It’s proof that a peaceful protest can still be a productive protest.
On Nov. 21, the Highland Companies withdrew their application for a “mega-quarry” — a quarry that would have spanned over 2,300 acres and be over 20 stories deep — that it planned on digging into farmland in Dufferin Country, north of Orangeville. The quarry would have affected water, transit on two major highways, and urban sustainability. Half of the potatoes eaten in the GTA are from the Dufferin Country area. It’s no surprise then that those who stood against the quarry were both from the rural country and the big city.
“People gravitated to [the mega-quarry cause] quite easily,” said Matthew Kellway, the New Democrat MP for Beaches-East York. “There’s a growing appreciation for locally grown food. I have always seen this as an urban sustainability issue, as opposed to the rural issue, while they’re fighting for their land and their way of life.”
In addition to traditional protests at Queen’s Park, local food-loving chefs and artists hosted culinary protests like Soupstock and art shows.
“Activism can happen in a bunch of different ways. It’s not just by signing a petition and going to events, but art, music and other things can be expressive as well,” said Elaine Perkins, who serves as Kellway’s constituency assistant for outreach.
First-year students from the Ontario College of Art and Design University’s graphic design and advertising program created posters to raise awareness of the mega-quarry and its connected issues. Posters featured countless trucks polluting the air, water contamination, and a businessman swallowing farmland. Many of the posters are still on display at Kellway’s constituency office in East York at 155 Main St., while those that are more food-related are on display at Mildred’s Kitchen in Toronto’s west end.
“They’re amazingly creative. What’s surprising to me is how different they all are. I mean they were given this single project, this single situation of the proposed mega-quarry, and out of this one set of facts came these amazingly different and creative posters,” Kellway said.
At the constituency office, Perkins said, there have been “lots of phone calls, people coming in. We changed the sign in the window, and even today someone let out a huge yip when passing the window.”
She was referring to the sign that once read “stop the mega-quarry,” and that has now been changed to “we stopped the mega-quarry!”
Kellway said that he was elated to hear that the proposal for the mega-quarry has been withdrawn, but he added that there is still more work to be done.
“There’s one issue. We’ve been successful. And now it’s time for those involved in the mega-quarry issue to turn their sights forward and start thinking about the broader issue of urban sustainability and the next fight ahead.”
Kellway is working on an urban agenda that focuses on sustainable urban grown, including more recyclable building materials, urban agriculture, and energy efficiency.
“We can celebrate right now, but there’s more work to be done,” Perkins said.