Wellington Advertiser: Not the time or place

Not the time or place, July 10, 2015

by Chris Daponte

Celebratory feelings of pride and patriotism consumed onlookers along Metcalfe Street as the annual Elora parade kicked off on July 1.

Various community groups, decked out in red and white in honour of Canada Day, offered festive greetings to the large crowd, which reacted with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s a scene my family has come to treasure over the last few years, as we can think of few better ways to celebrate our nation’s “birthday.”

But this year, the experience was marred somewhat by an unexpected demonstration.

Patriotism and revelry quickly dissipated as a large group representing Friends of Elora Water made its way down the main street as part of the parade. The group, which included several prominent community members and at least one local councillor, was indeed enthusiastic and obviously put a lot of thought into its props, signs and chants.

But members did nothing to even acknowledge the reason for the parade and nary a word was spoken about our great nation.

Instead, the parade was temporarily hijacked so the group could force its agenda upon what we assume was a largely unsuspecting crowd. (As an aside, something similar happened in Rockwood several weeks ago when the Concerned Residents Coalition had two entries in the small Pioneer Day parade there.)

Thankfully, it was only a brief intrusion and the Elora parade soon returned to floats and participants more fitting with the event’s intent.

It’s hard to gauge the reaction to the water demonstration along the entire parade route, but there were definitely a few raised eyebrows, bewildered looks and unflattering comments – in addition to my own.

Friends of Elora Water members who approached revelers before and after the parade to dispense group literature also seemed to detract from the patriotic tone of the day.

To be clear, we are in no way against this group – or any other for that matter – protesting or demonstrating. It obviously has the right to do so and Canada in particular is renowned and beloved by many for being a place where such groups can openly and freely express their views. We also don’t want to deride members of the group, who seem to be working closely with Wellington Water Watchers, or their overall goals.

We don’t always agree with the group’s methods or message, and  water ownership remains a thorny issue, but we definitely understand the group’s reasons for opposing Nestle Waters’ possible acquisition of Middlebrook Water Company west of Elora to establish a secondary well.

For the most part Friends of Elora Water members are thoughtful, well-meaning advocates with a genuine belief in the cause.

They clearly recognized the advantage of making a statement in front of a huge crowd on July 1, but it seems they got so immersed in the idea and the cause that they didn’t fully consider how their demonstration would be received by others. Worse yet, they failed to recognize that a community event, particularly one celebrating our great nation, is neither the time nor place for such messages.

Going forward, we hope the group reconsiders such actions; they may do more harm than good by shifting discussion about the actual cause (water and its protection) to a debate about the merits of the demonstration itself.

We also hope organizers of the Elora parade and other celebrations throughout the county are proactive to ensure future community events aren’t marred in a similar manner.