Skip to content →

Teachers demonstrate against Harris

JANUARY 21, 1996 – Saturday January 13, the New Year picked up where the old year left off in Ontario – with a massive mobilization against the Tories.

Organizers were anticipating a turnout of 20,000,[1] which would make it the largest anti-Tory demo to date.

On the day, it was at least that large. Marilies Rettig, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) which called the demo, said: “We’re out here, 20,000 strong, to tell this government that their cuts will decimate education as we know it.”[2] The police estimate – 25,000 – was even higher.[3] Some put the figure as high as 37,000![4]

OECTA is a union not known for its militancy. It is being pushed into action by the severity of the Tory attacks. Rettig said, “there’s no way an additional $400-million can be cut without extremely serious impact on children in the classroom.”[5]

The movement against the Tories will have to overcome divisions between unions. “At the press conference announcing the rally” wrote Jennifer Lewington wrote in The Globe and Mail, “three of the province’s five teacher unions were conspicuous by their absence. Reg Ferland, president of the Ontario Public School Teachers Federation, one of the three unions not present, said he does not plan to attend the rally although local members are free to do so.”[6] In fact, many individual members of the other teachers’ unions, did attend.

Many on the demo were from outside Toronto. Some 380 buses brought people in from as far away as Sudbury and Ottawa. Most came from towns that had voted overwhelmingly Tory last year. But they had not voted for the massive cuts that are coming down the pike from Harris and the boys.

It was an inspiring day.

© 1996 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.


[1] Dave Battagello, “Teachers Gearing up for Protest,” The Windsor Star, January 12, 1996.

[2] Quoted in Canadian Press, “Angry Teachers Descend on Queen’s Park for Huge Protest,” Canadian Press NewsWire, January 13, 1996,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Michael Redfearn, “News That Bleeds Sells,” The Record (Kitchener), January 20, 1996.

[5] Quoted in Jennifer Lewington, “Ontario Teachers Gear up to Fight Tory Funding Cuts,” The Globe and Mail, January 11, 1996.

[6] Ibid.

Published in Archive