Students, teachers, parents come out by the thousands to protest education cuts

They came by the thousands - some taking a short ride on the TTC, others bussing in from Ottawa, Kingston, London, Sarnia and as far away as Sudbury - to make a point. 

Educators, students, parents, politicians and others concerned about the future of Ontario's education system peacefully stood on the lawn of Queen's Park Saturday afternoon to send a message to Premier Doug Ford - "hands off our education."

"How is it right for the largest stakeholders in the future to not have any say in [education]? The short answer is, it isn't," one student activist told the crowd as the protest began around 12 p.m. 

Among the signs in the crowd, one read "Ford Faild (sic)," "Doug Ford: Not for education" and "think education is expensive, try ignorance."

Just a few hours before the protest began, the Premier himself joined in over Twitter, saying "our government will not be distracted from making the necessary reforms to create a sustainable, world-class education system that protects what matters most for students."

But Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario president Sam Hammond says such a sustainable system already exists in this province.

"These tens of thousands of people are here today to ensure that we maintain that system," Hammond told NEWSTALK1010's media partner CP24, later telling the crowd that he has demanded an apology from both Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson on accusing the unions of using students as pawns during province-wide walkouts on Thursday.

"How dare they! How dare they say that some union boss or some union thug told them what to do!"

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

For some, the trip to Toronto was not without hiccups. A bus full of teachers from Sudbury broke down a few kilometres outside the city, resulting in the protesters having to find a second bus to get them the rest of the way. 

"These cuts cut to the very heart of education," one of the teachers told CP24 once she arrived at Queen's Park. "I'm a social science teacher and it is in the curriculum documents to build better citizens - that's what a social studies course does."

"These cuts will absolutely take away those experiential learning activities that we get to do."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also addressed the crowd, saying the troubles began before Premier Ford, during the 15-year Liberal reign at Queen's Park. 

“The public education system is hanging by a thread and the premier is about to cut that thread,” she said. “We are here to see ‘No, that is not what we want in our province.’ We are saying no to talking a billion dollars out of our public education system.” 

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

- With files from CP24