Canadians join global peace rally

Protesters in cities across Canada take to the streets against war in Iraq

Grandmother prepares to take to streets with other Canadians to protest war

Canadians join global peace rally

Last Updated Sat, 15 Feb 2003 22:48:35

MONTREAL - At least 150,000 Canadians braved the cold with a fervent message of peace Saturday, joining a worldwide day of protest against war in Iraq.

The largest demonstration was in Montreal, where an estimated 100,000 people marched through the streets, chanting: "No to war, yes to peace" in French and English.

They gathered in front of Complexe Guy Favreau, the city's main federal building and denounced Washington's threats to use force against Baghdad.

St. Catherine St. in Montreal

The crowd carried banners with messages like: "Stop Bush" and "A village in Texas has lost its idiot." One French sign read "Shut your mouth," with the word "bouche" replaced by "Bush."

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the United States should not act against Iraq without the approval of the United Nations.

In Vancouver, about 20,000 people streamed through the city's core, filling a 10-block stretch of one busy street. In Toronto, about 10,000 protesters rallied outside the U.S. consulate.

Demonstrations were held in at least 60 other towns and cities, including Halifax, Windsor, Fredericton, Edmonton and Victoria. Men, women and children came out even though temperatures were below –20 C in some spots.

Canada's peace movement is building as the U.S. inches closer to launching military action against Iraq, according to NDP Leader Jack Layton.

Toronto's march

"There's no question Canadians are beginning to become worried and fearful," Layton said in Toronto. "But more and more of them expressing their views like this opens up the door to some hope."

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Toronto resident Elaine Brandt called the worldwide anti-war marches wonderful. She said Saturday's protest is the second one she's been to in two months.

"I am here to voice my opinion against the murder of innocent Iraqi citizens. We cannot continue to deal with political issues with violence. The bottom line is innocent people will pay. And that's what I am against," said Brandt.

Protesting in Toronto

"Thirty-five years ago, we were protesting the Vietnam War that was a waste of time and a waste of innocent lives," said another woman in the crowd. "And here we are again."

Some voiced support for Washington as it threatens to use force to disarm Iraq.

Patricia Persovsky went to the Toronto rally wearing a pro-U.S. sign: "May God Bless America – 9-11 was the smoking gun boys." She said Canada should back the United States in its war on terrorism.

"And I'd like to know where the naturalized Canadian citizens are – the ones that gloriously holiday in Vegas, Florida, North Carolina…they enjoy America's Disneyland – why am I the only one here with a sign?" Persovsky asked.

She said she's ashamed of Canadians and the Canadian government for not supporting the United States.

About 2,000 people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, chanting and banging drums. The protest began across the Ottawa River in Hull.

Halifax protest

In Fredericton, N.B., more than 300 people turned out in front of City Hall. Chanting "wage peace" and "war is not the answer", the crowd stopped traffic to march through the city's downtown.

Protester Bridget Grant said the message is simple: war is not a solution.

"Canada should not support the U.S. in this war… we should work through the United Nations if possible," said Grant.

Organizers plan to hold a peace vigil in front of Fredericton's City Hall every Saturday afternoon until the threat of war passes.

Written by CBC News Online staff

Protesters in cities across Canada take to the streets against war in Iraq
A man waves a partly burned and upside down United States flag during a demonstration Saturday in Quebec City. (CP/Jacques Boissinot)

(CP) - Thousands of chanting and singing Canadians in centres across the country took to the streets Saturday to protest a possible 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 Vancouver, organizers estimated as many as 20,000 marched through the downtown core, at one point packing both lanes of Robson Street for about 10 blocks.

The cheering crowd made its way to the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where young people and longtime activists stood shoulder-to-shoulder, jamming the grassy area and surrounding streets.

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.

"No to war on Iraq!"

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," 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.

In Ottawa, some demonstrators wore costumes and carried signs ranging from the curious to the comical. They started in Gatineau, marching across the Ottawa River to the capital.

Carrying signs with messages such as Morons Make War and Terrorists Wear Suits, the initial crowd of 2,000 began to swell as marchers chanted, drummed and danced their way through the downtown streets, stopping twice at the U.S. Embassy before making their way to Parliament Hill.

One man, wearing a plastic wolf mask and with a sheepskin rug draped over his shoulders, bore a sign with the slogan: U.S.: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.

Political science student Idil Ismail, 23, said the Iraqi people shouldn't have to suffer a war just because they have a corrupt leader.

"They shouldn't have to pay the price for (Saddam Hussein's) actions," she said.

"Just because the UN says it's all right to go ahead and do this doesn't mean that it's going to be any safer for the people of Iraq. They're the ones who are going to suffer."

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," Duceppe said. "My God, it makes no sense for people who are supposedly responsible to use such language. I am very happy the (UN weapons) inspectors showed there's not enough proof to go to war with Iraq."

Duceppe said the Bloc opposes the fact that a decision on Canada's involvement in a possible war would be made by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and his cabinet, and not voted on in the House of Commons.

Layton said Saturday's turnout shows the anti-war movement is gaining momentum rather than dying down.

"There's no question Canadians are beginning to become worried and fearful," he said. "But more and more of them expressing their views like this opens up the door to some hope."

In Edmonton, as many as 12,000 protesters of all ages marched through downtown in a procession that stretched for five blocks. They chanted, stamped their feet in the -10C cold and carried signs with messages such as "Let Exxon Send Their Own Troops," "World Peace is Suffering from Colin Cancer" and "Smart Bombs are Stupid."

The demonstrators wound up outside the Stanley Milner Library, where Canadian nationalist and publisher Mel Hurtig told them a U.S.-led war on Iraq would lead to dangerous destabilization all over the region.

"Mr. Bush, you are behaving in a paranoid, reckless, aggressive and totally irresponsible manner," Hurtig said to cheers.

"Canadians are with you in your efforts to thwart terrorism, but we are not with you in your aggressive, unjustified, imperialistic behaviour."

Hurtig called on Canada to press for more UN weapons inspectors and more time to disarm Iraq without resorting to force. He warned Chretien and Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham there could be a high political price to pay if that doesn't happen.

"Canadians will never, ever forgive you if you obsequiously bow to American pressure."

In Halifax, where temperatures dipped to -30C with wind chill, between 1,000 to 1,500 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.

The march was the third in which Margaret Haliburton, a retired school teacher, had taken part in since the Bush administration threatened military action against Iraq.

"I feel very, very strongly that we won't gain anything by war. It's just endangering too many people," said the mother of six children, who said she will continue to march until the threat of war is over.

"You have to do something, what else can you do? Pray and show your support. I hope it works."

The U.S. has accused the government of Saddam Hussein of supporting terrorism and rebuilding its banned weapons of mass destruction program.

A similar march in January in Halifax drew a slightly larger crowd of 1,500.

Lindsey Pendleton, a university student from New Brunswick, said the sheer size of the rallies is forcing decision-makers to listen.

"I'm really excited to hear that there was almost a million people out in London and they're expecting half a million people in New York," she said. "Just to have all the people out and marching for the cause. It's definitely having an impact on the world leaders."

Protesters also hit some of Canada's smaller locales including Meadow Lake, Sask., with a population of about 5,000.

About 45 marchers joined the global protest by mainly sticking to the sidewalks and snaking through the town.

"I came out to stop the war so no one will die," said Barbara Merasty, 11, from the Flying Dust reserve next to the town.

© The Canadian Press, 2003

Grandmother prepares to take to streets with other Canadians to protest war


(CP) - At 72, Catherine Verrall says her belief that people her age must keep the peace for children will send her marching in the streets of Regina this weekend against any U.S.-led war in Iraq.

A grandmother of two, Verrall spent Friday painting anti-war slogans like Bombs Kill Kids onto signs protesters will hoist in Regina, one of at least a dozen communities across Canada staging anti-war rallies Saturday. Canadians are expected to turn out in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Edmonton and Victoria, in uncertain numbers, in a series of protests that will also sound anti-war cries around the globe.

"I care about my grandchildren and I care about everybody's grandchildren: the children in Iraq or Palestine or wherever," said Verrall.

"Especially as older people, we have a responsibility to take care of the world we are leaving to the next generation."

A retired kindergarten teacher, Verrall who as co-chair of the Regina Peace Action Coalition has been a peace activist for most of her life, said she's astounded by the speed at which the current anti-war sentiment has grown.

"I think it's beginning to hit home to people that war is imminent and people are beginning to think more about what the consequences could be for the whole world."

Verrall estimated about 600 people would join her city's rally Saturday, twice as many as the number of people who turned out for a similar demonstration in January.

The marchers in Regina - bundled in their warmest cold-weather gear - are expected to be joined by like-minded Canadians and millions of marchers in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Antarctica. In Melbourne, Australia, at least 150,000 people took to the streets Saturday to protest the war and their government's commitment of 2,000 troops.

Despite chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reporting Friday his teams had not found any illegal weapons in Iraq, peace activists all over the country feared Canada was drawing closer to war.

And that concern wasn't diminished despite comments Thursday night in Chicago by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

Chretien told a meeting of international policy advisors that much of the world was skeptical about America's motives for a war with Iraq and warned Canada's closest ally not to proceed with a war against Iraq without UN backing.

By early Friday morning, a few dozen protesters had already gathered in Ottawa, saying they, too, believed Canada should not go to war unless the United Nations gives the green light.

"It's best if they don't declare war, if they don't support the U.S., unless the UN has their agreement," said Terence Reeves, a university student from New Brunswick.

In Toronto, Pam Johnson, 44, said while she doesn't support Saddam Hussein, she's helping organize that city's peace march because she doesn't think the Iraqi people deserve to suffer.

"These are the same people who have already been suffering under war and 12 years of a sanction regime that has basically left them with no infrastructure, no clean water, road system, sewage, education, medical supplies, and now they're going to be visited by another war," said Johnson, a modern dancer.

"I think the prospect of that is horrifying."

As Johnson was typing informational leaflets Friday to distribute at the protest and fielding calls from people wanting to help her cause, she said she expected about 20,000 people to take part in the Toronto demonstration.

Toronto police scheduled extra officers to be on the streets Saturday, but if the protesters are as well-behaved as they were in January, they may hardly be needed.

"It was a very good peace march," Sgt. Robb Knapper said of the Jan. 18 protest.

"It was very peaceful, moved along quite nicely and the crowds were great."

In Kamloops, B.C., a community of 80,000, Tristan Cavers was eagerly expecting 500 marchers to join his protest - double the number that turned out in January. Following the march, the Kamloops Peace Coalition will screen a video about the condition in which children live in Iraq.

Just as Verrall credits her grandchildren with her interest in peace, Cavers, 21, says his grandfather taught him to love history, and pursue peace.

"My grandpa always taught me the more you learn about history the less like it is to repeat itself," Cavers said.

© The Canadian Press, 2003

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