for the strike and was impressed to see over a hundred turn out.

“When all these other people showed up, it was amazing,” she said. “We’re doing pretty good for a small-town.”

“We’ve been working together all week with Hannah and her sisters,” she explained. Her partner Collett estimated that about ten per cent of the whole community showed up for the event.

“It’s so amazing that everyone can be here,” said Julia Franes. “But at the same time it’s sad that we even have to be here.” 

Julia and Hannah’s younger sister Faline was also on-site Friday, making signs for others to use during the climate strike.

Julia is a student at Thompson Rivers University (TRU), majoring in psychology and minoring in geography.

“I’m taking a geography course that is focused on the climate, weather, and environmental change,” she explained, but that wasn’t the only reason she chose to take part in Ashcroft’s climate strike on Friday.

Speaking to the crowd, she thanked them for participating and shared her hope that they would not have to march again for the cause. If another march becomes necessary, Franes hopes to see the same kind of support that she experienced Friday.

Kayleigh Anderson walked down to Heritage Park with her three children and their dog to support the cause as a family.

“We don’t really want things to end earlier than they should,” said Anderson, referencing Thunberg’s recent public speeches, wherein the young environmentalist calls upon others to act urgently to prevent further damage to the climate. “Greta explained [it], the way she said it was pretty intense for only being 16 years old.”

Thunberg’s passion inspired others to take a stand against climate change, too.

“I just admire all the kids who are setting this off and the little girl who started it all,” said Jane Flaherty, a senior resident who attended the event with a group of friends and was also inspired by Thunberg. “[Greta]’s my hero right now.”

Char Nelson was another adult who brought along the young people in her life to attend Friday’s climate strike. Accompanying Nelson to the event were her three children and their young friend.

“I don’t want our planet to die,” said Amelia Nelson. Her little brother Jameson added how much he loves the earth.

Nelson said it was important for her to let the children know that their voices are valuable and need to be heard. Before arriving, they asked her how many people would be in attendance at the climate strike. She told them it didn’t matter.

“Just one person can make a difference,” she said. “Just them. If we can spread awareness with just our three posters that we brought, then that’s great.”

Read more: Some Canadian schools, colleges move to accommodate climate strikes

Billie Jean Gabriel is a long-time resident, but she is also an un-schooler, a land-defender, and a water protector from the Syilx nation of Penticton who raised her family in Ashcroft.

“We’ve been unschooling and decolonizing our family for the last 12 years,” she said. Indigenous unschooling for Gabriel refers to the act of decolonizing her family by opting out of the B.C. Education system and indiginizing her children’s unlearning of colonization and institutional conditioning.

“Unschooling gives us the chance to explore interests initiated by us with a emphasis on reviving [and] keeping alive our Indigenous ways of knowing. We learn as it happens, naturally concentrating our focused time on food sovereignty, advocacy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, climate activism, traditional hand poke tattoo revival, art and writing.”

Gabriel attended Friday’s climate strike with her three children.

“Our children are very passionate. The climate has changed. The time has already passed and now they are facing a future without hope.”

Gabriel protested the Trans Mountain Pipeline in April and brought one of the signs she used during that event to Friday’s climate strike. The sign, made by artist Isaac Murdoch, depicts Thunderbird woman, who represents that water is life.

“As Indigenous people, it’s very frustrating that we’ve been speaking of these issues for decades, for centuries,” Gabriel said. “Here in so-called B.C., especially in unseeded territory, we haven’t surrendered our lands. We’re still here and we’ve been speaking about these issues for over a hundred years… so today is a sombre day for me.”

“We’re here to say no more carbon,” she stated. “We’ve had enough. It’s time to change.”

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