NEWS

May Day draws rallies, protests across Canada

05/01/2012 02:09 EDT | Updated 07/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Rallies and marches to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day, have caused little disruption across the country.

Community and activist groups organized a series of events to mark International Workers Day, also known as May Day.

A few hundred public sector workers gathered in front of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Ottawa office around noon for an anti-austerity protest. Many waved union flags as they chanted, sang and listened to speeches.

The crowd was boisterous but peaceful. They expressed concern about thousands of jobs being lost to federal government budget cuts.

Many of the demonstrators sported buttons that said, "Stephen Harper hates me."

Some in the crowd indicated they were also backing striking students in Quebec.

Union officials said a group of students was barred from crossing from Quebec into Ontario to join in the protest.

In Toronto, members of the Occupy movement held a rally at Nathan Phillips Square at 11 a.m. Attendance was sparse and about two dozen people performed street theatre.

Toronto police on foot, horses and bikes outnumbered the protesters.

The group also said there would be an evening march to an as-yet undisclosed "re-occupation" site, which they plan to take over for 24 hours.

A day after the province pulled the plug on slots at Windsor Raceway, a number of employees plan to take part in a May Day march starting at 5:30 p.m. in front of Windsor City Hall.

"It's basically to bring to the public's attention, and bring to the government's attention, to the fact that the folks employed in the horse racing industry strongly disagree with the slot closure," said Ted Mansell, who is with the union representing food and beverage workers at the track.

"These are good-paying, made-in-Ontario jobs that our own government Crown corporation is now eliminating."

Among other causes, organizers say they want to show respect for aboriginal sovereignty, urge more public services, and push for an end to corporate handouts.

Activists had been encouraging workers to call in sick today in order to attend May Day events.

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