By: Madeleine Chan, Staff Writer
Post-secondary students from across Metro Vancouver came together on the afternoon of Sunday, January 19 at SFU’s Harbour Centre to start a coalition for climate justice.
The first meeting of the Metro Vancouver Post-Secondary Students Coalition for Justice consisted of setting respectful conversational boundaries, brainstorming the vision for the collective, and group discussions on the topics of goals, values, and how to work towards climate justice. Attendees included students from SFU, UBC, Langara, Capilano, BCIT, and Emily Carr.
Climate justice is a somewhat different topic than, but not exclusive of, environmental justice. It advocates for both climate action and human rights issues in the hopes of creating a better future for all.
After a rousing rally cry of “WHAT DO WE WANT? CLIMATE JUSTICE! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!” from SFSS president Giovanni HoSang, the collaborative session ended with the students breaking off into four distinct groups to plan the coalition’s next steps.
This initial meeting was organized by, but not directly affiliated with, individual members of the youth-led groups Climate Strike Canada, SFU 350, Sustainabiliteens Vancouver, and UBC 350. Building off of the momentum from September’s Climate Strike, which saw over 100,000 people attend, the event aimed to bring together existing communities of climate-justice-aware students interested in sparking renewed, collaborative change.
One of the organizers of the event and SFU 350 member WeiChun Kua hopes that these meetings will bring Metro Vancouver post-secondary schools’ existing activists together.
“We see so much potential on campuses for students. There’s a lot of great people, a lot of great organizing going on [on] campuses, but it’s not very connected [ . . . ] We basically organized this [coalition] to hopefully be a hub where students can come together and rally and share resources and show solidarity with each other on different campuses on issues.”
Examples of issues that Kua highlighted include:“climate justice or tuition hikes, affordable student housing, and basically anything related to student life.”
Amongst the clamour of students passionately, but respectfully, discussing climate justice and its importance is Shakti Ramkumar, a recent UBC grad and member of the global not-for-profit organization Student Energy. While stopping to talk with The Peak, Ramkumar gives her reasoning for this gathering’s relevance.
“I feel like the people in this room and a lot of the front line communities fighting climate change have the most at stake if we don’t take action in the limited decade that we have.”
She also believes that “breaking the isolation that can [follow] the typical ‘university job life’, and building a really supportive and nurturing community [ . . . ] [through] this kind of in-person organizing [by] building relationships on top of building strategy is really important.”
Another attendee, Raaj Chatterjee, an SFU student and member of SFU 350, felt similarly when asked what outcome he would like to see from these meetings.
“I hope that we’re able to empower students to advocate for what they believe in, and change the power structures that we’re all exposed to at the university — and even on the federal and provincial levels,” said Chatterjee. “[These meetings] allow students to advocate for the change we need for climate justice, social justice, and all these issues that are really impacting people across the world today.”
The coalition plans to hold monthly general assembly-type meetings, though no future dates are set as of now. If any students are interested in joining, Kua suggested that they reach out to their local climate justice student group on campus, for example SFU 350, or contact Climate Strike Canada. Recent high school graduates can also connect with Sustainabiliteens for more information.