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May. 22, 2022 | Sunday
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Climate strike draws crowd in NOTL on Friday morning


"Act now so our kids can grow old," exclaimed Julia Buxton-Cox, as a group of fellow Niagara-on-the-Lake residents, and some from Toronto, joined in on a global climate strike Friday.

The group gathered outside the old courthouse in Old Town, joined by local students from Royal Oak Community School, to make a stand for mother nature.

Maya Gazzard, sole Grade 8 student of Royal Oak Community School, spoke with conviction on the old courthouse steps: “You don’t just do the minimum; you go above and beyond.”

Gazzard said her grandmother was always a big believer in doing what was right, not only for oneself but for everyone around you. She said she tries to apply that philosophy to everything else she does.

This climate strike is one way for her schoolmates to take a stand and make their voices heard with the hope of making the world a better place.

Climate strike demonstrations were planned world-wide on Sept. 27, and neighbouring cities such as St. Catharines and Niagara Falls saw hundreds of environmental activists out in force with signs and a plea for action.

But local resident Cynthia Rand thought it contradictory to drive to another city for a climate strike, she said.

Instead, she planned to sit on the steps of the old courthouse in Old Town for her own quiet protest. What began as an idea for a solitary demonstration quickly grew with community support via social media.

Buxton-Cox, administrator of NOTL Today Facebook group, shared a post about Rand's plan, and the idea gained momentum overnight. Rand announced her plans Thursday evening and by Friday morning, more than 20 residents and a handful of students from Royal Oak Community School planned to join the demonstration.

“We only found out about this last night through a parent, and we worked hard today,” said Christine McIsaac, lead teacher and learning strategist for Royal Oak.

“It’s coming from them; it’s important to them and we wanted to support what was important to them,” McIsaac said.

Royal Oak stresses the importance of inquiry and personalized learning and this demonstration gave the students an authentic platform to show where their learning goes, she said.

“For them it’s not a free day — they have a job to do,” she said.

Though the town saw a milder version of massive climate strikes which took place around the world, the message of those in Old Town was clear: “Save the Earth.”

“If Greta Thunberg could make this much of a difference, imagine what all of us could do,” Gazzard said.

It wasn’t just NOTL locals taking a stand in Old Town; a group of about 11 artists rehearsing at the courthouse for an upcoming show called Mahabharata, charged around the corner enthusiastically with painted cardboard signs to join the protest. 

The artists’ protest wasn’t planned alongside or with any knowledge of Rand’s demonstration, but each group said it was wonderful to see so many people taking a stand.

“We wanted to take time away from the rehearsal to make sure that we joined in this global movement, this global climate strike - to make sure that anywhere that we are there’s a presence of people that are concerned about these issues,” said Kevin Matthew Wong, associate producer of Why Not Theatre

“And we’re not afraid to make some noise,” he added.

Their energy was contagious as they looped in tourists and locals to take a photo holding one of their hand-made signs.

“It was beautiful that when we walked up to rehearsal today that we saw that there was already a presence, and that was inspiring to us,” Wong said.

Local environmental efforts won't stop at the demonstration, McIsaac said. The students approached Lord Mayor Betty Disero during the strike to ask about beginning a recycling program at the school. Right now, Royal Oak operates out of the old hospital.

"There’s a garbage bin but there is nowhere for us to put our recycling. So, kids have been taking it home, teachers have been taking it home, but a lot of it ends up in the garbage and it’s devastating to all of us," she said.