School strike leader casts ballot for climate

Regina climate activist North Hunter casts her first-ever vote in a federal election. Photo by Julia Peterson.

The first federal ballot North Hunter ever cast was for Regina-Wascana Green Party candidate Tamela Friesen, said the 21-year-old climate strike organizer upon leaving her polling station Monday morning.

Hunter was less than a month shy of being able to vote in the 2015 election.

“Hopefully, being a voter will lend a little more voice to the issue [of climate change],” she said. “Rather than people saying … ‘When you can vote, then you’ll have your say,’ now I’ll be able to tell them that I’ve voted.

“But I also want to have those votes heard and our voices heard and make sure that my generation lives to old age.”

Elections Canada reports that 2,254,300 voters aged 25 and under were registered to vote in this election, out of 3,248,300 eligible voters in that age bracket.

Hunter’s political activism has focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change in Canada and abroad. She has been participating in school strikes since 2019 and helped organize the major protests that took place in Regina this September. However, she does not see herself as a single-issue voter.

“I also care about dismantling sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia,” she said. “And yet, one thing about the climate crisis is that this affects every single life. And all these groups are going to be disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.”

In June, the House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency and support Canada’s commitment to meeting the emissions targets of the 2016 Paris Agreement. From Hunter’s perspective, the government has not matched the motion with action.

“The nationally-declared climate emergency needs to be treated like an emergency, because it is one,” Hunter said. “Why are we not devoting all of our resources to making sure that we do address this?

“It is the greatest health, social, and environmental crisis of our time.”

North’s mother, Naomi Hunter, is the Green Party candidate for Regina-Lewvan. She said that her daughter’s activism may have an impact on the national stage.

“In 2015, [Green Party of Canada Leader] Elizabeth May was able to walk in [to the House of Commons] after the election and say ‘Half a million people voted Green,’ ” Naomi said.

“If I, and my daughter’s passion and work with the environment, in a small way contributed to that … if, in a couple of days, she’s able to say a million people voted for her, I’m going to feel like all our hard work was worth it.”

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