MONCTON – As of Wednesday, around 1,200 people have indicated on Facebook that they’re “interested” in the Moncton chapter of the Global Climate Strike at noon on Friday, September 27, and nearly 500 plan to go. One of those people is Marc Theriault, owner of Calactus on Church St.
The vegetarian restaurant usually opens at 11 a.m., but Theriault will open two hours later that day.
“It’s a Friday noon, which is a big breadwinner for the restaurant. So not a rational decision for me, the staff or the customers who will find the doors closed. But at some point we have to let our hearts beat,” he said.
“This is the kind of irrational decisions that are really going to be needed to create a change because the rational approach doesn’t yield any results. There has to be this kind of tipping point excitement about realizing what’s going on and that’s necessary to feel empowered enough that it’s actually going to affect change.”
Theriault said his staff can choose to have those hours off or come to the march. They’ll still get paid their regular wages.
“I want people to join the march but from their free will, for sure,” he said.
National Bank is also encouraging its 2,100 staff members globally, including in Moncton, to take part in the march.
“We have to stay open, but we encourage our employees who are interested to participate to do so,” said David Michaud, the branch manager at the Main St. location.
The bank’s official position is that it “will be contributing actively to actions and dialogues surrounding the issue in the coming years,” according to an official document shared by Michaud. The bank has signed agreements on climate-related issues like the Principles for Responsible Banking and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
Internally, it also encourages staff to bring their own mug to cut consumption of single-use coffee cups, use less plastic and stop buying plastic water bottles, bring lunch to reduce consumption of disposable packaging, compost, and consume local produce.
Meanwhile, small businesses like La Station, Branch Graphic Design, SDV Vintage and Cafe C’est La Vie are also working around the protest’s schedule on Friday.
La Station’s founder Mylène Després told Huddle she will move meetings and close her office to attend the strike. Cafe C’est La Vie will close from 11.30 a.m. to 1 p.m. so staff can attend the protest.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!! Our staff will be joining this at 1130 (we will be closed 1130-100) to protest for the planet. Feel free to march with us from here! #nofuturechildren #climatecrisis
Nationally, B.C.-based Mountain Equipment Co-op and Lush Cosmetics have announced they will shut down operations on Sept. 27 to support staff who want to take part in the protests.
For Theriault, his participation goes back to before he founded Calactus in 1996. He opened the restaurant to help change people’s attitude about vegetarianism.
“I thought the best way to effect it is to simply offer delicious food that doesn’t contain meat,” he said.
Theriault says taking a stance on climate action could be embedded in the business model or purpose, or be a business decision.
“Maybe some businesses, their purpose is to impact climate change…but it’s also very possible that businesses realize that climate action on their part means more customer loyalty from their customer base…Frankly, I don’t care where the decision comes from if the effect is the same,” he said. “I’d like to encourage people to come to the march. Make the necessary change. It’s just an hour.”
The momentum for action on the climate emergency has been growing this year, with youth at the forefront.
Symbiose, an environmental and social justice organization at the University of Moncton, has been leading the protests in Moncton and Fredericton a few times this year. They will also lead the march from Avenir Centre to the City Hall on Friday.
Symbiose president Antoine Zboralski said the involvement of business is important to the cause.
“It’s really crucial because we try to engage everybody in our society to get involved in the climate emergency to get people to think about this really important matter,” he said. “If we get the businesses on board, then we can get the city and politicians on board. When you have the businesses, you can say, ‘look, everybody want to change, not only environmentalist’.”
Businesses can do other things to support climate action, Zboralski said. For example, those with employees can promote active transportation by giving compensation if they use bikes instead of cars, and they can promote things that are sustainable and local.
“It’s really a global approach that we need to have collectively. People can do small things alone but it’s really a collective approach that’s required to change the way we do things in the hope that we can limit the effects of climate change,” he said.
Moncton will be among hundreds of cities globally that have demonstrations planned for Friday. The protests will demand better measures against climate change from all levels of government.
The protests come a few weeks ahead of the Canadian federal election, in which climate is also a key issue.