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Protesters Shame G8 Agenda

March and rally call for a new direction

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

G8 leaders are prioritizing profit over people and the environment, say protesters.  Photo: Hillary Lindsay
G8 leaders are prioritizing profit over people and the environment, say protesters. Photo: Hillary Lindsay
The march and rally were high-energy and filled with music, chanting and dancing.  Many participants were frustrated that the march was re-routed by police from the original route down Spring Garden Road.  Photo: Hillary Lindsay
The march and rally were high-energy and filled with music, chanting and dancing. Many participants were frustrated that the march was re-routed by police from the original route down Spring Garden Road. Photo: Hillary Lindsay

"We're going to beat back the G8 attack.  We're going to beat, beat back, the G8 attack," sang more than 300 protesters as they flooded onto South Park Street in Halifax on Sunday.  Marchers were demonstrating against the G8 development ministers' meeting taking place in Halifax this week.  

"I'm repulsed by the fact that the G8 development ministers are meeting in my town," says protester Cole Webber.  "They represent an agenda that's about profit making without any regard for human needs and I think they should be opposed vigorously."

The official agenda for the G8 development ministers' meeting, includes maternal and child health in developing countries as a top priority, but march organizer Kaley Kennedy balks at the claim. "Where are G8 leaders when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank force governments in poor countries to slash the social safety net, shifting more and more of the burden of care for the sick and dying on the women of the world?" she asks.

G8 countries account for only 14 per cent of the world's population but control the majority of the world's wealth and almost half the votes at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  The IMF has been accused of worsening poverty in developing countries with its Structural Adjustment Programs. 

It's not only in the developing world where policies of G8 countries are worsening poverty, points out Fiona Traynor from Dalhousie Legal Aid.    "We have a housing crisis in Nova Scotia," she says. "We have a lack of decent, affordable housing that's putting people at risk.  When people spend too much on shelter, they can't afford to feed their families." 

Traynor says people can't expect leaders of G8 countries to fix the problems they've created in the first place.  "We have to come up with our own solutions and not wait for them to give us answers."

One of those solutions is strengthening local economies, says Tom Oommen, from Inverness County in Cape Breton.  "Inverness County is one of the many victims of the global economy in Canada and around the world," he says.  "The G8 are the overseers of the global economy.... What they want to have happen is killing rural Canada [and] destroying farmers.... A lot of the fisheries have collapsed now, and that's because of the global economy."

Oommen says people need to start supporting their local farmers, fishers, craftspeople and businesses; otherwise, local economies crumble and young people are forced to leave rural communities. 

"What's happening is a lot of people who used to have work in the Maritime provinces are going to work in the Tar Sands," he says.  Oommen sees the Tar Sands as a symbol of a global economic system that is destroying the environment. 

Jada Voyageur lives downstream from the Tar Sands.  "People in my community are dying of rare cancers," she says.  Voyageur is a member of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation and was a guest speaker at the rally.  "We live downstream from one of the most destructive projects on Earth and they keep approving more development." 

The government has no right to approve new developments because the land is not theirs, says Simon Reece, Downstream Coordinator for the Keepers of the Athabasca, who was also a speaker at the rally.  "It's our land," he says.  "We're the ones that have been living here for thousands of years.  We're getting encroached on again.  Not just by Indian Affairs pushing us onto reserves but now by industry."

"It's economics," says Reece, explaining a global system that's destroying communities and the environment.  "The economics of North America is failing the whole world."

That economic system has a name, asserts Kyle Buott President of the Halifax Dartmouth District Labour Council.  Its name is capitalism.  “Capitalism is not working for workers in Canada,” he says.  “It’s not working for workers in the US.  It’s not working for workers throughout the world. 

The march and rally were high-energy and filled with music, chanting and dancing.  Many participants were frustrated that the march was re-routed by police from the original route down Spring Garden Road.  Instead, the march wound its way down the much less visible South Park Street and South Street. 

 "I would have liked to see us use our collective strength - having a couple hundred people here today - to take the march where we want it to go," says Webber who was disappointed by the decision to comply with police orders. "It's our march, we have the numbers to take the street."

Traynor was also angered by police intimidation, saying people have to stand up to police misconduct and to G8 leaders and their vision of the world.  

"We have to turn it around," she told the crowd.  "We have to tell them what we want."


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