More than 200 unionists and allies marched from Occupy Toronto to the C.D. Howe Institute where Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Minister of Labour, met Friday with business leaders, academics and policy leaders to discuss the future of labour relations at an “off-the-record” roundtable.

Not surprisingly, no union leaders were invited to the meeting. So the protesters decided to make their way to the Institute, a right-wing think-tank, to meet directly with Ms. Raitt.

The demonstrators left St. James Park shortly after 11 a.m. and marched south on Jarvis Street, headed west along Front Street and north on Yonge Street flying their union flags, carrying banners and chanting along the way.

At the C.D. Howe Institute, protesters filed into the building and walked to the second floor where they were met by building security who temporarily prevented them from entering a corridor outside the room where the roundtable assembled.

“It was you and the policies that you guys advocate that actually caused the economic collapse speculating with our futures,” said Joel Duff, Communications Director, Ontario Federation of Labour.

“Why doesn’t the C.D. Howe Institute want to listen to the people whose lives you are affecting with your policies?”

With the assistance of police, the protesters were allowed to enter the room in order to clear the fire exit.

“You can’t just arbitrarily take away rights of workers and not expect any push back,” said Sid Ryan, President, Ontario Federation of Labour, referring to Minister Raitt’s “political interference” during the Air Canada and postal workers strikes.

“To say to Lisa Raitt, we’re not taking this crap any more.”

Protesters chanted “Right to strike under attack, what do we do stand up fight back.”

“There’s a price to be paid when you take away the right to free collective bargaining, the right to strike,” said Ryan.

“When you (Lisa Raitt) use bogus excuses to try and take away the rights from workers, you will find that we will dog you every step of the way across this country.”

The Occupation movement and the labour movement, said Ryan, have come together to fight against the 1 per cent who are trying to take away their basic rights.

The crowd erupted in applause.

“You (Lisa Raitt) may think you can hide in the C.D. Howe building but you cannot run away from the Occupation movement,” said Ryan.

The OFL president reminded everyone that the Occupation is a serious but peaceful movement.

“We’re using our democratic rights to protest here today,” he said. “Regardless of what happens on Monday the movement will carry on. It’s unstoppable.”

On Monday, Justice David Brown will issue his ruling on whether or not Occupation Toronto can remain in St. James Park where they’ve been since October 15.

City bylaw officers distributed eviction notices to occupiers on Tuesday but Brown issued an injunction until he could hear arguments from both sides and make his ruling.

“We’re unstoppable and we’re going to continue to fight,” said Ryan.

At the end of Ryan’s speech, protesters left the building quietly. There were no arrests.

Outside, the demonstration continued on the sidewalk and right lane where a giant inflatable rat had been erected in front of the C.D. Howe Institute.

“There is a price to be paid for taking away the right to strike,” said Ryan. “You will not be taking away these rights without a fight.”

Click here to see more photos from today’s rally and march.

John Bonnar

John Bonnar is an independent journalist producing print, photo, video and audio stories about social justice issues in and around Toronto.