Well, I’d call that a successful outing.
The Kitchener-Waterloo chapter of Canadians Against the Prorogation of Parliament organized a rally protesting Stephen Harper’s move to prorogue parliament. It started as scheduled today at 11 a.m. at the newly-minted Waterloo Public Square at the corner of King Street and Willis Way, and continued for two hours. I arrived with Vivian and Nora around noon, and found the public space comfortably full. Estimates I’ve heard put total attendance around 300, which isn’t bad in my opinion. Certainly, it was a challenge to park about a block away from the event, and there was a lot of foot traffic in the sidewalks around the venue.
Upon entering the square, I came upon the three individuals above who were passing out some really fine free perogies. Speakers spoke, and people clapped. Protesters respected earlier requests to stay off the ice rink — unless you had skates. Vivian and Nora had a lot of smiles to share, and received many smiles in return. There was also a good mixture of individuals and philosophies out there; there were a lot of university students, but also older people. One speaker was equally hard on the Liberals and the Conservatives for the moves made in making parliament less responsive to the Canadian public. He drew a fair amount of applause. There was one individual who carried around a sign labelled “Stephen Hitler” with the picture to match. He was considerably less appreciated, by myself and others, but he was certainly not indicative of the mood of the crowd.
No, the mood of the event was quite positive and fun. Music played, people chatted, and perogies were served. I must confess that Vivian seemed a little bored by the whole thing, but her mood picked up after we retired to a toy store across the street.
As I said to Vivian, we Canadians are lucky that we can attend events like this, without fear of official persecution. More importantly, it’s because Canadians have attended events like this in the past that this is so. The protests going on across this country, bringing out thousands of Canadians, may or may not bring change to the parliament in the short term. More important, however, is the contribution these protesters have made to the long term health of our democracy. As I’ve said before, the right to speak and the right to speak loudly, in a public space, is a democratic muscle that needs to be exercised regularly in order to prevent atrophy. Today was a healthy exercise.
Later, Vivian told her mother, “That was great! Now I can’t wait to vote!” If that isn’t the coolest thing, I don’t know what is.
P.S. I was about to comment on the spelling mistake in the photograph at the top of this post. After we’d been warned about the need to spell correctly, I was going to say, “c’mon! How much harder is it to spell proroguation than ‘carbon’. However, when I wrote that, my computer’s internal spell-checker flashed up a warning. Turns out I was the one who misspelled the word in my title (now corrected). These guys above cared enough to look it up before they wrote it down. Heh!
(Update: 2:54 p.m.): Greg Bester’s take on this protest suggests full attendance at this event might be higher than 300. Organizers made 300 postcards available for attendees to sign. These cards are to be mailed to Stephen Harper to register our displeasure directly. By the time Greg showed up, all postcards had been signed.