It may look like your typical parade — marchers marching, flags flying and pipers piping — but Toronto’s annual Labour Day parade is a unique blend of celebration and protest.
“These people have come out to show pride in their movement and the contributions it has made,” said John Cartwright, president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, which helped organize the event.
Cartwright estimated that up to 22,000 Ontario workers took to the Queen St. W. route Monday morning, including federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. From teachers and nurses to firefighters and actors, union groups from across GTA were well represented.
As usual, the march mixed steel drum bands, dancing and cheering with banners demanding more rights for workers.
Cartwright said this year’s parade was especially important in light of recent labour conflicts, particularly between the Ontario government and the teacher’s union — which Cartwright called “an unprecedented attack” on teachers’ rights — and the Canadian economy’s sluggish recovery.
Gerard O’Neill, president of the Durham local of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, said teachers want the public to understand what they’re facing.
Ontario teachers have not made any move to strike, but remain at loggerheads with the Dalton McGuinty government, which first demanded and failed to get most boards to settle deals with their teachers by Sept. 1, their first day without a contract, then introduced Bill 115, which imposes a freeze on wages, cuts sick days and bans strikes and lockouts for two years. Many members from other unions expressed their support for teachers and their right to collective bargaining at the parade Monday.