‘I came to show how I feel’: Ottawa parents protest government’s decision to keep schools closed

OTTAWA — Hundreds of people marched around two west end Ottawa schools Friday, in protest of the Ontario government’s decision to keep schools closed for in-person learning for the remainder of the year. 

Students and parents gathered outside Broadview Public School and Nepean High School in Westboro with signs and posters. They then marched around both schools for more than an hour.

Charlie Moher is in Grade 6, and says he is disappointed schools will stay closed.

“I came to show how I feel about having to stay home and to march with other people who feel the same way,” said Moher.

Moher says he is frustrated with virtual learning and doesn’t want to finish his year in front of a screen.

“It sucks because it is hard to learn online, and I miss being in the classroom and my friends.

Parents say it was important for them to bring their children out to show solidarity with others. Jennifer Kwavnick is a parent to twin girls.

“My kids share a room, they are in the same class, they live in the same house. I brought them here so they can silently protest that kids should be back in school,” said Kwavnick. “It isn’t just the mental health of children, it is mental health of parents as well.”

Grade 1 student Milla Rousseau says she is sad not to be in school.

“I miss my friends and I really want to go back to school I miss my classroom,” said Rousseau, who attended the protest with her brother Madden.

“I like going to recess because I like running around.”

Earlier this week, the Ontario Government announced it was keeping students out of in-person learning for the rest of the school year, citing dangerous variants that could spread. The Ford government saying a rise in cases because of a return to school could keep the province from moving into Step One of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen plan. 

Both elementary and secondary parents came out, to voice frustrations over virtual learning.

“(My daughter) has not been in school for one full week since March 2020,” says mom Krista Carrigan. “As SickKids Hospital has alluded to, we have seen an increase in eating disorders and mental health issues in youth and our family is not unaffected by this.”

Also at the peaceful protest, ICU and palliative care doctor Kwadjo Kyeremanteng who has been advocating for a return of in-person learning.

“I want to show the kids that they matter, by doing this we are saying that kids matter. We are saying that we see them, we see their concerns and we are going to support them in every way we can,” said Kyeremanteng.

“I know this may not change anything is the next three weeks, but it says something. It says something to the world that we are not okay with this. It says something to our government that we are not okay with this. If they are going to say we are not going to school, at least we are putting a picture to the message with these kids coming out today.” 

More protests are being planned in the coming weeks. On Monday, June 7, parents are planning to gather at Ecole Trille des Bois in Vanier at 9 a.m.

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