A book club of senior citizens in St. Catharines, Ontario got the police called on them by 21-year-old Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s office for their silent protest against provincial budget cuts to library services in southern Ontario.
Around 15 senior citizens took part in the protest, during which they intended to read silently outside of the constituency office, The Standard reported on Tuesday. They were reportedly incensed because they could not get enough copies of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four for their next book club. The group stood there with books in-hand, some also carrying messages about the importance of libraries. Terrifying stuff.
In April, the provincial government under Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford announced that the Southern Ontario Library Service and the Ontario Library Service-North would see their budgets cut by 50 percent for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The southern library services will see their budget cut from $3.1 million to $1.5 million. It is one of many cuts to services in the province, in addition to the cuts to paramedic services, Tourism Toronto, education, flood programs and more.
The anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, and youngest-ever Ontario MPP previously made news headlines when he evaded a vote on Bill 28 that recognizes same-sex parents with equal rights in Ontario. He claimed he couldn’t make it because it was his niece’s birthday that day, but reports at the time showed it was actually due to needing a proper celebration for his victory of getting sworn in that year.
According to The Standard, the eight-minute showdown saw an Oosterhoff staff member approach the group after they walked into the office around 2 PM and tell them they weren’t allowed inside due to the building being owned “by someone else.” One of the protesters told the staff member that they just wanted to read, and the staff member proceeded to call the police.
A couple of the protesters left, while others asked to meet with Oosterhoff and leave him the book covers and letters they wrote the MPP to explain their protest. The group left before police arrived.
Oosterhoff, who was not in his office when the event took place, told The Standard in an emailed statement: "I look forward to meeting with any of these particular constituents who wish to express their concerns to me. My suggestion would be to contact the constituency office prior to arriving to make sure I am in the office and not in Toronto or around the riding, to help set up a face to face meeting."
He also tweeted out in response to a tweet about the incident, citing privacy and dealing with “sensitive subject matter.” "After the individuals would not leave my office following their protest, in order to protect individuals coming in for private meetings the staff needed assistance to clear the office."
One of the protesters who spoke to The Standard, Janet Hodgkins, said that the cuts are threatening the existence of her book club at the Wainfleet Public Library, as oftentimes they will order copies of a book from libraries across the province—but those copies will not even exist, due to the cuts.
"For all I know it might be the end of our club," Hodgkins said.
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