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US/UK OUT OF IRAQ!
March & Rally
Over 400 gathered to participate in a protest organized by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) on April 23rd to demand “Canada out of Afghanistan!” and “Self Determination for Six Nations and All Indigenous Nations in Canada!”. The rally came on the heels of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers in a roadside bombing near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as well as escalating of action by the Ontario Provincial Police against Indigenous activists from Six Nations (Ontario). The tense atmosphere in Canada around these events brought Vancouver media out in full force to a press conference that was held before the rally with MAWO co-chair Shannon Bundock and Bowen Island Councilor Lisa Barrett.
Lisa Barrett opened the rally by calling for “Canada Out of Afghanistan!”. Lisa was followed by Annita McPhee, an Indigenous woman from the Talthan Nation. Annita outlined the struggle of the people of Six Nations, who are being met with arrests, repression, and violence for reclaiming their territory and demanding an end to the construction of an illegal housing development on their land. Annita also condemned the occupation of Afghanistan, noting that the Government of Canada is “occupying our land as First Nations people, and oppressing our people here in Turtle Island - and then they go out to other people’s countries and exploit their resources and also oppress those indigenous people.”
Moving from Canada to Iraq, Dalal Assad, an Iraqi woman who is an organizer with MAWO and with the Mesopotamian Women’s and Orphan’s Education and Welfare Society made clear the horror of life under the continuing occupation of Iraq, and the continuing unity of people there against the occupation. After Dalal was Kelly White, a Coast Salish Elder and Indigenous media activist who welcomed people to Coast Salish land and called for support of people all over the world struggling for justice, self-determination, and against war and occupation.
Moving to Latin America, Noah Fine, co-ordinator of the Free the Cuban Five Committee – Vancouver outlined the case of the five Cuban heroes who have now been held in US jails for nearly eight years for defending the people of Cuba against US terrorism.
Mobilization Against War and Occupation organizer Mike Chimenti followed Noah, giving a powerful speech condemning Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan. Mike outlined the drastic deterioration in living conditions that the occupation has brought to Afghanistan, as well as noting the growing sentiment in Canada against the occupation.
Tamara Hansen, co-ordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC) and an organizer with the Hands Off Cuba and Venezuela May 20th Coalition was next, outlining recently escalated attacks against these countries and action being organized in Vancouver in response.
Final speaker and MAWO Acting Secretary Nita Palmer tied the day off by making connections between attacks on people in Canada and around the world.
“Last year, the Canadian military budget was doubled to $25.8 billion dollars, while poor and working people like us in Canada are facing increasing cuts to health care, education, and other vital social programs,” Nita stated.
Responding to the recent “debate” held in Parliament about the deployment of troops to Afghanistan and emphasizing the call for an Independent Public Inquiry, Nita noted that “while the Government holds so-called ‘debates’, we poor and working people must recognize that these ‘debates’ will never represent us when every major political party supports the occupation of Afghanistan.”
Loud support of the crowd passed the closing resolution, read by MAWO organizer Rafal Frej, which demanded self-determination for Afghanistan, Six Nations, and all oppressed nations. To wrap the day up, long-time MAWO supporters and social justice activists Influents brought the anti-war message to the streets through a dynamic hip-hop performance.
On April 23rd, both the speakers and the crowd demonstrated the growing sentiment in Canada against the occupation of Afghanistan. The energy of the crowd and the connections made between struggles of poor and working people in Afghanistan, Canada, and around the world showed the importance of building an effective movement against war and occupation.