Posted by Amy MacPherson
Wasaga Beach: Rally for respect in Toronto
April 12, 2011 4:00 PM
Region: Ontario Topics:
By Amy MacPherson (Wasaga Beach, Ont.)
Over the weekend I had an opportunity to attend the Rally for Respect at Dundas and Yonge Square in Toronto. It was organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour, but countless individuals, organizations and community groups came out to voice their concerns and support one another.
I’ve been to a handful of peaceful gatherings but a few things really struck me this time. Although the event began as a statement against public service cuts and privatization, the venue was quickly embraced by every voter longing to be heard. Their issues ranged all levels of government, but united was their plea for basic, human consideration over that of corporations. That particular take-away was shared by everyone.
It reminded me of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s This or That project almost immediately. The people are aware that government has choices and they’re holding them accountable to make the right ones. If you visit the site it will demonstrate a number of key tradeoffs in proposed budget plans and as voters we are tasked with guiding their decisions – not the other way around and perhaps in spite of what advertising tells us.
I’ve included a photo gallery to share some of their sentiments. You’ll see messages regarding employment, subsidized housing, food, women’s rights, isolation of immigrants and military withdrawal to name a few. One could say these echoed the same qualms expressed during the G20, but without police in riot gear there were no violent incidents to mention. Instead they brought the beautiful horses out to mingle and smiled for the camera in good spirits. It was a very positive event, from all perspectives.
Ten thousand people harmoniously stood shoulder to shoulder, waving their flags and chanting in unison. The mantras were equal parts frustration with not being valued and a certain warm strength that bonds them together. A sign reads, “We Are One” and that’s exactly how I would characterize the crowd. Yet their ages ranged from toddlers to grandparents and every ethnicity was represented. These weren’t just certain groups of people, they were all the people united in one voice: Fight back!
Now don’t get me wrong, their idea of fighting was to fill out a postcard that would bombard government offices for now. They’ll even hand deliver so postal staff won’t be overwhelmed. That’s the thing about underestimating though. These folks send their dissent in writing, make songs that are lyrically pleasing and because they’re so peaceful the government hasn’t been listening. Is it not ironic, their political fates will come down to what these people scribble on a paper ballot then?
They’ll be writing for healthcare instead of jet planes. Childcare instead of prisons. Pharmacare instead of corporate tax cuts. I think the popular theme is reminding Parliament Hill that Canadians care about we-the-people, contrary to their sacrifice for the pursuit of sheer capitalism. You might also be surprised by the amount of young voters with opinions on Afghanistan, so until next time, I leave you with their video clip.