About 400 protesters gathered outside the Royal York Hotel on Sunday November 4, 2012, in an attempt to block Immigration and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney from receiving an honorary degree from Haifa Universitylocated in Israel.
Jason Kenney was awarded the honorary degree by Israel's Haifa University for Kenney’s and the Conservative government’s support of Israel at the gala supported by Stephen Harper, Ezra Levant, Peter Munk, Stockwell Day among other right wing officials.
Part of Sunday’s event was a fundraiser meant to establish the “Jason Kenney Holocaust Education Fund”.
Opponents to Kenney receiving the honourary degree consider, “nothing honourable about this gathering,” and criticize Kenney and the Harper government’s changes to immigration laws in Canada and what they feel is an ugly, underlying racism to Harper’s immigration and citizenship policies.
Starting at 4:00 pm from King Street and John Street, the group marched quickly to the Royal York Hotel as the dinner and award ceremony was scheduled to start at 6:30 pm and demonstrators wanted to be there to confront the guests as they arrived.
The demonstration first occupied the intersection at Front and York, blocking the main traffic artery for entering the hotel. Nimble, when organizers realized that Toronto police and hotel security was trying to sneak guests into the hotel from the valet entrance on the east side of Front Street, the march split into two factions and half the group marched to cover the valet entrance.
There, red carnations were handed out to honour Harriet Nahanee, Jan Szamko, Veronica Castro, Ned Peart, Adolfo Ich and Gabi Baramki.
Another smaller contigent split from the march to cover a parking lot on Wellington to confront guests there, as well.
Meanwhile, a small group of medical professionals performed a banner drop inside the hotel against cuts to refugee health.
According to No One Is Illegal, “It is well-known across Canada that Jason Kenney - Minister of Censorship and Deportation - is a key player in advancing the Harper government’s austerity and policing agenda. Their agenda is transparent and their racist, xenophobic, neoliberal policy agenda is clear. It includes:
--Giving unhindered access to corporations while cutting public services, attacking workers, and forcing communities into deeper poverty and greater precarity
--Unquestioned support for wars and colonization in Turtle Island, and globally from Palestine to Iraq to Afghanistan
--Unequivocal support for the Israeli apartheid state and its internationally condemned war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinians and all refugees in Israel
--Expanding an already exclusionary and racist immigration system by increasing temporary work programs, citizenship rejections, detentions and deportations while cutting off refugee status, migrant sex workers, family reunification and access to full services for many, particularly undocumented residents.
--Defunding, criminalizing and censoring dissent and organizing for queer rights, gender justice, Palestinian liberation, migrant justice and beyond”