Chant of ‘We are nature defending itself’ rings through student-led protest at Queen’s Park
Thousands of students and supporters in the community gathered at Queen’s Park Friday to participate in the global Climate Strike. The event was principally organized around the world by high school students, partly to coincide with the emergency UN climate summit happening this week. In Toronto, the event was organized by high school students and a coalition of groups including the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Our Time and Climate Justice TO.
The march began at noon from Queen’s Park and went around the downtown core, then returned to the legislature. CTV News estimates that 15,000 people attended the event.
Music and speeches began the event, and included a wide range of participants. Many high school students performed and spoke, as well as Indigenous artists and land protectors like Vanessa and Bexe Gray. One of the first performers quoted her late friend Dave Vasey, a Torontonian activist who died this year. She led the crowd in a chant of “we are nature defending itself,” attributing it to Vasey.
“It’s really important to rally together and pressure our politicians to change, and have more climate action happen,” said Jezebel Lumley, a high school student at Le Collège Français in downtown Toronto. Lumley, 17, was at the march with six of her friends. “I’ve seen so many people from other schools that I know as well; some friends, and family,” she said.
Despite being too young to vote, she said she is excited to do so as soon as possible. “I’m processing my application now, even before I have a chance to vote,” she said. “It’s really important that young people vote, to have the world we want.”
The federal election was mentioned many times, mostly in broad climate terms, throughout the speeches. There were several NDP MPPs in attendance, as well as many Green Party members and candidates. Former Ontario Environment Commissioner Dianne Saxe, appointed by the Ontario Liberals in 2015 and removed by the PCs in 2018, also spoke. She and many other speakers urged the crowd to vote “with climate in mind” on Oct. 21.
After the march a different set of musicians performed on a stage set up in front of Queen’s Park. Among them was Brighid Fry, a high school student and member of the feminist indie folk band Moscow Apartment. “It’s especially affecting young people. We’re the ones who are going to inherit this planet,” said Fry after her set.
While students are at the centre of the strike, there were thousands of adults attending as well.
“The greatest threat to global health is climate change,” said Chris Houston, formerly on the board of directors of Doctors Without Borders Canada. He highlighted the connection between climate and global health. Houston had copies of a peer-reviewed Lancet science journal study, from which he quoted directly.