A group of about 60 “yellow vest” protesters gathered at Toronto City Hall on Saturday, inspired by the massive protest rallies that have been taking place in France over the past five weeks.
The group that gathered at Nathan Philips Square did not have a clear ideology. Over half of the protesters donning yellow vests were politically right-leaning, while the rest of the protesters leaned to the left.
The common sticking point for the protesters was a displeasure for the political establishment and the status quo.
“Both of the groups that are here today are referencing this symbol — the yellow vest protests going on in France,” said Lysander, who did not want their last name to be used.
Lysander said they identify with the controversial left-leaning group Antifa.
Echoing calls from some of the French protesters, Lysander’s group supports more funding for mental health, alleviating homelessness, lowering large salaries for politicians, and social justice issues.
Lysander also claimed that the other group of yellow vest protesters at the Toronto rally were trying to take over the movement and create a message which it did not emulate.
Police stood between the two groups to ensure no scuffles occurred. The rally was peaceful.
Some of the other yellow vest protesters chanted the seemingly nationalist slogan “Canada first” and expressed anti-immigration messages.
Among that group of protesters was controversial far-right former mayoral candidate Faith Goldy.
Robert, a protester who also held right-leaning beliefs, attended to express displeasure with the UN Global Compact on Refugees. He was also protesting what he said is lack of discussion on political issues in society today, as well as a lack of freedom of speech.
“These were the things we fought for,” he said. “Everybody fought for these things, their land, their freedoms.”
Robert also did not want his last name used.
WATCH: ‘Yellow vest’ protests in France
The rally in Toronto was one of the many held throughout Canada on Saturday.
Other yellow vest rallies were held in Moncton, Halifax, Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg, among other cities.
The yellow vest rallies began in France five weeks ago and mass protests have been occurring across that country every Saturday since then.
The protests began as a movement targeting an increase in French fuel prices but has since morphed into a movement aimed at protesting a high cost of living and, more generally, issues associated with the status quo.
“They are a bunch of pissed-off people from all over the political spectrum,” Lysander said.
The protesters began wearing yellow vests because everyone in France who drives a vehicle is required to keep one of those vests in their car for safety purposes.
French president Emmanuel Macron reacted to the protests by pleading for calm, promising an increase in the minimum wage and eliminating the fuel tax increase, among other policies.
Yellow vests protests have also spilled into other countries since they began.
Saturday’s rallies throughout Canada were not well advertised but were still able to draw in some small crowds in cities where they did occur.
–With files from Matthew Bingley