By: Helene Goderis

Harper gone rogue

Helene Goderis

There was a telling crescendo in the voices of the crowd gathered at Dundas Square as they sang out “we stand on guard for thee” during the national anthem. An estimated 7,000 people came out on January 23 as part of a cross-country rally, organized through Facebook by Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament (CAPP), to protest Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s prorogation of parliament.

Harper announced on December 30 he would suspend parliament until March 3. The PM denies accusations that he is eschewing some tough questions regarding the Afghan detainee scandal, citing that current economic troubles and the upcoming winter Olympics necessitated the parliamentary break.

The prorogation has effectively terminated debate on 37 bills before parliament. Critics also say it raises important questions about the state of Canadian democracy, like whether Harper is accountable to parliament or vice versa.

If Harper was counting on a complacent electorate in what is arguably a stable political landscape, the protests prove him wrong. In fact, the prorogation has only intensified scrutiny on the PM.

Lead organizer Shilo Davis said, “I hope that the rallies have shown that Canadians DO care about what the government does, and that we ARE paying attention. And that we will hold our politicians accountable for their actions.”

“It is important to see prorogation, at least the way in which it can currently be called, as emblematic of greater issues in our system of government,” added organizer Christopher White .”The rules are set up to keep whoever is in power at the helm, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. We need to change that. This is never going to happen unless we organize and keep the pressure on all of our elected leaders. Protests are one form of showing discontent.”

The non-partisan protest brought out activists of all stripes alongside a healthy U of T contingent, including student faith groups.

Sheryl Johnson, a co-ordinator and chair with the Student Christian Movement at U of T, is one voice among many that questions what Harper is trying to avoid by suspending parliament. “As Christians committed to social justice and activism on a wide variety of issues from poverty to the environment to social services and rights for immigrants, the [SCM] could certainly provide a long list of things that should be looked at and could have kept parliament busy!”

The protest looped from Dundas Square down Yonge to Queen Street, Bay, College, and ended back at the Square.

CAPP has another protest planned for February 13 that will see two torches relayed from either coast, meeting in Ottawa on March 3.

What has yet to be seen is whether Harper will listen to the outcry against his prorogation.

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