Parent rally in support of teachers a warmup for Saturday protest

Parents and community members who support teachers gathered at Hamilton City Hall Friday afternoon, and plan to join a bigger demonstration Saturday outside the Liberal leadership convention.
Parents and community members braved the cold to show their support of teachers in Hamilton Friday. (Kaleigh Rogers/CBC)

A group of Hamilton parents and community members gathered outside City Hall on Friday in support of teachers, calling it "a warm up" for a larger rally planned for Saturday outside the Liberal leadership convention in Toronto.

"We came out here today to show support for the teachers and to the other education workers who have been so negatively impacted by [Bill 115]," said Lee Gowers, president of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations, who came out to the rally.

Saturday's gathering has attracted interest from thousands of teachers, union workers, students, parents and retirees, according to the Ontario Federation of Labour, who are helping organize the event. Both a protest outside the convention at Maple Leaf Gardens and a march are planned.

The province's teachers were in contract negotiations much of last year and many are still balking at the imposed contract under Bill 115, which they say stripped them of their rights to negotiate. Most teachers are still refraining from participating in extra-curricular activities such as music groups and sports teams as a result.

Kathleen Quinn attended Friday's gathering and plans to march in Toronto Saturday. As a school volunteer and the daughter of a teacher, she said she's seen first-hand the struggles facing education workers.

"I think it's sad that this is happening, not only to our educators but we've seen it happen to Air Canada and our postal workers. We're attacking our workers and our unions, so we really need to stand up for what's right," she said.

"The labour movement isn't dead."

Tania Kerr, vice president of Hamilton Wentworth elementary teachers local, came to the City Hall protest to thank everyone for their support.

"Teachers are constantly receiving that negative message from the media: parents are mad at you. Well, I guess we figured out parents are mad, but today tells us who they're really mad at," Kerr said.

Many Hamilton teachers and education workers have already said they plan to attend Saturday's rally and supporters have organized shuttle buses to get Hamiltonians into downtown Toronto.

While chilly winter weather kept Friday's gathering down to only a couple dozen supporters, Quinn said she will be in Toronto Saturday, snow or shine.

"I've got my warm clothes. If it means standing up for democracy, a little weather isn't going to stop me."