For the first time in about three years, protest against the wars of occupation hit the streets of Toronto, in solidarity with the actions initiated by the United National Anti-war Committee (UNAC) in the USA on April 9. Opposition to NATO bombing of Libya was quite visible, but the dominant theme of the action sponsored by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War was ‘Canada out of Afghanistan’, and ‘Fund human needs not war.’
Over 300 people rallied on University Avenue from noon to 1 p.m., across from the U.S. Consulate, and then walked to Dundas Square to join a much larger Ontario Federation of Labour-sponsored rally in-progress. Unions and their community allies gathered there to protest anti-labour policies, public service cutbacks and the privatization agenda of Toronto’s new right wing mayor Rob Ford.
After 2 p.m. up to 10,000 people, carrying hundreds of picket signs and dozens of union banners, paraded down busy Yonge Street, and west along Queen St., to rally at Toronto City Hall Square.
While the anti-war contingent was a small component of the demonstration, its message was welcomed enthusiastically by participants and by the throngs of downtown shoppers.
Socialist Action members and supporters carried SA and YSA banners in the march, and collected over $160 from the sale of newspapers and buttons. The SA badges ‘Canada Out of Afghanistan Now’, ‘Capitalism Fouls Things Up, Eco-Socialism or Extinction’, and ‘Workers’ Solidarity – In Unity there is Strength’ accounted for the lion’s share of sales. Members distributed hundreds of leaflets publicizing Rebel Films, the SA May Day Celebration and the Socialism 2011 Conference, as well as the SA call for a critical vote for the NDP at the May 2 federal election.
Overall, the Canadian Peace Alliance and Quebec’s Collectif Echec a la Guerre coordinated anti-war rallies in more than a dozen cities and towns. Actions were held in Comox, Vancouver, Grand Forks and Castlegar in British Columbia, in Edmonton and Calgary in Alberta, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Hamilton, Toronto and Ottawa in Ontario, in Montreal, Quebec, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Hopefully, in the months ahead, there will be better publicized, dedicated anti-war actions in Toronto, as part of a coordinated cross-country effort. UNAC has set October 15 as the next date for protests across the USA, which would be a fine plan for the Canadian and Quebecois movements to adopt too.