Toronto joined worldwide support for the Sunflower Student Movement (太陽花學運) on Saturday when approximately 600 Taiwanese students, youths, seniors and children gathered in Nathan Philip Square next to the Toronto’s City Hall to protest the cross-strait service trade agreement.
Organizer Philip Wu, an advisor to the Taiwanese-Canadian Association of Toronto, says the aim of the demonstration is to “protest peacefully against the non-transparent handling of the trade agreement and use of violence against the students.”
The Support Taiwan Democracy campaign occurred in more than 21 countries and 49 cities worldwide, beginning in New Zealand and ending in Canada. The demonstration in Toronto, which began at 5:30pm, covered a few different activities over the course of an hour and a half, from 5:30pm to 7pm.
Protestors formed 318 as a symbol of support to the student protests that started on March 18 in Taiwan, when students began their siege of the legislature. Taking a cue from the Taipei sit-in, they sang Good Night, Taiwan (晚安台灣) and Our Home (我的家園). Tobias C. Enverga Jr., an Ontario senator, also attended to voice his support for free speech and peaceful demonstrations.
The motto of the protest, etched on large banners, was Support Transparency, Democracy and National Security in Taiwan.
“This [protest] is not against the trade agreement, but against the non-transparent signing of the agreement … We are [also] against the “black-box” and the use of violent forces against the peaceful protest,” Wu said.
In addition to these protest aims, the demonstrators had different reasons for coming to lend their support.
Eric Lee, a photographer who attended the Vancouver protest, commented on the event page and said that aside from his support of the goals of the protest, he also felt that the “shocking turn of events [from a peaceful protest to an apparently violent police confrontation] is undermining the nation’s largely prudent record of democracy.”
Additionally, in regards to the Ma Administration’s response he further commented: “it is deplorable to think that a wide-reaching agreement such as the trade pact was not carried out with an item-by-item review and transparency to Taiwanese stakeholders for input. Subsequently, the poor and dubious responses from Ma’s administration have failed to address the impasse.”
A similar protest led by students occurred on March 20 at the University of Toronto in the immediate wake of the protests in Taiwan. This protest later sparked a debate held by the University of Toronto Chinese Politics Society.