More than 100 people gathered for a general strike against the Ford government in downtown Hamilton on Wednesday afternoon.
The rally in Gore Park was one of more than 20 events scheduled in cities across Ontario, with the goal of stopping work for an hour to protest provincial funding cuts to services like health care and education.
The event was organized by two women – Hamilton filmmaker Dakota Lanktree and Toronto’s Florence O’Connell – and was dubbed a ‘general strike’ as opposed to a rally or a protest, despite no affiliation with unions or labour organizations.
“We are seeing support from locals, but we haven’t seen one of the big unions step out and say, ‘This is something that we approve of’,” said Lanktree. “Because they just can’t. It would cause trouble.”
Instead, Lanktree said the event was being held on May 1, known as International Workers’ Day, in solidarity with unions and workers. It was scheduled to run between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., with people stopping work for an hour to take part.
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“We can’t stop work for the rest of the week because this will take more than just us,” said Lanktree as she addressed the crowd, standing on the Queen Victoria statue in Gore Park. “It will take the unions joining us, and we ask them to when they can. We will stand with them in this and there will be a moment for that. This is a beginning.”
Lanktree was one of a number of speakers who addressed the crowd, including Christine ‘Tina’ Fougere, the founder and president of the Canadian National Autism Foundation and the mother of two children, including a son with autism.
“Any family member here that has a loved one with special needs, trust me – I’ve been through it,” said Fougere. “I’ve been through it with the previous government, where the cuts were bad. It affected all of our kids. But trust me – it’s nowhere near how this is going to affect all of you right now.”
Lanktree said the event was ultimately about giving a voice to people like Fougere and the other speakers.
“In an era of ignored emails to MPPs, you can feel really lost and ignored, like you don’t have a voice. So what we’re bringing forth is a manner in which people can have a voice collectively. And we think that’s a really powerful thing.”
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