On the weekend of October 24-26, anti-war rallies, marches, pickets and other activities were organized in cities across Canada. Events took place in Charlottetown, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and in the Comox Valley and other places. The actions took a firm stand against U.S.-led aggression, war, occupation and regime change and Canada’s participation in them, especially the U.S. bombing campaign underway in Iraq and Syria.
The actions took place in the context of the tragic events of the preceding week in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa which are being used by the Harper government to declare that Canada is under imminent threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and that they must be fought not only abroad but at home as well. Participants firmly rejected the use of these tragedies for self-serving purposes, including criminalizing the Canadian people’s opposition to Harper’s war agenda, and put forward the call to organize for an anti-war government.
This photo report is reproduced from TML. The daily online news journal “reiterates the need for everyone to continue organizing such actions to keep their bearings and provide an atmosphere of calm for themselves and others, that facilitates rational discussion of unfolding events. There is great deal of disinformation and pressure on people to jump to unwarranted conclusions in support of an agenda for war and violation of rights that does not serve their interests. Questions of who or what is the source of violence and insecurity in the society and the world at this time are serious questions that deserve serious investigation and deliberation. Providing these questions with serious answers in the context of defending the rights of all will oppose the self-serving disinformation of the Harper dictatorship and assist in the work to build an anti-war government.”
A spirited action was held in Montreal on October 26. People from all walks of life participated along with many organizations such as Women of Diverse Origins, Artists for Peace, International Alliance of Women, Independent Jewish Voices, the Green Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) with its banner “Fight for an Anti-War Government.”
Activists of the PMLQ distributed a statement which called on everyone not to permit the tragedies in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa to validate the Harper dictatorship and its plans for war. Many participants said that they had come out specifically to reject the use of these tragedies to justify Canada’s participation in U.S.-led aggression and war.
Outside the federal government offices speaker after speaker denounced the participation of Canada, England, Australia and other countries in U.S.-led aggression.
Following the demonstration people stayed to have lively discussion about how to deal with the situation facing the peoples, with the Couillard government in Quebec and the Harper government in Canada.
The October 25 demonstration in Ottawa condemned the government’s cynical use of the killing of the soldier on October 22 at the War Memorial to push its agenda for war, racism and suppression of rights. Participants used the occasion to affirm that state terrorism is never a solution to any problem, that our security lies in our fight for the rights of all, and the necessity to fight for an anti-war government.
Speakers included Abdourahman Kahin of Muslim Presence, First Nations and environmental activist Ben Powless, trade union activist Hassan Husseini, and Anne-Marie Roy, President of the University of Ottawa Student Federation. Everyone rejected with contempt the Harper government’s vigorous efforts to criminalize dissent, demonize those it deems “enemies,” embroil Canada in U.S.-led wars of aggression, and impose its anti-social neo-liberal austerity agenda.
A militant rally was held across from the U.S. Consulate in downtown Toronto on October 25. Participants included members of anti-war and civil rights organizations, as well as workers, students, national minorities and faith groups. A contingent of Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) activists participated with a banner that boldly declared, “Canada Needs an Anti-War Government!”
The day of action came just three days after the killing of the soldier in Ottawa and all those who spoke opposed the way the Harper government is exploiting such tragic events to promote its war agenda and to increase its criminalization of dissent. The speakers said they will not let Harper dissuade them from speaking out and mobilizing against the war. They took a firm stand against the U.S.-led wars of aggression and occupation and regime change and Canada’s participation in them and urged that peaceful solutions be found to problems within and between nations.
Another point made was that the terrorism of ISIS cannot be defeated by state terrorism. This point was made very poignantly by the representative of a Syrian women’s organization who mourned the recent killings of the two Canadian soldiers and at the same time mourned the losses suffered by thousands of families in Syria due to the violence unleashed by the U.S. and its allies.
In Windsor on October 24, people held a spirited rally and march in the downtown core during which many flyers were distributed to passersby explaining the purpose of the rally and calling on them to oppose Harper’s war agenda.
In addressing those gathered, Margaret Villamizar, Chairperson of the Windsor Peace Coalition, emphasized that the Harper war government does not speak for Canadians. She explained that the Coalition was founded at the time of the 2003 Iraq war, at which time it said that war would only lead to more insecurity, disorder and terrorism. Unfortunately that prediction came true, she said, emphasizing that it is important to find the means to deprive the Harper government of its power to embroil us in these destructive adventures so that the situation does not deteriorate further.
Other speakers expressed opposition to the Harper government’s hypocrisy when it comes to terrorism — that it opposes terrorism in Canada but fully supports and U.S.-led state terrorism committed against other countries. Opposing state terrorism is the condition for international peace and security, it was pointed out. Many passersby, especially youth, stopped to listen and thank the Coalition for taking such a stand in light of recent events.
Following the speak-out, participants marched through the downtown core shouting “Harper Harper, Out of Iraq!” and “No More Wars of Terror!”
At the end of the march, in a show of intimidation, police made a point of targeting some participants for questioning. It was clear to participants that the Harper government’s lawlessness and self-serving disinformation sets the tone for such activities by the police and security forces to act with impunity, in which those who do not fall in line and remain passive or support the anti-social and war agenda are treated as a law and order problem. The Coalition informs that it will not accept that participants in its actions are harassed and plans to file an official complaint with the Police Services.
In Courtenay, the Comox Valley Peace Group held a demonstration at the city’s main intersection at noon on October 25. The call for the demonstration said, “The Harper government is already using the events of the last few days to attempt to justify his government’s participation in the bombing of Iraq and Syria as well as to increase the violation of the rights of Canadians at home… Our security does not lie in ever-escalating interference in the affairs of other countries and military aggression. Our security lies in defence of the rights of all, including the sovereign rights of all nations, large and small, and the condemnation of the use of force to settle conflicts between nations.”
There was a spirited discussion that affirmed the importance of Canadians not being passive in the face of the Harper government’s attacks, both the U.S.-led aggression to achieve its aims of domination and control in the Middle East, and the escalating attacks on the rights of all Canadians.
Throughout the action there were many gestures of support, waves and horn-honking from passengers in passing cars.
(Photos: TML, Island Peace Committee, Canadian Peace Alliance)