Canadians protest election 'robocall' scandal
Published Sunday, March 11, 2012 10:15PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:42AM EDT
Thousands of protesters gathered in cities across Canada Sunday to demand a full public inquiry into the federal election robocall scandal.
The largest turnout seemed to be in Toronto, where up to 1,000 people marched along downtown streets, waving placards and chanting: "Election crime, election time."
Demonstrators are calling for a full, independent probe into allegations that misleading phone calls were placed to voters during the last federal election. Voters complained of automated calls telling them to go to incorrect polling stations.
The opposition has accused the Conservatives of making the calls to suppress votes, allegations the Tories have denied.
Elections Canada has launched an investigation into the suspicious calls after receiving a high volume of complaints.
Canadians in dozens of ridings have reported either receiving misleading calls about polling stations on election day, or being telephoned late at night and harassed by people who claimed to represent political parties.
"The RCMP and Elections Canada are investigating but they are not independent," Toronto rally organizer Jon Allan told CTV News.
"We need something fully independent, like a Parliamentary inquiry."
At a small rally in Guelph, Ont., the focus of Elections Canada's robocall probe, protesters said the scandal has shaken their faith in democracy.
Liberal MP Frank Valeriote attended the rally a day after admitting his party was behind an anti-Conservative robocall used during the election in Guelph.
Valeriote told CTV News Saturday it was an "oversight" that he and the Liberals were not identified in the automated call, which was critical of Conservative candidate Marty Burke's anti-abortion views.
The Elections Act requires parties or candidates to identify themselves in campaign ads.
A recording of the robocall, which also asked people to vote "strategically," surfaced Friday night.
Robocall protests were also held in Halifax and Montreal on Sunday, with modest turnouts.
In Winnipeg, former Liberal MP Anita Neville joined more than 100 demonstrators. Neville lost the election to Conservative Joyce Bateman, and some Liberals have said robocalls may have hurt her campaign.
In Ottawa, a small rally was hastily arranged on Parliament Hill by the Occupy movement. A larger demonstration is expected to take place there on Monday.
With files from The Canadian Press