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Protesters demand Stephen Harper reconvene Parliament

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Anti-prorogation rally on the Hill draws 3,500

by Vito Pilieci

Calling it a rally in support of democracy, more than 3,500 people gathered at Parliament Hill Saturday afternoon to demand Prime Minister Stephen Harper immediately re-convene Parliament.

The Ottawa rally — one of more than 60 planned rallies in cities across the country — boasted a turnout almost three times more than organizers were expecting.

Jesse Root, one of the organizers of the Ottawa rally, said the number of people was proof that the Internet can be a powerful tool when piecing together a political movement.

“There have been a lot of questions about whether Facebook can be used to co-ordinate a political movement,” said Root.

“Look around.”

The rallies were organized after an Alberta university student created a group on the social networking website Facebook called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament, which quickly became a rally point for Canadians who were against Harper’s decision to suspend Parliament until March, rather than having it reconvene this Monday as had been scheduled.

The group’s membership quickly swelled; it currently has more than 212,000 members.

Despite its size, political pundits questioned the group’s ability to generate an effective grassroots campaign against the prorogation, especially after a demonstration in Toronto on Thursday saw fewer than 35 people turn out.

However, Root said the results of the Toronto protest should be ignored.

He said the Toronto rally was planned at the last minute when it was announced that Harper would be addressing officials at the C.D. Howe Institute. Root said the official cross-country protests against the decision to prorogue Parliament had always been scheduled for Jan. 23.

“That was just a preview,” said Root, pointing to a sea of homemade signs and angry faces that quickly filled the sidewalk in front of the Peace Tower.

People came bearing signs with hand-painted slogans calling on politicians to resume their duties. “Get back to work,” read one sign. “Less hockey, more politics,” read another — referring to the timing of the prorogation, which will coincide with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Similar scenes took place in other municipalities. More than 7,000 protesters turned up at Toronto’s Dundas Square, while another 500 demonstrated in Halifax.

Organizers were boasting of rallies in 50 communities across the country.

Demonstrations were also planned outside Canadian consulates in San Francisco, California, and Dallas, Texas. People were also expected to gather in Costa Rica and London, England.

In Ottawa, dozens of speakers took to the podium to discuss everything from Canada’s role in Afghanistan to the country’s environmental record, and even the way Nortel workers and pensioners are being treated by the company’s ongoing bankruptcy woes.

Protesters claimed the prorogation of Parliament has handicapped the country’s ability to address issues such as pension reform and green energy.

“Politicians calculated that we would be apathetic about this, but clearly they were wrong,” Alex Hill, another one of the Ottawa event’s co-ordinators, told the crowd before leading the protesters in a chant telling politicians to “get back to work.”

Despite attempts by organizers to keep the event unaffiliated with any political party, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton were also allowed to speak to the crowd.

Layton was also planning to board a plane and jet to Canada’s west coast to speak at the Victoria rally later in the afternoon.

“The House of Commons is supposed to be the house of the people,” said Layton. “Mr. Harper, unlock the doors of the people’s house.”

The sentiments were echoed by Ignatieff, who praised the cross-country movement that the Facebook group had created.

“This is not a party or political event. It belongs to the Canadian people,” he said. “This is a demonstration that shows that Canadians care for their democracy.”

internet site reference: LINK

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Written by thecanadianheadlines

January 25, 2010 at 7:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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