Student protests mobilise thousands for environmental protections

Peaceful Assembly

Challenging government policies and actions

On 7th March 2019, hundreds of parents, therapists and other supporters gathered near Queen's Park in Toronto to protest the government's cuts to the Ontario's autism program. The changes to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP), critics say, take funding away from existing autism programs and would require families to use more expensive therapies or rely on underfunded public-school systems to care for their children. Parents describe the changes as an “arbitrary, random policy that doesn't help anyone". One father attending the rally said: 

"Each child on the spectrum has unique needs. We need a long-term solution that works for these families so that these kids can be a part of society”. 

A roundtable sponsored by a local Minister of Parliament offered families a chance to discuss how the proposed cuts would impact them.

On 20th March 2019, students at colleges and universities across the Canadian state of Ontario walked out of class to protest the government's changes to post-secondary school funding. Organised by the Canadian Federation of Students' Ontario chapter, the protest included students from around seventeen schools calling on school officials to reverse the changes and to eliminate tuition fees for all students. "We've been seeing rallies and marches and so forth, we've had town halls, students are organising community action and things like that and now we want to bring it to campus, where our local administrations are, where we can show solidarity between faculty, between staff,” one student said.

On 22nd March 2019, dozens of teachers and their supporters demonstrated in Ottawa outside of a building where Premier Doug Ford was attending a dinner to protest his recent proposal to increase class sizes in public high schools. As part of his plan to cut spending, Ford wants to increase class-sizes from twenty-two to twenty-eight students. Teachers say the change comes at the expense of the children’s education. In defence of his proposal, Ford also warned against teachers organising protests against his plans. "If the head of the unions wants to hurt the children of this province by doing walkouts and everything else, I'd think twice if I were them," Ford said. Teachers have vowed to push back against Ford’s proposal.

On 25th and 26th March 2019, hundreds of taxi drivers in Montreal refused to pick up passengers and clogged busy streets for hours as part of a protest against the government's decision to change how it regulates the industry. Outside of the Transport Ministry building and around town, taxi drivers honked their horns and purposely drove at slow speeds to disrupt the city’s traffic flow. Under the current system, drivers paid thousands to purchase permits which they claim are now worthless because of the government's decision to end a permit quota system.

Pro-pipeline protests

On 19th February 2019, a convoy of over 150 trucks arrived in Ottawa as part of a demonstration to push for more pipelines and less government regulation of the energy industry. The United We Roll convoy, which began in Red Deer, Alberta on 14th February 2019, had made several stops in small towns to hold rallies before arriving in Ottawa. The truck drivers oppose carbon tax legislation (Bill C-48) and Bill C-69 that would change the approval process for natural resource projects. In Ottawa, the truckers were joined by supporters who protested on Parliament Hill. “This movement is about building Canada, building pipelines,” said a business owner who supported the convoy.

On 22nd March 2019, dozens of people protested outside of the Calgary office of a Minister of Parliament to oppose legislation they say will increase unemployment. The rally was organised by Canada Action, a pro-energy advocacy group that opposes Bill C-69 because they say it would make it harder for future energy projects to get approval. “We're hearing about jobs in Quebec; we're hearing about jobs in Ontario. What about the 150,000 or more jobs in the rest of the country that are connected to the energy sector,” said Cody Battershill, from Canada Action.

Environmental related protests 

On 15th March 2019, students in cities across the country participated in an international climate-change protest. In Quebec, over 110,000 university students voted to participate and were joined by many high school students. 

"If we don't do something right now, we're not going to have a future, we need to go to those protests and stand up for our future," said Azure Dumas-Pilon, a student. 

At an event in Ottawa, students held signs with messages like, “Make our planet great again” to encourage their government to do more to address the threats posed by climate change. Students in more than 100 countries participated in the global call for action.

Other protests

On 21st February 2019, people gathered outside of the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia near Halifax to protest the Prime Minister who was inside meeting with students who had been racial profiled during a visit to the Parliament. The Prime Minster was in town to apologise to the students, but protesters said that his apology should not have been made behind closed doors. “We are not a photo op, racism has got to stop,” a group of people chanted outside of the building. Students said during a 4th February visit to Parliament that they had been referred to as “dark-skinned people” and asked to leave the cafeteria by a parliamentary security guard.

On 23rd March 2019, an anti-Islam march in Toronto drew about 30 people and over 200 counter-protesters. The original rally was organised by Patriots of Canada Against the Islamization of The West and came days after a “Unite Against Racism” event which paid tribute to the victims of the terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. Small incidents of violence did occur between the two sides but police put up barriers to keep them separated and no arrests were reported. a video of the event shows counter-protesters sitting in the streets to block the far-right group from marching.

Former inmates and their supporters staged a protest outside of Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. Johns to draw attention to the difficult conditions for inmates and employees inside the prison. Mike Williams, a former inmate and prison reform activist, described the jail as “unfit and inhumane.” Outside of the prison protesters held signs saying, “"Let's help HMP staff," and "Better working conditions and more protection for their safety." Elected officials have vowed to address their concerns over the country’s oldest operating correctional facility.

On 21st March 2019, members of a First Nation group and their supporters held a protest outside of the B.C. Court of Appeals in Vancouver while other members sought a legal injunction inside the courthouse to stop a proposed mine from operating on their territory. Members of the Tsilhqot'in Nation played drums while waiting for the court to open. The group has vowed to take their concerns to the Supreme Court.


On 28th February 2019, an Ontario court dismissed a lawsuit filed by teachers and a civil liberties group over the government's repeal of the province’s sex-education curriculum. The challenge from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association argued that changes made by the government infringed on the teachers' freedom of expression. Lawyers for the government had said teachers were not limited by the new curriculum and the court agreed. “The 2010 curriculum contains no provision preventing teachers from addressing the topics of consent, use of proper names to describe body parts, gender identity and sexual orientation, online behaviour and cyber-bullying, sexually transmitted disease or infections, in the elementary school classroom," the judges wrote in their ruling. An appeal of the ruling was filed in March.

A hospital in Ontario is asking the government to implement a 150-meter buffer zone to keep anti-abortion protests and vigils away from patients attempting to receive medical care. If accepted, Windsor Regional Hospital would be the first medical facility in the country to use a recently passed law to create a “safe access route” of that size. A 50-meter protest-free zone is already in place around the facility. Anti-abortion groups say the move would limit free speech. 


The Ottawa Police Association filed a lawsuit against Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau for allegedly violating its president’s charter rights of association by suspending him. The lawsuit says the suspension of President Mike Skof “significantly infringe on and interfere with his ability to express his views and represent the right and interests of the OPA and its members.” In January, Skof was charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice, and Bordeleau ordered his suspension after he refused to step down as president of the OPA.