Protesters rally against Parliament's pause
Published Sunday, January 24, 2010 1:17PM PST
Across Canada, more than 40 demonstrations are now underway to protest the Conservative government's decision last month to prorogue Parliament.
In Vancouver, roughly 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday to march in protest of the Parliamentary time-out.
"The main message is Canadians care," event organizer Ashley Fehr said. "We care about democracy, we care about accountability and we're going to make sure Stephen Harper knows that."
On Dec, 30, Harper requested that Parliament be prorogued as opposition parties pressed the Conservatives on the Afghan prisoner abuse issue.
"People are angry. They're coming up and they're thankful that this rally is happening, they want to be heard."
The march will proceed down Georgia Street to Granville, where the group will head north before turning east on Hastings Street.
The march will end at Victory Square, a downtown park at the intersection of Hastings and Cambie Streets.
Representatives from the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and Fair Vote Canada will be speaking to the crowd, accompanied by a musical performance by the Raging Grannies.
For a full parade map and more information on the march visit the No Prorogue website.
The Parliamentary pause also coincides with next month's Olympics, with some critics complaining that the government is muting criticism as the world comes to Vancouver.
Parliament will resume again in early March.
Protests in Ontario and beyond
In Ottawa, an estimated 3,500 people gathered in front of Parliament to hear speeches from the NDP's Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
"I have heard your message, you have said loud and clear: you do not want Parliament to shut down when a prime minister is facing questions that he must answer," said Ignatieff.
Ignatieff also accused Harper of playing to apathy and cynicism -- a gamble which will harm the Conservatives' political fortunes.
"He had no idea that you would be here today," Ignatieff said, referring to Harper.
Ignatieff stressed that the show of protest was a good sign for Canadian democracy, and that the demonstrations are important, "because you're defending an absolutely fundamental principle of our democracy."
The NDP's Layton said that people need their government to work on their behalf, and to push for climate change legislation and positive economic policies
"I get the impression that you'd like your representatives to work on your behalf starting tomorrow," said Layton.
The Green Party's Elizabeth May is also expected to speak in Ottawa.
In Halifax, several hundred people gathered near the province's legislature and shouted slogans against the government. Speakers included Liberal MP Geoff Regan and ex-provincial NDP leader Robert Chisholm.
Some of the demonstrators carried signs that read "Stand Up to Harper." Those signs also had the NDP logo on them.
Organizer Jonathan Allen said the protests are a reaction against what many feel is an abuse of power by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
The protests are being billed as non-partisan events, Allen added.
"We are urging Canadians to come out if they are concerned; it doesn't matter what political party they support," he told CTV News on Saturday morning.
"We've got Conservative supporters working within the groups as well, because they don't like the precedent that is being set, and they don't like the fact that this is the second prorogation in the course of a year."
Parliament was also suspended in December 2008, in response to an opposition plan that aimed to dethrone the Conservatives.
With files from The Canadian Press