The royal snub: Queen's to protest Harris
By Sara Marett
Premier Mike Harris will have to face another spell of protestors tomorrow as he visits Queen's University to officially open a new biosciences complex.
Students, elementary teachers and university faculty are planning to protest the Premier's visit as the Kingston university shows appreciation for the funding given from the provincial government for the new complex during its opening ceremonies.
"It was actually the Bob Rae government who gave $24 million to help build the complex but it is normal protocol to invite the current government to express appreciation for the contribution," said university spokesperson Joyce Zakos.
It is precisely government funding, or lack thereof, that students will be voicing their concerns about during Harris' visit. Student groups, including Queen's Alma Mater Society, are planning what they hope will be a peaceful protest tomorrow. They also have booths set up around campus all week to provide students with information on current issues surrounding post-secondary education, said AMS academic affairs commissioner Tom Stanley.
At a conference on post-secondary education in Toronto last week, Harris said in response to the protesting students there that he "doesn't do protests."
Stanley said students have played ball for the past few years by sitting down and talking and Harris hasn't listened, so he could understand the frustration of students.
He added the AMS will have posters and signs at the demonstration encouraging protestors to remain peaceful. They will read: "Please be respectful of the premises and other people's safety."
Faculty members who plan to protest also hope the demonstration will remain safe. "We are encouraging our members to take part in the protest," said Grant Amyot, chair of the political action committee for Queen's Faculty Association. He said both the association and Queen's Senate passed official resolutions of opposition to the Harris government's Bill 160.
Ted Holden, president of Kingston's Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation chapter said all local unions under the Ontario Teachers' Federation will be protesting Harris on Friday over cuts to all levels of education. Holden also wrote a letter asking Queen's to cancel Harris' visit. "It is an outrageous idea it's like thanking someone for giving you scrap."
Zakos admitted the university received numerous letters asking to have Harris' invitation withdrawn. Ceremony organizer Bill McLatchie said they have not changed any aspect of the event other than increased security measures.
Const. Mike Shultz of the Kingston Police Department said police will take necessary action to ensure there is no breach of peace at the protest. "We understand the sensitivity of the situation and we will make sure there are enough people to ensure no one gets hurt."