Despite Saturday’s snowstorm, anti-imperialist and anti-war group ‘Bloc the Empire’ marched to protest Canadian involvement in oppression across the world, from the Middle East to Canada’s own aboriginal land struggles.
The protestors, beating on homemade plastic drums and waving flags, marched down Ste. Catherine St. and made a quick stop at the Canadian Army Recruitment building where colourfully dressed clowns threw snowballs against the windows, yelled and whooped while shaking the locked doors.
Kerre King was one of these protestors. He believes that Canada should pull out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. “We’ve started a mess, and the least damage [we could do] would be to pull out.”
King also pointed out that the Bloc the Empire march wasn’t just held to focus on Canadian soldiers pulling out of Afghanistan, but to focus the public on a wider range of issues.
“Bloc the Empire . . . want[s] to talk about occupation everywhere, about Haiti, about First Nations here,” said King. “There’s a fight going on at Six Nations right now where people are trying to reclaim their land from the Canadian government. We want to make those links between war and war profiteers, but we also want to look at what’s happening in our own country.”
Other marchers came out to raise awareness against what they termed “commonly held misconceptions” about Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“Many people are misinformed of the Canadian interest of being in Afghanistan. We hope this type of march can teach them what’s really going on,” said David Parker, another protestor. Parker believes that Canadians are sold “lies that we’re defending freedoms, promoting democracy and stabilizing the security of the world from terrorist or dictators.”
Another marcher, calling himself “Magi”, came to Canada from Iran. He said Canada and the U.S. are justifying the invasion of Afghanistan by saying they are bringing democracy to the region.
“U.S. was never for democracy in the region; traditionally, they were constantly backing up the most oppressed regime,” he said. “[It’s] the same in Afghanistan. Before [the war], the extremely backward fundamentalist Islamists were being supported by the U.S. and CIA when they used to call [the Taliban] ‘freedom fighters’.”
Magi said with the aid of the U.S. government, Afghanistan is only “changing one brutal dictator with another.” He also said that before the war Afghanistan was in better shape then now, that “it’s just a pretext of reconstruction. Thirty years ago they had a better situation than they have now. They had universities. Women could go to universities,” said Magi.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper reportedly said in Afghanistan last year that Canada was involved in the region because Afghanistan is at the root of “international terrorism. . . a major source of narcotics” and that Canadian involvement showed “Canada providing international leadership and humanitarian aid.”