Students have held repeated rallies along the Sunshine Coast Highway at Davis Bay to bring attention to their concerns about climate change, prompting Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers to ask what actions students are taking beyond creating congestion and skipping school.
“What’s coming out of that? What motions are actually being taken by the students or by the teachers rather than missing a day of school and stopping traffic?” asked Siegers at an unusual appearance at the meeting of School District No.46’s (SD46) Board of Education on May 8.
She told the board she has been approached by a number of people in the community about the strikes.
Student Trustee and Grade 12 Elphinstone Secondary student Nicholas Davis addressed the mayor, calling the strikes “an act of public protest.”
“It’s one of the biggest youth-led movements in decades, to my knowledge,” said Davis, describing the protests as a means of “advocating” to politicians and corporations “what young people are feeling.”
He told the mayor he has seen increased engagement on the issue online, more networking between students at the Sunshine Coast’s high schools and a student-run environmental club.
A planned “climate meeting” involving local politicians and students was also emphasized as a recent action. Elphinstone students Eilis MacKenzie and Siera Marits, who founded the Instagram account Youth for Climate Action, are organizing that meeting. They have been encouraging students to strike regularly on Fridays.
Siegers then clarified her point following Davis’ reply. “If these students are saying this is important, how is it actually reflected in their own lives?”
“For sure,” said Davis.
Superintendent Patrick Bocking also replied to Siegers, telling her, “It’s a conversation that’s happening in virtually every classroom,” and that a sustainability plan has become a draft goal of the school district’s new strategic plan, currently in the works.
“It’s a very important value that we have as a district – we’re excited about the student voice,” he said.
Some schools chose to use the strike as an “educational exercise,” added student support services director Vanessa White. Classrooms were brought to the strike as an opportunity to “learn about democracy and to learn about how to have a voice and how to do it in an appropriate way and how to stand up for what you believe in,” she said. “So I’d say it’s a huge action.”
So far, students have organized two rallies at the Davis Bay Pier, one on May 3 and another in March, drawing more than 200 students and supporters to each event. Smaller Friday rallies have been held outside municipal halls, and more actions are planned as Sunshine Coast students participate in a global student movement led by Fridays for Future and local activist groups calling for action on climate change.
During her director’s report at the Sunshine Coast Regional District board the next day, Siegers told directors she had set up a meeting with SD46 administrators and plans to do so regularly.