The decision to honor Ontario’s former Premier, Mike Harris, with the Order of Ontario has sparked backlash and spurred an immediate outcry to stop Harris from receiving this award because “Mike Harris destroyed everything he touched.”
A petition with 78,159 signatures to stop Harris from receiving the Order of Ontario has been signed. While well over 1,080 doctors, activists, physicians, have signed an open letter urging the Ontario government to stop violating human rights in long term care homes (LTC). However, former Harris is scheduled to receive the Order of Ontario, insinuating that he did a good job at handling COVID-19 in LTC homes.
Ontario residents and Indigenous communities do not share the same belief with the government regarding his role in handling COVID-19 in LTC homes and his role as a former Premier. People believe that he is responsible for the fact that LTC residents and staff have not had proper care during COVID-19 outbreak.
Harris has been the head of Chartwell Retirement Residences (CRR) since 2003. CRR is one of the largest operators of privatized, for-profit long-term care homes in the province.
Mike Harris’s Order of Ontario recipient description
On January 1, 2021, the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario and Chancellor of the Order of Ontario, announced Mike Harris as a recipient of the province’s highest honor.
While Dowdeswell was announcing the tone deaf award, 1,159 residents and 1,009 staff members were COVID-19 positive in Ontario’s LTC homes.
Courtesy of the Government of Ontario
A petition, although not the first for Harris, was launched on the day he was nominated to stop Harris from receiving the award. So far 78,159 people have signed the petition, with the goal of getting 150,000 signatures. Also, according to the petition, Harris earns $237,000.00 annually for his part time job at CRR.
People’s reasons for signing the petition to stop Mike Harris from receiving the Order of Ontario
CTV News reported, Indigenous communities are also speaking out against the nomination.
“If Ontario is seeking reconciliation and a positive relationship with First Nations people, this is not a good move towards that. It almost feels like you’re saying we agree with Mike Harris’ opinions on Indigenous people, which is…we’re not valued very much,” said Joel Abram, the Grand Chief of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians.
In 1995, provincial police moved in on unarmed protesters who were occupying the former Ipperwash Provincial Park due to a dispute over Indigenous land. The police shot and killed an unarmed community member.
During the inquiry, former attorney-general, Charles Harnick, testified that he heard then Premier Harris say that he wanted the “fucking Indians out of the park” during a meeting just several hours before the unarmed member was shot.
Featured Image of Mike Harris: Courtesy of Keith Morison/CGYH
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