The federal civil servant who wrote and performed a highly political protest song was conspicuously absent on Thursday as Canadians from coast to coast gathered to belt out his catchy tune.
Tony Turner, a scientist in habitat planning at Environment Canada and active member of Ottawa’s folk music scene, is keeping a low profile after being suspended with pay from his job.
The YouTube video for Turner’s original song, “Harperman,” features him singing about ousting Conservative leader Stephen Harper and his government with a backing chorus of more than two-dozen people. The protest ditty went viral in late August, leading to Turner’s suspension for a suspected breach of the civil service’s ethics code, and to a broader discussion of the right to free speech among government employees.
Sing-alongs in support of Turner and his message were subsequently organized in nearly 50 locations across the country, with most held on Thursday afternoon. The gathering in Toronto drew over 150 people, and they brought props:
The event on Parliament Hill, meanwhile, was attended by at least 1,000 demonstrators. Many had instruments in hand, or large signs inscribed with lyrics from “Harperman.” The Canadian Association of Professional Employees, which represents economists, statisticians and other professionals in federal departments, had encouraged its members to take a few hours of annual leave and head to the sing-along, but cautioned them not to identify themselves as public servants.
Sing-alongs were also held in Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, Regina and Edmonton. Chris White, one of the organizers, said that “our hope is that all citizens will consider the issues facing our country, exercise their democratic right, and vote according to their conscience on October 19th.”
A spokesperson for the Conservative campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the musical protests.
WATCH: Environment Canada scientist placed on leave for “Harperman” song