Thursday, a group—apparently from the University of Toronto—shut down the popular TVO program, Steve Paikin’s The Agenda for several minutes. The show was on location at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. Here’s how the show’s host described the events on his blog:
“But just a few minutes into my interview with [Ontario’s Finance] Minister [Dwight] Duncan, all hell broke loose.
“At first, one member of the audience rushed the stage where we were located and began shouting questions at Duncan.
“At first, I thought this was simply the act of one rude person, so I tried to interrupt her, assure her that there would be time for questions later, but that this was not the way we were going to do business.
“Shortly thereafter, another half dozen protesters joined the first, continued to scream at the minister, and it became abundantly clear that this wasn’t a case of a few rude audience members, but rather an orchestrated protest.”
It is a serious matter when folks as unflappable as former Ontario Finance Minister Janet Ecker and Paikin fear for the safety of Minister Duncan who was tethered to his chair by a microphone and not able to defend himself.
“I do know that there was a moment when I wasn’t clear whether the minister’s safety was in jeopardy,” writes Paikin, “I wasn’t so sure, and I think I actually at one point stood between Duncan and the protesters. As did one of our guests, Janet Ecker, a former finance minister.”
And what about security? That, apparently, was to be provided by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), but they seemed to be operating under their Caledonia-style of protecting public safety, that is, doing nothing. Here’s Paikin’s take on that:
“There were two OPP officers in attendance, watching in the wings. But they made no move to intervene, one assumes, because they concluded this was a boisterous protest, but no danger to the minister's safety.”
“… the police, I’m told, were urged not to intervene, lest pictures of demonstrators being hauled off by the cops show up all over YouTube.”
That’s free and open debate, folks, Ontario university and OPP style. Who can fathom the critical thinking that led to this “peaceful” protest? In Paikin’s words:
“The sad part of this whole episode was, the screaming was so off the charts, the protest so objectionable, it was impossible for me to hear what the protest was all about. Had the protesters merely asked their question in a civilized fashion, the minister would actually have had to answer it and the viewer would have learned something.”
Brown-shirt bully tactics are becoming all too common on our university campuses. And if ever you are caught in the middle of one of those “peaceful” demonstrations, apparently you shouldn’t look to the police for protection.
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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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