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Rupert students stage city hall sit-in as part of worldwide protest

Mayor Lee Brain invited the group of about 20 students inside for climate discussion
Young Rupert students Elise Caputo and Zoe McCoy (right) helped stage a city hall sit-in with signs that read “save the environment” and “ban single-use plastic” on March 15. (Gareth Millroy/The Northern View)

Updated 3:50 p.m.

Rupert elementary and middle school students as well as one high school student participated in the global school walkouts for climate action on March 15.

At 10 a.m. on Friday morning, sisters Elise, Scotia and Irene Caputo as well as Zoe McCoy, students of Roosevelt Park Elementary School and Prince Rupert Middle School, took to the steps of city hall for a sit-in.

They had prepared signs that read “save the environment” and “ban single-use plastic” for their peaceful protest.

“We saw on Facebook that kids from all over the world are staging sit-ins to raise awareness about climate change and we decided to do the same thing,” McCoy said.

READ MORE: Students worldwide skip class to demand action on climate

The sisters and McCoy were later joined by the grade 4/5 class from Lax Kxeen Elementary and one high school student.

Lax Kxeen teacher Hannah Madill told the Northern View she took her 17 young students to city hall, for a total of about 20 students who participated in the sit-in.

However, Madill’s students didn’t ‘sit’ for long. A few minutes after her class arrived at 11 a.m., Mayor Lee Brain invited the entire group in for a 45-minute discussion about climate change and climate action in Prince Rupert.

“It was an incredible learning opportunity and the students felt very heard and respected,” Madill said.

Brain later told the Northern View that he talked to the students about Prince Rupert’s 2030 Sustainable City plan, electric vehicles and charging stations, waste diversion and curbside recycling, as well as potential for renewable energy sources in our area.

“We also exchanged information on climate change, and the city’s long-term plan to reduce carbon emissions,” Brain said. “I also intend on visiting Lax Kxeen to check out their zero waste project in the near future and have invited them back to city hall to continue these discussions.”

School District No. 52 Superintendent Irene LaPierre said over the phone that she was in support of the students and their initiative.

“If the children get permission from their parents, we are glad to see them out there raising awareness on this important issue,” LaPierre said.

READ MORE: School students to strike with walkout starting at the legislature

Masset high school students also took to the streets a day earlier on March 14, marching out of class and up to the main street and market with drums, climate justice posters as well as a petition.

The Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary students’ climate justice posters had messages including “the oceans are rising, so are we” and “ban the bag.”

“Along the way we sang a few Haida songs and gave some speeches,” said Nathaniel White, a grade 11 student council member involved in organizing their youth climate strike.

White said they sang the Haida anthem and made speeches detailing their demands, which include banning plastic bags, implementing a climate justice curriculum at schools, and only logging sustainably on Haida Gwaii.

He said they also collected more than 30 signatures for a plastic bag ban petition, which they eventually plan to present to local government.

“A lot of people were taking pictures and there was applause,” White said of public reaction to their march.

After walking out at 1 p.m., the Masset march lasted about 45 minutes.

“We thought that we really made our point,” said White.

Afterward, he said he and his fellow students returned to school.

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Grade 11 student and member of the Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary student council Nathaniel White (centre) helped organize and took part in a youth climate strike in Masset on March 14. (Submitted photo)
A group photo from the Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary youth climate strike on March 14. (Submitted photo)