Yukoners protest prorogation, eat perogies

Instead of waving placards and shouting chants, Whitehorse’s anti-prorogation rally saw the crowd singing nursery rhymes and Christmas carols. On Saturday, as temperatures hovered around minus 10, a group of roughly 150 stood on the steps of the Elijah Smith Building singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Instead of waving placards and shouting chants, Whitehorse’s anti-prorogation rally saw the crowd singing nursery rhymes and Christmas carols.

On Saturday, as temperatures hovered around minus 10, a group of roughly 150 stood on the steps of the Elijah Smith Building singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

But after the first line, the song took on a pointedly political tone.

“Wonder where the MPs are.

“They were working on the Hill,

“Now they pass no laws or bills.

“Where does all our money go, if the government’s prorogued?”

Accompanied by Natalie Edelson, Kim Barlow on banjo and Kevin Barr on guitar, the crowd then jumped into the carol, “Silent Hill, empty Hill.”

But not everyone was singing.

“I just wanted to see how many people showed up,” said Jim Davis, who attended with his basset hound Medina.

Davis, who voted for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the last election, said he’d vote for him again.

And he doesn’t understand all the hype around proroguing.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Davis. “They don’t accomplish much anyway, all they do is bicker.”

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell disagrees.

There were 37 critical bills in the works when Harper decided to prorogue Parliament, he said. And the Afghan detainee issue was heating up.

“It’s an international crime to transfer prisoners to a place where they may be tortured,” said Bagnell.

And the committee looking into the Afghan issue was starting to ask for documents held by the Prime Minister’s Office.

“So, to get rid of that committee, Harper prorogued Parliament,” he said. “It’s a nefarious reason.”

It’s like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, said protester Anne Pittens, who used the proroguing to advertise her grooming business, All About Dogs.

Feeding off the discontentment across the country, Pittens ran an ad on CKRW that said, “What’s that, doggy? Trying to prorogue your winter grooming session …?”

Harper’s timing seemed sneaky, added June Cable.

But Davis doesn’t think the Afghan torture issue is a big deal.

“With the torture thing, maybe there were a few little incidents, he said.

“But everything Harper does, people are right on him, so he needed to gather his thoughts and take a break.”

If he’s not going to work, he shouldn’t get paid, said rally organizer Patricia Robertson, addressing the crowd.

Then she explained that a tin would be coming around to collect donations. Turns out, to hold a rally on a federal building site the group had to pay liability insurance.

Walking through the crowd, Edelson took a break from singing to carry around a tray of steaming perogies with miniature Canadian flags on top.

“This perogy is going to be pretty mouldy by March,” said Elsabe Kloppers, referencing when Parliament is set to reconvene.

Standing in front of the crowd, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell was reminded of the 1960s when the populace rallied against the war in Vietnam.

“It’s good to see the will of the people out here again,” he said.

“We want our Parliament back at work.”

Spurred by the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament – which now has more than 216,000 members – rallies across the country on Saturday took social networking to a whole new level.

“We have new ways of engaging with each other,” said territorial NDP Leader Elizabeth Hanson, speaking at the rally.

“And we have new tools to make the political system work.”

The local rally was organized by a virtual group. “We never actually had a meeting – we never saw each other,” said Hanson.

Across the country, the rallies saw more than 25,000 people, according to a Globe and Mail estimate.

“There’s something really exciting about citizens from coast to coast sending a message to the prime minister,” said Robertson.

Will the rallies make an impression on Harper? Probably not, said organizer Doug Rutherford.

“I think Harper’s more interested in staying in power than doing his job.”

Harper assumes Canadians have a short memory, added Larry Gray, who was there with his six-year-old son.

“He thinks this will pass, and it did the last time (he prorogued Parliament). But I’m not sure, this time.”

The government doesn’t have great listening skills, said 18-year-old Malkolm Boothroyd.

“But if enough Canadians demand action, the government will have to change its ways or get booted out.”

“We need to get rid of some of the politics in politics and put the people back in politics,” added federal Green Party candidate John Streicker.

The Yukon Party was invited to the rally, but didn’t respond, said Robertson.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com