By Ashley White
Occupy Canada marked the end of their winter hibernation with their Occupy Parliament event in Ottawa on Saturday, May 5. While RCMP officers lined the gate that leads from the lawn to the front doors of Parliament, a group of Vietnamese protesters from Montreal and Toronto gathered to support the release of political prisoners and a smaller group of about 100 Occupiers gathered at the south end of the lawn to fight for….? Well, I wasn’t sure.
I was out of the country for 2011 and it was difficult to make sense of the Occupy movement from afar. I took RPH to the event to see about two things:
- What is the unifying theme of Occupy Canada’s actions?
- Do people seem to get what income inequality (which is the ostensible raison d’être of the global Occupy movement) means for people’s health?
I spoke with one of Occupy Canada’s founders, Derek Soberol – who was later arrested during a march to the American Embassy – on both issues. For Soberol, the call to action was clearly around accountability and election fraud. These are of-the-moment issues of the Canadian body politic. The event’s speaker, Dr. Anthony J. Hall, Professor of Globalization Studies at the University of Lethbridge and author of Earth into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism, reiterated both of these in a verbose and raging outdoor lecture in the strong May sun, while RCMP officers looked on.
The idea that the Harper government is illegitimate resounded throughout the planned speeches and the ‘open mic’ part of the event where protestors were invited to speak to the crowd. It is clear the 2011 federal election was not waged under transparent, nor fair, terms and it does seem that large, terrain-shifting bills, such as C-31 and C-10 (which is now part of a hefty and incoherent crime omnibus bill), are being pushed through Parliament with barely-if-at-all due process by the Harper government.
And the protesters weren’t just a motley melange of dread-locked college kids surrounded by puffs of cannabis smoke, and old school members of the flower power generation. This woman – a long ago immigrant from Germany – is also very alarmed. She warns, “I can see democracy being weakened by the day. Most of my Canadian friends think I am exaggerating when I say ‘don’t think it could not happen here’. It can happen here. Wake up!” She goes on to address issues of media control and the links between big business and the current federal government. Her tone and narrative are worth a listen.