Protesters say solicitor general’s office should not have been invited
Members of a social justice student group at Ryerson protested the presence of the Ontario solicitor general (OSG) at the Social Justice Career Fair Thursday evening.
The OSG is responsible for law enforcement services across the province, including police and corrections.
Three protesters disrupted the opening of the event with signs and a megaphone to deliver a speech. “The ministry [of the solicitor general] cages people who are poor, Indigenous, black, drug using, sex-working, homeless, living with mental health and disabilities, queer and trans,” said Alannah Fricker, president of the Ryerson chapter of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP).
The protesters carried signs reading, “This is NOT what social justice looks like,” and “You are not welcome here.”
The protest action was met with cheers from several audience members.
The event page for the Social Justice Career Fair, which was organized by the Ryerson Career Centre, the sociology department and the Ryerson Liberal Arts Society, stated that the employers in attendance were representing “organizations championing community issues, social and criminal justice.” In her speech, Fricker said that the OSG mandate does not reflect these criteria.
Rajean Hoilett, a member of the CSSDP and a social work student, was involved in the protest. “[The OSG] is actively involved in harming our communities,” he said. Hoilett added that the over-incarceration of racialized people is one aspect of oppression within the criminal justice system.
He said that he hopes the action put pressure on the organizers to not invite the OSG again. “We see [the OSG] purporting to be standing up for social justice. In the Ryerson community, it is important that we don’t let that slide and don’t let that go uncriticized.”
Olivia Gemma, a fifth-year psychology student and criminal justice advocate, said: “I think that people were upset that [the OSG] was there because we understand that corrections in Canada has historically been an oppressive system in which we see racism and sexism and ableism.”
Gemma, who spoke on a panel at the event about her volunteer work within prisons, highlighted the importance of protecting the rights of all people, regardless of whether or not they are incarcerated or otherwise interacting with the criminal justice system.
Steph Rychlo, a third-year social work student and member of the CSSDP was in attendance at the event but not a part of the protest. They said that the presence of the OSG caught them off guard and made them think twice about attending the event.
“I don’t understand the logic of having the solicitor general’s office here alongside organizations that are prodominantly black, queer and Indigenous and are often opposed to the actions of the OSG,” said Rychlo.
Representatives from the Ryerson Career Centre, the Ryerson Liberal Arts Society and the office of the solicitor general declined to comment on the protest or the decision to invite the OSG.