Around 60 Hamiltonians responded to the call for demonstrations made by the Canadian Peace Alliance against the possibility of war on Syria and Iran. Among those present at the rally on Saturday Oct. 6 were McMaster students and alumni, members of Hamilton’s Turkish community, labour unions, anti-poverty activists and many others.
The downtown Hamilton demonstration was organized by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War (HCSW) and occurred in front of the Federal Building on Bay Street. HCSW organized the demonstration to voice Hamilton’s opposition to the possibility of war and called on the Harper Government to be a “partner in peace” and to “re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran and end the sanctions.”
The demonstrations come after the Conservative government severed all diplomatic ties with Iran in early September and is taking a more aggressive tone towards Syria. Demonstrations also took places across the country, with sizable contingents in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.
Across the world there have been demonstrations against further foreign intervention, including tens of thousands who marched in Istanbul, Turkey, where the government has been sabre-rattling for war.
In Hamilton, the weather at the rally was somewhat cold and windy, but it did not stop the demonstration from being lively. Placards against war and the Harper government were plentiful. The demonstrators chanted and walked a picket line in front of a banner which said “No War” in both Turkish and English. Someone even chalked the sidewalk in front of the Federal building with the words “Harper is a Murderer” and drew droplets of blood next to the words
The past several years have seen the Conservative government adopt a more aggressive stance in handling its foreign affairs. This sentiment was reflected at the protests, with many demonstrators shouting that Stephen Harper is a “war monger.”
McMaster labour studies student Dave Bush was among those in attendance.
Bush said, “Students should be concerned because all the money and rhetoric being spent on war is a political choice and could be better spent on things that matter to students and working people.”
Canada is currently is engaged in the occupation of Afghanistan which is now in its eleventh year.
Over the last year, the Canadian Military engaged in bombing campaigns of Libya and imposed sanctions on both Syria and Iran. UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon has criticized the sanctions on Iran, arguing that such sanctions have caused significant harm to the civilian population, citing medical and food shortages as concerns.
Many parallels were brought up at the rally to the similarity of the dialogue given for justification for the invasion of Iraq.
Kevin McKay, a professor at Mohawk College, spoke to the demonstrators. He recalled that when he “spoke to students about how the war in Iraq was a cheap resource grab in 2003. At the time, many responded, ‘you must be supporting Saddam Hussein.’ It is evident now that it was [a resource grab].”
He added, “Syrian problems need to be solved by Syrians, not foreign intervention.”
Others, such as McMaster alumnus Brendan Stone, stated that the conflicts are about “control and economic dominance, otherwise known as imperialism.”
Prominent members of the Hamilton labour movement spoke, including Rolf Gerstenberger, President of Steelworkers local 1005, who said his union would join the struggle “to build in an anti-war government.” Bill Mahoney, known for being Hamilton’s “working-class poet,” was also in attendance and recited two of his poems.
Reverend Diane Blanchard spoke on behalf of the United Church of Canada and called for dialogue in Syria. She stated that the United Church and its partner in the region, the Middle-East Council of Churches, are staunchly against military intervention.
The Saturday afternoon rally was endorsed by McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, the Political Action Committee of CUPE 3906 and Independent Jewish Voices.