was cheers for Jack Layton and jeers for Dennis Mills at a rowdy all-candidates
meeting in Toronto-Danforth last night. Mills, the Liberal incumbent, was met
with shouts of "Goodbye, Dennis" from the crowd as he left Jimmy Simpson recreation
centre on Queen E. Meanwhile, Layton, the NDP Leader, got the loudest support
from about 250 people attending the debate and 150 more waiting outside. "I came
here undecided and you know, I'm leaning towards Jack now," said Susan Lee, 39.
"I was pretty appalled at Dennis Mills' positions, especially on gay marriage."
Mills was met with loud boos and cries of "shame" for saying he favours "a traditional
definition of marriage."
June 21, 2004 (updated June 22)
Mills laughs at charges of bigotry & lies
a week after a national pollster said that New Democrat Leader Jack Layton should
easily win this riding, the four-time Liberal incumbent is claiming he is the
one with the stranglehold ... and a gay demonstration outside Mills's campaign
office to protest his stance in favour of the traditional definition of marriage
has helped, he claims, in that it has boosted his recognition factor against Layton's
high national profile."
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the delusions of Liberal MP Dennis Mills (Toronto-Danforth) is to point to his fantasy of considering himself "the last of the Trudeau Liberals" (The Globe and Mail, June 21, 2004). No other conceit best captures how Dennis Mills has lost hold of his bearings and his riding.
Out of step with Liberal leadership (a perennial back-bencher, perhaps because of his lack of credibility) Mills is the farthest thing from a politician like Pierre Trudeau and shares more in common with the Conservative Party's Stephen Harper.
Dennis Mills voted against the inclusion of sexual orientation discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-33, 1996), and he voted against equal recognition of same-sex relationships in 1995 (Bill M-264) and again in 2000 (Bill C-23). Mills again reaffirmed his support of marriage discrimination in Canada's House of Commons on Feb. 3, 2004.
Increasingly, residents of the Toronto-Danforth riding have been speaking out against the cavalier manner in which Mills responds to charges of discrimination. Protests began last summer, and the most recent one took place on June 19, outside the campaign office that Mills has set up on the Danforth.
The protest was called by Christine Beckermann and Michelle Robidoux, the amazing team from Equality Now. We had the pleasure of working with this well-organized and experienced pair last year and we immediately joined in to assist. Other local residents responded, including constituents who proudly carried union (Steelworker) flags, actor Joanne Vannicola, George Olds and Ian Taylor from liberals of Layton, advocate Dennis Battler, straight parents who brought their child, and many others who found common ground in wishing to improve their riding representation.
"About 50 to 60 protesters who support same-sex marriage picketed the office of a prominent backbench MP in Toronto on Saturday," CTV News reported yesterday.
The event was covered live by CBC Newsworld at noon on Saturday, and reported by the Globe and Mail, bringing attention to the issues.
"In fact, there are two areas of disagreement: whether gays should be allowed to marry, and whether Parliament or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has the final say," reported CBC (June 19). "[Kevin] Bourassa, one of four people who successfully challenged a ban on gay marriages in an Ontario court, said the Charter, and its equality provisions, take precedence ... Mills said the decision to approve same-sex marriage is ultimately up to Parliament. He supports a free vote in the House of Commons."
Members of the gay community also carried signs saying "Dennis Lied", a reference to Mills' broken promise to resign if he did not deliver housing for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty within 30 days.
Mills' campaign office was coy about whether Mills would be at the office during the time of our protest. However when we showed up, we found campaign workers setting up for a BBQ on the sidewalk. Another Mills worker brought out a table to displace as many of the protesters as possible. A sound system was turned on to drown out the speakers who had come to defend equality. Increasingly, the protesters were being forced into the street and shoppers couldn't get by, but thanks to police who showed up on the scene, everyone was protected from the busy Saturday afternoon traffic. After a word with Mills, he eventually gained control of his zealous campaigners. They turned off their sound system, we turned on ours, and a polite 60-minute demonstration continued with chants and speeches (a Mills campaign person even offered water to Michelle who was getting hoarse from speaking and leading chants).
Car horns honked cheerfully, showing their support and waving to the protesters. Mills waved at the first few honks, his Pavlovian political instincts kicking in, until he realized the support was for us and not for him. Our spirits were brightened by the spontaneous signs of support that came from passing cars and people (our demonstration kept getting larger by the minute).
Although we were unsuccessful in obtaining a "death-bed conversion" from Mr. Mills, the day helped local residents feel that they had done their part in denouncing their discriminating Member of Parliament. Mills, smiling and laughing, shook our hand as we said goodbye, perhaps for the final time.
Having packed up Michelle and Christine's port-a-protest, a group of us went down the Danforth for a few drinks at a local pub whose name seemed somehow appropriate: "The Court Jester".
Thanks to everyone who participated!