Canadian antiwar protests

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Sun Feb 16 08:42:31 MST 2003


This is the best report I could find today on the Canadian demos on Feb. 15.
By far the largest was in Montreal; estimates of size range from 100,000 to
150,000 even in the mainstream media, ten times the number in Toronto, a
city of comparable size (2.5 million each).

As might be expected, the largest demos internationally tend to be in those
countries most directly and explicitly aligned with Bush - UK, Spain, Italy,
Australia, etc. In Canada, the demos were relatively small for the most
part, as Chrétien has managed so far (with the assistance of an amazingly
compliant media) to confuse people about his position on the war: feigning
caution and even gentle criticism of Bush while preparing the troops for a
ground war in Iraq, sending the navy to the Gulf, promising 2,000 troops for
Afghanistan to ease the "burden" on the U.S., etc.

The confusion is exemplified in the quotation by NDP federal leader Jack
Layton.

The qualitatively larger size of the demo in Montreal probably reflects the
huge distrust of Chrétien among many Québécois, which stems largely from his
visceral hostility to Quebec nationalism.

The 5-6,000 who marched in Ottawa yesterday was an impressive figure. This
town is largely a government and high-tech place, with no tradition of mass
demonstrations other than the occasional "national" action when thousands
come in from Montreal (200 km) and Toronto (400 km).

>From the depth of the international mass opposition already to the war
preparations, I doubt this peace movement will simply fold its tents once
the big war begins. Anyway, we will soon know.

I also agree with Bob Gould's observation on labour movement participation
(welcome back, Bob): "This participation [of unions in Australia] throws a
certain amount of realism and light on the discussion on Marxmail about
so-called labour aristocracies and former colonial settler states such as
Australia, which are said to be irredeemably stained by their origins.

It's a strange aristocracy of labour whose official representatives can lend
their support in every major city to the campaign against an imperialist
war, and a very large proportion of the members of which participate in
these massive demonstrations.

In my view, the second wave of discussion of the so-called aristocracy of
labour question on Marxmail has become bizarrely Talmudic, and the events of
this weekend in Australia bring a breath of fresh air into the discussion of
those questions."

Let's pursue that thought in the coming weeks.

[report (from Indymedia site, but based on mainstream media) follows]

MONTREAL and TORONTO -- Thousands of chanting and singing Canadians in
centres across the country took to the streets Saturday to protest a
U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Bitter temperatures didn't cool the tempers of more than 100,000 peace
activists in Montreal, who flocked to the city's core to get their message
across.

The huge march wound from Dorchester Square to Complexe Guy Favreau, the
city's main federal building.

For Deborah Lloyd, a native of Windsor, Ont., and mother of two, the
demonstration recalled the era of the Vietnam war.

"I protested in the border area of Windsor-Detroit 30 years ago to help
draft dodgers," she said.

"We're just going to have to keep doing this every 30 years or every 10
years until there's no more war. We can't have war in the 21st century."

In Toronto, about 10,000 people hit the pavement in a peaceful march that
snarled Saturday afternoon traffic.

"George Bush is a terrorist," the crowd shouted as a rapper kept the crowd's
spirits up with a song.

Jack Layton, the newly minted leader of the federal New Democrats, also
attended the Toronto rally. He said in an interview he hopes Ottawa hears
the cries of protest from millions of people around the globe.

"Surely, after the demonstrations this weekend, we're going to see a
stiffening of the spine and see our Canadian government issue a clarion call
for peace to [U.S. President George W. Bush] and to the United Nations
Security Council," Mr. Layton said as thousands of Torontonians gathered in
a downtown square.

The call for peace was echoed in about 70 other Canadian cities and hundreds
of others around the world on Saturday, called an international day of
action by peace organizers.

A march in Quebec City attracted approximately 3,000 people, according to
police.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe was among the Montreal marchers who
felt the United States cannot act alone against Iraq.

"The United States defence minister told us last week how it was unfortunate
they can't use chemical weapons, and that the use of atomic weapons was a
possibility," Mr. Duceppe said.

"My God, it makes no sense for people who are supposedly responsible to use
such language."

In Halifax, where temperatures dipped to minus 30 degrees with wind chill,
about 1,000 people marched through the city's downtown, chanting

"This war is not for missiles, it's for oil" as they stamped their feet to
anti-globalization rap songs sung by a man on a makeshift bike cart.

[snip]


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