Canada: Ottawa G8 summit protests

Up to 5,000 protesters endured rain, thunder and lightening to participate in a four hour, mass "No One Is Illegal" march as part of the two day "Take the Capital" protest in Ottawa against the G8 meeting being held in Alberta this week. The regional protest brought youth, activists and trade unionists from Ontario, Quebec and the north eastern United States to the Canadian capital.

Ottawa, G8 summit

No one is illegal

The theme, "No One Is Illegal" was directed against repressive measures against refugees, immigrants, people of colour (particularly of middle eastern and South Asian descent) since 9-11. The rally was a peaceful event with groups such as the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and CLAC (Anti-Capitalist Convergence) having agreed not to engage in direct action activities in respect to concerns by participating immigrant groups that they would be targeted by police in response to any such acts.

The march started in front of the American Embassy at Major Hill’s Park and walked into the Byward Market, up Dalhousie and then onto Mackenzie King Bridge and into downtown Ottawa with stops in front of the Ministry of Immigration and the Ministry of National Defence and concluding on Parliament Hill.

Speakers made the links between the G8, globalisation, the "war on terror", oppression of Aboriginal peoples, attacks on immigrants and refugees. Demonstrators made these links themselves with chants such as "free the people not the markets" and signs declaring "Neoliberalism is a trap," "No one is free while people are being oppressed-Enough is enough, down with G8" and "People need freedom – Money doesn’t."

Protesters were mostly youth as well as immigrants and people of colour of all ages. The principal organisers were groups such as CLAC and OQP who organised last year’s anti-FTAA demonstrations in Quebec City. While small numbers of trade unionists were present, particularly from the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux du Québec (CSN), the failure of labour to mobilise against the G8 contrasts with the significant labour mobilisation for the 80,000 strong anti-Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) demos in Quebec City in 2001. This shows a growing conservativism by the trade union bureaucracy in response to 9-11.

However, the actions in Ottawa this week combined with week-long demonstrations in Calgary involving more than 5,000 people (Calgary is the closest city to the G8 summit in remote Kananaskis) are the largest anti-capitalist demonstrations in Canada since September and are a manifestation of the reawakening of the movement in North America after the post 9-11 repression.

700 leaflets were given out at the protest for the new International Resistance group in Canada.

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July 2002