Youth bring climate action to Legislative Assembly

Several students gathered at the Legislative Assembly to voice their concerns about climate change. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB).

Another day, another protest.

At least that’s what it feels like for Yellowknife high school students concerned about climate change.

Several students set up outside the Legislative Assembly on Friday morning–the latest venue to see a strike in the city.

With signs like Honk 4 Climate and Every day is Earth Day, students were calling on action from their MLAs.

Ella Kokelj is a strike veteran by now.

“I think it’s important we continue to promote change,” she says. “It won’t happen quickly and so I think we need to keep reminding people.”

Asked if there were any specific laws or projects she’s like to see the politicians work on, she pulled out a list of demands. She highlighted the desire for a “centre of climate change innovation” that would “bring together youth, elders, scientists, engineers, economists, traditional land users, industry and government to find solutions.”

Kokelj added that students will keep striking until “we see adequate action.” What does that look like?

“I think that we’re still a ways from that point and I don’t see any easy solutions,” she says. But one indicator may be that action on climate becomes common place, says Kokelj.

More action, less reaction

The majority of Friday’s session focused on climate change. At one point Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly set up Premier Bob McLeod with an easy opportunity to address the youth in the house asking what message the Premier had to impart hope upon them.

The message was quick and relied on boilerplate statements like climate change is a “priority” of the government without going into specifics.

After the session, Kokelj said she would have liked to see more concrete examples of what that means.

“There needs to be action that backs that statement up,” she said and added, “it seems to be acknowledgement of current climate action.” Kokelj said the government needs to look to the future and think ahead on how to mitigate climate change rather than react to what’s happening now.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.