By Lorne Warwick
Published June 11, 2012
Last Friday I got a glimpse of the kind of democratic expression that is considered acceptable under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government. It is one that I found profoundly disturbing.
On June 8, another demonstration to protest Bill C-38, the Harper budget omnibus bill, took place, this one organized by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and joined by a variety of groups and individuals.
Protesters march to MP David Sweet's office
Despite the short notice, this march from downtown Dundas up to Mr. Sweet's office at 59 Kirby Avenue in Greensville was well-attended, and I was very pleased by the robust presence of young Canadians, each participant bound by a deep concern over the dark road Stephen Harper and his acolytes are leading us down.
However, young and old alike were in for an unpleasant surprise upon arrival at our destination. We were met with a No Trespassing sign at the entrance to the strip mall housing Sweet's constituency office, an interdiction authorized by the property owner, IPC Investments, we were told.
No Trespassing sign in front of the strip mall housing MP David Sweet's constituency office
Not one to be satisfied with such an expedient and un-Canadian dismissal of democracy, I ventured onto the property to ask to speak to the owner, who was flanked by Hamilton police officers (all of whom, I must say, discharged their perceived duties in a very professional and non-confrontational manner).
I asked the owner, who refused to give his name, why we, the public, were being denied access to the office of our elected and publicly-funded MP, and he told me it was private property. When I persisted in my questions, he said there had been an incident of property destruction a couple of months ago, at which point the officer told him he didn't have to answer my questions.
Interestingly, a lawyer who was in attendance later contacted the property owner who "alleged that people in the past had caused damage by breaking foliage and walking on plants," none of which was in evidence in this concreted and rather sterile-looking strip mall.
Thus literally relegated to the street (also an apt metaphor for where this battle must be fought), many of the attendees spoke eloquently about their concerns over the omnibus bill.
Representatives from labour, the environment, poverty and political action groups, as well as former politicians and individuals, all united by their love of this country and their compassion for its members, offered moving perspectives on the dangers inherent in the Harper push to fundamentally alter the values and traditions that I would like to think the majority of Canadians hold dear.
Many of the attendees were veterans of the battles to safeguard those values, maintain our democratic rights, and hold our politicians accountable to those they were elected to represent and serve. Many others were young and just beginning to take up those battles, but all were united in their passion and their determination to fight for the things truly worth fighting for in this life.