March 16, 2015

Takin' it to the Streets (of Toronto)

While many young adults took it to the various St. Patrick's Day parties this past weekend, I opted for something different. To paraphrase a song title from The Doobie Brothers, I took it to Toronto’s streets for a couple of rallies.

National Day of Action Against Bill C-51
On Saturday, March 14, I was among the almost 2000 people at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto who rallied against the “Anti-terror” Bill C-51, given the concerns relating to civil liberties. Having written a post on that bill a few weeks back, it only made sense to participate in that rally, which was part of a National Day of Action involving almost 100 000 people in over 70 communities across Canada.
At the Toronto rally, there were various catchy sign slogans such as a Noam Chomsky quote (pictured above), "Kill Bill" pardoies, and the low odds of being killed by terrorists. There were some Aboriginal musical performances and NDP MP Andrew Cash changed up a song by Buffalo Springfield by singing “Stop C-51! We are here to reject fear!” Another NDP MP Rathika Sitsabaiesan talked about the oppression she and others among the Tamil minority experienced in Sri Lanka before leaving for Canada. Green Party leader Elizabeth May remarked how it was a miracle that she is agreeing with conservatives such as Conrad Black, former Supreme Court justices, former Prime Ministers, and law professors in opposing the bill. She declared C-51 is Prime Minister Harper’s last mistake, but urged Justin Trudeau and the Liberals to join in.[1] 
Green Party leader Elizabeth May
Among the various speakers, there was a powerful quote made by 17-year-old Nasim Asgari regarding Islamophobia, which deserved a mention.
When hatred knocks at your door, greet it with a smile and say it is too late, for love is here having tea inside.
Participants then marched on Queen, University, and Front before arriving at the CSIS office next to the Rogers Centre for more speeches and a brief rap performance. Rally organizers also called on participants to help plan future events.

Building a Better Toronto Rally
On Sunday, February 15, 1350 NDP supporters across Ontario packed a room at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for a pre-election rally featuring leader Tom Mulcair. University-Rosedale candidate Jennifer Hollett (link to last year's interview) kicked off the rally by asking supporters “Are you ready to build a better Toronto?” She reminded participants the next federal election was 218 days away (October 19, 2015)[2] and honoured fellow incumbent MP’s and candidates present, as well as former MP Olivia Chow and provincial leader Andrea Horwath. Prior to Mulcair taking the podium, Ausma Malik – public school trustee for Ward 10 Trinity-Spadina – gave a passionate speech on how Mulcair is a leader of principle and experience, as well as mentioned Saturday's rally against C-51.
When Mulcair took the podium amid great fanfare, he joked “better get the fire marshals in here”! As with past rallies, he echoed his experience growing up in a family of ten children, the virtues of hard work, and his thirty five years of political experience including being a Québec cabinet minister. He called out Harper on his failed record of increasing income inequality, worsening gridlock in cities like Toronto, and increasing the old age security (OAS) eligibility to 67 years. He also called out Trudeau by saying a Prime Minister is not an entry level job.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair
Afterwards, he presented his offer to Toronto and Canada. Some of the commitments were announced before such as $15 per day child care, $15 per hour minimum wage, reversing OAS eligibility changes, and supporting small businesses. He also unveiled an urban agenda by declaring “when Toronto does well, Canada does well.” While the NDP has long advocated for national transit and affordable housing strategies, Mulcair mentioned an NDP government would appoint an Urban Affairs Minister focused on these two issues. He also called for accelerated recognition of foreign credentials, which have been a significant issue for professionals (e.g. doctors, lawyers, accountants) immigrating to major cities such as Toronto. To wrap it up, Mulcair called on supporters to roll up their sleeves and spread the message to others in the Greater Toronto Area.

Conclusion

The massive turnouts at those two rallies made me proud to be Canadian. While there remains work to do in defeating C-51 and preparing for the next election, by all means enjoy some Guinness and Irish stew if you celebrate St. Patrick's Day! Until next time, may the luck of the Irish be with you!

Rob Z (e-mail)

 

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[1]The Montréal C-51 rally included a march to Justin Trudeau’s constituency office.
[2]This is based on Harper’s fixed election law, though there are rumours about the election happening as early as this spring.

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