More than 150 people took part in a climate march in downtown Owen Sound as part of a national day of action supported by the climate advocacy organization 350.org.
The “Canada on Fire” campaign seeks to put politicians’ feet to the fire and advocates for immediate action and policies to ensure existing climate targets are met and new goals set to transition Canada to 100 per cent renewable energy.
“We are in the midst of an urgent climate emergency, but our politicians aren’t acting like it. The United Nations calls the situation a Code Red for Humanity. Yet, despite years of increasingly catastrophic weather events, Canadian policies addressing emissions to protect our air, water, land, and life remain woefully inadequate,” a press release detailing the national event said.
In Owen Sound, 145 marchers met at the Owen Sound Farmers’ Market at 4 p.m. Wednesday and more joined in as the group looped around the downtown and River District.
Signs were displayed and handouts detailing “demands of the government” were delivered to the downtown offices of three local federal candidates.
Organizer Lesley Lewis said all kinds of people turned out for the march, including the local Liberal, NDP and Green party candidates, although as a non-partisan event none of the candidates spoke at the event or officially joined the group. Conservative candidate Alex Ruff was unable to attend, but Lewis said a meeting has been organized at a later date.
Lewis said people came from all over Grey County. There were young families, farmers and retirees taking part in the march.
The reception was generally positive, Lewis said. Organizers had walked the route days before to let the businesses know the event was happening. Lewis said there were a few impatient motorists who were made to wait for the group to cross the street, but no climate-change deniers on hand to disrupt the proceedings.
“When you drive around here you see a lot of . . . it’s a very conservative place. So, we were, I would say, pleased by the positive response. We had a lot of cars honking at us and waving as they go by,” Lewis said.
Similar marches were held across the country amid the federal election campaign and with Election Day just over a week away.
The goal was to raise awareness and ensure climate change policy is a top issue during the candidates’ campaign effort.
“We made all of the candidates aware we’d be looking to vote for the candidate who would be the most active around climate change policy,” Lewis said.
“The time for promises and naivety is passed. We need to see real action and purpose,” she said.
The marches were scheduled just before the French language federal leaders’ debate and a day ahead of the English language leaders’ debate.
“This will be the first election to take place while catastrophic climate-driven wildfires are blazing across the country as Canada faces one of the worst wildfire seasons on record and as communities recover from unprecedented heat, flooding, and droughts. On top of that, we just heard from the IPCC that this is a “code red” moment when it comes to tackling the climate emergency,” the 350.org website reads.
Organizers were invited to lead a local action in their hometown or closest city centre. Local organizers were given toolkits complete with handouts and “action visuals.”
The group’s rallying cry is “Climate Emergency – Act Like It”.
They demand the next elected members of parliament, and those who come after, exceed the Paris Agreement emissions targets; transition to 100 per cent renewable energy fast and fairly; halt fossil fuel subsidies, increase protection for carbon-capturing forests, oceans, freshwater systems and wetland; strengthen sustainable agricultural practices; and publish, report on and meet annual accountability targets for all of the above.
“If we don’t come together on this issue today, we close our eyes to an unimaginable legacy of harm impacting future generations,” a release said.