Home Education Protestors Disrupt Talk with Education Minister

Protestors Disrupt Talk with Education Minister

"It's democracy," says Stephen Lecce as protestors are escorted from his event

by Julia Lawrence
Martin Regg Cohn (L) and Stephen Lecce (R) sit together facing the crowd while answering audience questions.
Moderator Martin Regg Cohn and Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce answer questions during The Dais’ Democracy Forum on Jan 22, 2024. (Julia Lawrence/OTR)

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Protestors interrupted Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce during his talk at The Dais’ 30th Democracy Forum at TMU on Monday.

About 10 minutes into the discussion between Lecce and Martin Regg Cohn (founder of the Democracy Forum), protestors waved a flag that read “Intifada until victory—Workers unite against imperialism,” and shouted “Free Palestine! Stephen Lecce supports the firing of pro-Palestine TDSB staff,” and accused him of supporting legislation that could harm Trans kids before being escorted out by TMU staff.

Cohn asked the protestors to leave after telling them that they had made their point, “Hold your own rallies, see what kind of crowd you can get,” he told the protestors. “It’s a democratic country, hold your own rally.”

The Democracy Forum is described by The Dais website as a “year-round talks series that engages political leaders, from across the country, in dialogue about the most pressing issues facing Canadians today.”

Lecce was invited to speak on teaching and civics, low youth voter engagement and the current state of democracy.

Sam Andrey, Managing Director at The Dais, said in an interview after the event that security is a normal part of the process for events with dignitaries.

“I thought it was handled appropriately. They got to say what they wanted to say. We’re not trying to restrict legitimate expression, but people came to an event to hear from the minister,” he said. “It was not unexpected.”

Lecce went on to speak about his decision to introduce mandatory learning about the Holocaust and Holodomor famine in high schools, which was first announced in Nov. 2023.

“The more we can educate students about the perils of extreme political ideology, on the far right, far left is a healthy thing for our country,” he said. “Those case studies are among some of the darkest moments in human history, where governments, in some cases, elected by their peers, could have been persuaded to be bystanders and to believe in an extreme ideology of literally systematic death.”

Lecce used the increase in early childhood educator wages announced in Nov. 2023 as an example of how the government plans to use incentives to retain education workers. According to a news release, the starting wage will be $23.86 as of this month.

Continuing to speak after the protestors had been escorted out, Lecce talked about how the “majority of people [in the world] will live in a place where free speech, political association and free press are entirely denied.”

“We’re very blessed to live in a country where that type of freedom [the protest] is permitted and encouraged.”

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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