Skip to content

Protesters rally against premier's 'Trump-like' tactics (7 photos)

Dozens of demonstrators gathered Monday night outside Simcoe North MPP's Orillia office

A wake was held for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on Monday night.

Residents upset with Premier Doug Ford’s decision to use the charter’s notwithstanding clause to overrule a judge and slash the number of Toronto city councillors in the midst of an election campaign sang Amazing Grace as a copy of the document was set on fire in front of Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop’s Orillia office.

Among the more than 60 people who showed up to the "Rally for Democracy," which was organized the day before, was Bridget Gole, dressed as Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

“I figured she would be happy to be a part of this show of democracy,” Gole said. “Her presence here is appropriate.”

Those in attendance were invited to address the crowd. Roger Pretty noted his father and grandfather were conservatives, but “they would be appalled by this.”

“This is not a conservative move at all to remove municipal representation from the people,” he said.

He expressed his disbelief that Dunlop – who said she could not attend the rally because she was going to be at a plowing match – would support such a move.

“That’s pretty shocking to me that a Dunlop would do that to this community,” he said. “They bought into this bozo (Ford) and it’s very unfortunate. It’s very Trump-like.”

John Winchester echoed Pretty’s comments on the use of the notwithstanding clause not being a partisan issue. Rather, he said, it was a “petty” and “vindictive” move by Ford and his Progressive Conservative government.

“This is not what it was intended for,” he said.

Dennis Rizzo agreed the issue was more about setting a precedent than it was about politics.

“What’s not proper is for one individual to make use of an emergency clause to solve a crisis that he, in fact, created,” Rizzo said.

Doug Downey, an Orillia lawyer and the MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, received his share of criticism from those at the demonstration.

“We need to call him out,” Winchester said of Downey, “for whom I have a lot of respect – well, had a lot of respect.”

Members of the Raging Grannies kept the dramatic display going, leading protesters in a sing-along to Democracy, sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda.

“Ontario democracy, Ontario democracy,” they sang. “We won’t let him kill it. One, two, three.”

The event turned from songs and speeches to a discussion among attendees. Margaret Ford wasn’t mincing her words.

Born in England in 1933, she watched as about a dozen of her uncles went to war “to fight against fascism.”

“What we learned was you speak up, and you speak up early,” she said, later adding, “I know the smell of fascism.”

Some of those who spoke at the demonstration shared their fears of how Ford’s move to invoke the notwithstanding clause could embolden others.

“We have to think about what (federal Conservative Leader) Andrew Scheer would do with a notwithstanding clause, and the social conservatives who elected him,” said Ken Szijarto, suggesting a co-ordinated campaign among the other parties to defeat the Conservatives might be what’s needed in a Tory stronghold like Simcoe North. “Splitting the vote is a sure-as-heck way of electing a Conservative government.”

Before dispersing after about an hour, demonstrators taped signs to the windows and door of Dunlop’s constituency office, while Rizzo tied a symbolic black ribbon to the handle.

“We’re letting her know we’ve been here and we’re mourning,” he said.