Hundreds of scientists, science enthusiasts and supporters walked the streets of Toronto and rallied in Queen’s Park Saturday afternoon in the name of Canadian and international science.
The march was just one of several taking place in over 500 cities around the world.
The organizers depicted the event as a non-partisan political statement that promotes the understanding of science while defending it from various attacks.
These include budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump, such as a 20 percent cut from the National Institutes of Health, climate change rollbacks and general concerns from the scientific community about communicating their research in the U.S.
“The origins of the March for Science are from the United States, the central march is located in DC but it has just exploded,” said Rupinder Brar, who served as the city’s Master of Ceremonies. “The mission of the march has found resonance not just in modern day America but all across the world.
“So this is an issue that is important across the world.
“And certainly Toronto is a hub of research activity so it is important to come out and show the public and our government officials how we feel about science and how we want it to play an important role in our democracy and our society with its goal of serving society,” continued Brar, a senior lecturer of physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.
Brar said he was overwhelmed with the turnout and inspired by how the issue is not just important to scientists, but to the public in general.
“It’s overwhelming to see this many people, this many vocal, energetic people that didn’t just march, but that stuck around and listened to us rally for over an hour. It’s fantastic to see the passion that each of those individuals showed,” he said.
“Young people, old people, people that are clearly directed by science policy and people that support it.”
One of the speakers at the rally was Arizona-born Chelsea Rochman, who works as an assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology. As an American citizen, Rochman was originally going to participate in the rally in D.C. but then was asked to be one of the speakers in Queen’s Park.
“Science is the foundation for everything that we do, it’s why we can beat disease, it’s why we have clean air and water, it’s why we can explore and communicate the way we do,” Rochman told Global News. “A lot of us don’t think about it because we don’t have to, but we’re just so privileged to have all of these opportunities that we do because of science.”
Rochman said she and her partner have had a lot of long nights filled with tears in anticipation of the upcoming budget, as well as executive orders signed in the States – but she has started to feel hopeful.
“I hope that this shows people around the world – including politicians, including people of all backgrounds and party lines – that science is valuable and that we should stand up and support it, with both funding and truly believing in the evidence that it produces.”
Many participants said they felt it was important for them to come out and support the cause in order to show that the sciences are important and are valued.
“Science means a lot to me because it is a very broad discipline that encompasses many different fields; climate change, environmental, fundamental science,” march attendee Kamya told Global News. “There are so many things that have drawn people here, it’s been nice to get everybody here and have a conversation about science.”
Another participant, Samantha Yammine, said it was important for her to “put faces to scientists” and that she doesn’t feel as fearful now because of how many people turned out to the event.
Liona Davies, an educator at the Ontario Science Centre, stressed the importance of having marches like this so “we can have our voices heard and show this is the work we do.
“Everybody is touched by science, in every part of your life.”
Brar echoed that sentiment, bringing it back to the wonderment the sciences can bring to even the youngest person.
“It’s important for me as a scientist working in the field, but in actuality just talk to any five- or six-year-old and they’re more crazy about science than I am,” Brar said.
“Innocent children have that curiosity of wanting to know more and more and I think scientists have not lost that and what we’re asking for is the ability to keep doing that.”
With files from Sasha Campbell and Jessica Vomiero