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Why Canadian youth are participating in the People's Climate March

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On September 21, in New York City, tens of thousands will converge to take a stand for our climate and our futures. We will come from diverse backgrounds, from diverse movements, from all walks of life and all generations. On that day, we will stand together.

We've seen an amazing surge of protests, blockades and resistance in Canada to the expansion of the tar sands, to pipelines and to fracking. We've witnessed mounting legal opposition from First Nations, growing numbers of fossil fuel divestment campaigns, and communities coming together on the ground to physically block the path of destruction. Youth across the country are mobilizing and calling for an end to the continued expansion of unjust dirty energy projects. We are coming together to take a stand against the status quo the government continues to enforce, rooted as it is in colonialism, environmental racism, and directly impacting communities on the frontlines in very real and terrifying ways.

Now, youth are preparing to take the energy and collective power we've been building at home to the People's Climate March.  As one of these youth, I am going to New York to support this growing movement of young people, to stand behind Indigenous communities, and to call for an end to the destruction and injustice of dirty energy expansion. And I am not alone.

Canadian youth are travelling in busses from Halifax, Montreal, and Toronto to converge in New York City for this moment. We are going because the People's Climate March is an opportunity to challenge the barriers and differences between our diverse movements, to learn from one another, to follow the leadership of communities at the frontlines of these struggles, and to stand together. We are going because we realize the systems that allow for the reign of fossil fuel industries are also the systems that continue to perpetuate the normalization of racism, colonialism, and other forms of discrimination, oppression, violence and injustice that still haunt the halls of our society. We are going because this is about all of our futures, and the moment for action is now.

As the National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, I work with students on campuses all across the country on fossil fuel divestment campaigns and other efforts to slow the expansion of resource extraction industries in Canada. I am consistently so inspired and awed by the amazing, passionate individuals that I get the privilege to work with on a daily basis. I decided to ask some of these other young climate justice organizers to share why they will be standing with so many thousands of others in New York City. Here is a small collection of our stories, our reasons for believing in the importance of this moment:

Kristen Perry -- Divest McGill -- Montreal, Quebec

As a society, we're largely ignoring the laws of science that govern our climate and planet; there are natural limits that we're on our way to breaking (or have sadly already broken) and that is unacceptable. We can't plead ignorance or uncertainly any longer; our policies and practices need to evolve to reflect our improved understanding of the earth's systems.

Although humans created the problem, we also have the collective power and knowledge to solve it. It is absolutely necessary that we shift away from fossil fuels and towards a low-carbon future immediately, and to do this, we need to use a variety of tactics to put strategic pressure on the system, particularly on key decision-makers.

By extending a personal invitation to international leaders for a climate summit aimed towards mobilizing action, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has set the stage for a powerful statement, both by grassroots organizers and the politicians who will hear our amplified voices. On September 21, we'll show international leaders that we, the people, support decisive, effective and immediate climate action. We all need to take responsibility to be part of the solution, and build a beautiful, diverse and bold climate movement. Our future depends on it.

Stephen Thomas -- Divest Dalhousie -- Halifax, Nova Scotia

I'm attending the People's Climate March because I feel it is vital for human beings to come together -- physically, in numbers -- to feel our collective power for creating the systemic change we so desperately need. Through the shared reality of the climate crisis, I am more connected to the people around me.

The systems we belong to do not recognize the rights of all human beings on this planet today, and do not respect the rights of future generations to exist. September 21 is an opportunity for us to take steps, globally, to connect with and empower each other.

I will be at the People's Climate March to feel for myself that the change we need to see is possible, and is already underway.

We must all take collective action in challenging the systems that have led to the climate crisis, along with the unjust economic and social systems that have perpetuated it. And that means, we need boots on the ground.

Robin Tress -- Ecology Action Centre -- Halifax, Nova Scotia

I'm excited to go to the People's Climate March because I know the power of being surrounded by thousands of people who care about and are working for climate justice. I've been lucky to have taken part in two youth delegations to UN climate negotiations, and while I found the negotiations themselves incredibly disheartening, the unrelenting drive of people to create solutions for their communities is so uplifting. That's what I'm hoping to see and feel in New York -- the energy, enthusiasm, and hope of thousands of people who know that we can do better than let our future be run by fossil fuel corporations.

I'm also incredibly excited to see such a huge gathering being developed with climate justice at its core. Recognizing that climate change is about much more than "the environment" is so important to me and vital to the work we are all doing. This fight is for equality, justice, self-determination, and safety -- and building social systems that support those needs. 

Brenna Owen -- Youth Arctic Coalition -- Kingston, Ontario

The People's Climate March represents not just a singular action one afternoon in New
York City; it is a momentous action that encompasses generations, many otherwise divergent ideas, movements, months of planning and what I hope will be a robust response from the private, public, and civic spheres in weeks, months and years to come. It is a unified but sustained demand that cannot be ignored by policy-makers. Recognizing the linkages between a healthy environment, economic and social justice, and the urgency with which we must respond to anthropogenic climate change, to miss the March is out of the question.

Kelsey Mech is the National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. Follow her @kelseymech

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