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Thousands protest Parliament's suspension

Rallies against prorogation organized on Facebook

Last Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2010 | 10:05 AM ET

A rally in Regina attracted about 200 people who listened intently to speakers decrying the prorogation of Parliament.A rally in Regina attracted about 200 people who listened intently to speakers decrying the prorogation of Parliament. (Sheryl Rennie/CBC)Thousands of people attended rallies in towns and cities across Canada on Saturday to speak out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to suspend Parliament until March.

More than 60 rallies were planned across Canada, with protests also slated for London, England, and several U.S. cities.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff addressed the crowd on Parliament Hill on Saturday afternoon, commending protesters for their campaign to send MPs back to work.

"This is a demonstration that shows that Canadians understand their democracy, care for their democracy, and if necessary will fight for their democracy," Ignatieff said. "This demonstration does not belong to the politicians of any party, it belongs to the Canadian people."

MPs were supposed to return to work Jan. 25 after a holiday break, but Harper said he moved to delay the resumption of Parliament in order to focus on strategies for Canada's economy.

Ignatieff said Liberal MPs will be back at work Monday, despite the prorogation, to hold public meetings.

Layton calls for prorogation limits

NDP Leader Jack Layton also addressed the crowd in Ottawa, reiterating his call for a new law that would limit any prime minister’s power to prorogue Parliament.

NDP Leader Jack Layton, appearing at a rally in Ottawa on Saturday, said he would like to see a law limiting any prime minister's power to suspend Parliament.NDP Leader Jack Layton, appearing at a rally in Ottawa on Saturday, said he would like to see a law limiting any prime minister's power to suspend Parliament. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)Layton also called on the prime minister to recall Parliament and send MPs back to work.

"I get the impression that you’d like your representatives to be at work on your behalf starting tomorrow," Layton told the cheering crowd. "Sorry … Monday — we’re jumping the gun."

RCMP officials in Ottawa estimated that roughly 3,500 people took part in the rally on Parliament Hill.

Thousands of protesters gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to protest the suspension of Parliament. Some took the demonstration onto the street, chanting and waving placards as they marched down Yonge Street.

Rallies were also staged Saturday in Regina and Saskatoon, and attracted several hundred people. In Regina, about 200 people gathered on a downtown pedestrian street.

"It's about the masses and their voice being heard," Sonya Stanger,18, said. "You know, representation of the masses, and that's not what's happening right now."

In Regina, three people showed up with signs supporting the prime minister's move. In Regina, three people showed up with signs supporting the prime minister's move. (Sheryl Rennie/CBC)Also in Regina, three people — who kept a respectful distance from the main group — held signs showing support for Harper. Their presence was noted with a smattering of boos from the crowd.

However, a speaker said the point of the rally was to support democracy and implored people to respect differing points of view.

In Halifax, several hundred people shouted anti-Harper slogans in front of Province House in the city's downtown.

"We can't use prorogation to run from our problems. Canada knows that that can't happen and we're making sure that they all know that too," said Brendan Sommerhalder, one of the organizers of the Halifax rally.

In Calgary, a group of protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s constituency office.

The anti-prorogation movement gained momentum after a Facebook group was created condemning Harper's decision to suspend the parliamentary session.

More than 200,000 people have joined the site and rally organizers used the social networking medium to help organize Saturday’s protests.

with files from The Canadian Press
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