By Josh Visser
Torontonians demonstrated in Dundas Square on Saturday to mark the third anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq.
But Iraq wasn’t the only issue at hand for the protesters, 250 of whom were students. Other issues ranging from Canada’s role in Afghanistan and Haiti to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians were raised. Members of the RSU executive including President Rebecca Rose and VP Education Nora Loreto were on hand, carrying a large banner showing the RSU’s support for the protest.
Loreto said the RSU passed a motion condemning the invasion of Iraq three years ago and has a mandate to officially participate in the peace demonstrations.
Loreto was particularly concerned about Canada’s presence in Afghanistan and Haiti. “What are we doing in Afghanistan except allowing Canadian businesses to flourish?” Loreto said. “Do we have a role in policing intra-tribal warfare? I don’t think so. “If we look at Haiti, it seems to be an extension of Canadian imperialism.”
Jesse Greener, the chairperson of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students handed out pins saying “Drop fees, not bombs.”
Greener said that money spent on the Canadian military could be better spent on education. “There needs to be alternatives to spending on war,” Greener said.
The 2005 Canadian budget promised an additional $12.8 billion for the military over the next five years. Despite the biggest increase in military spending in a generation, military spending as a percentage of the Canadian GDP remains low.
In terms of absolute spending, it is estimated Canada’s $13-billion defence budget ranks about 15th in the world. Measured as a per centage of the GDP however, Canada falls to about 120th in the world. (All figures from 2004.) Canada spends about 1.1 per cent of its GDP on the military compared to the world average of 3.5 per cent. The demonstrators at Dundas Square marched to University Avenue to join a much larger protest in front of the American Consulate.
The protest was polite and well-organized, but a half-dozen people stood on the other side of the street waving American flags — essentially protesting the protest.
These demonstrators referred to the antiwar protest as an “anti- American” protest. One young demonstrator who would only refer to himself as Jack Bauer said, “We should stand with America, because they are fighting against terrorism.”
York University student Hammam Farah, 22, argued loudly with the American supporters over the “war on terror.” “They have a right to speak their minds, but essentially their argument is racist,” Farah said.
Later as the anti-war demonstrators walked up University Avenue, a man waving a large American flag hurled insults at the crowd.
“You smell that pot, you hippies,” he yelled. “Without America, there would be no NFL.”