Protest interrupts dinner

University Club scene of protest against prison farm closure

Over 100 protesters block cars outside the University Club where Minister of the Environment John Baird attends a fundraising dinner.
Over 100 protesters block cars outside the University Club where Minister of the Environment John Baird attends a fundraising dinner.

Over 100 protesters gathered outside the University Club on Wednesday night where the former Federal Minister of the Environment and current House Leader John Baird was attending a fundraising dinner for the local Conservative riding.

Members of the Kingston activist group, Save Our Prison Farms, stood along Stuart St. protesting the federal government decision to close six prison farms across Canada—an issue they’ve contested since 2009. The organization’s leader, Dianne Dowling, said her group’s focus has shifted since the farms were officially closed over the summer.

“We just want the Conservatives to be aware that we’re going to be out at every political meeting and event before and during the next Federal election,” she said.“We’re reminding them that they were invisible during the Prison Farm campaign.” The government cited the program’s expenses and inability to provide inmates with marketable skills as reasons for the closures.

The crowd, equipped with signs, blocked cars entering the facility chanting the Liverpool FC anthem “We Shall not be Moved”.

The scene was a diluted replica of an Aug.8 protest in front of the Frontenac Institution’s prison farm that saw 11 protesters arrested in pouring rain after hundreds attempted to block cattle trucks from removing the Prison Farm’s herd of dairy cattle. The cattle trucks entered the farm that night and removed the cattle the next morning.

“We’re just trying to show them that we’re not quieting down,” Tasha Proud, Sci ’11, said standing on the Stuart St. sidewalk. Proud’s family purchased a cow from the Frontenac herd at last summer’s auction as part of a movement to preserve the heritage of the now defunct farm.

The Conservative riding for Kingston and the Islands—currently without a Federal candidate after Brian Abrams stepped down last month—hosted Baird and 20 others for the $400-a-head fundraising dinner last night. The riding’s president, Malcolm Stott, said the protest outside was predictable.

“It’s not unexpected,” Stott said. “Protesters take every opportunity to express their views to important people in the government.

“There’s a presumption there that it’s an important issue in the riding,” he said. “The economy is the main issue throughout the country … The opposition groups in the city, I call them the Forces of the Left, coalesced on this. They saw it as an opportunity to make political capital.”

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