A spirited march of 5,000 people took place in Ottawa, the hastily chosen site of the slimmed down summit of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, on Saturday of last week.
Activists had barely three weeks to organise the protest. The meeting had originally been planned for Washington on 28 September. Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien offered Ottawa as a venue, hoping anti-capitalists would not have time to organise, so allowing him to recover from the humiliation of the protests in Quebec City earlier this year.
It is true that some sections of the anti-capitalist movement have been put on the defensive by the events of 11 September. Trade union leaders pulled back, with Canadian Autoworkers leader Buzz Hargrove saying it was too soon to publicly protest out of respect for the dead in New York City. Anti-war protests had also been planned in many cities in Canada for last weekend.
But the Ottawa demonstration did take place and was loud, cohesive and disciplined. Leading anti-capitalist thinker Walden Bello told Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Canada, ‘Had we known they would be holding the meeting here, had we had more time to organise a North America wide protest, I’m sure we could have done that. Nevertheless, I think the spirit here and the message is very strong-that these institutions cannot hide.’
Meanwhile successful anti-war rallies occurred across Canada. Trade union contingents were clearly visible on them. In Toronto 3,000 marched, with contingents from the public service unions and steel workers.
More than 4,000 marched in Montreal. In Vancouver 5,000 blocked a major bridge. About a quarter of the protesters marched behind trade union banners. There were also rallies in Edmonton, Victoria, Halifax and a dozen smaller cities. All told, about 20,000 people protested in Canada against war and neo-liberalism last weekend.
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