Protest Against Racism and Austerity Demands Government Leave Iraq and Syria
Peacefully marching through downtown Saturday, approximately 50 protesters denounced government budgets cuts at a time of military intervention in the Middle East and militarized research and development.
“We believe all these issues—racism, islamophobia, war—are instrumentalized by the provincial and federal governments to justify laws that restrict freedom and cuts in the public sector,” said Adil Charkaoui from the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia.
The group criticizes the Quebec and Canadian governments for failing to condemn the 12 attacks on mosques and cultural centres in the past year and repeated acts against the Muslim minority.
“They did not take us seriously in our sensibilization campaigns or put in place a plan to combat islamophobia,” said Charkaoui.
Protesters gathered at Norman Bethune Square, where racialized groups spoke and the People’s Choir sang songs against the federal and provincial governments.
“We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bombing Iraq and Syria with the argument that somehow bombing people is going to save them,” said Stefan Christoff from Tadamon!
Tadamon!, a collective that works in solidarity with movements in the Middle East and North Africa, was one of the main players behind the protest. They argue that military spending has increased consistently since the late 1990s, while the public sector is trimmed when the economy takes a dive.
“All that money is being cut from institutions that are essential to our society,” Christoff said, stressing how contentious military intervention disrupts societies in the Middle East. “The people of Iraq and Syria have no say in the way NATO intervenes in their country.”
Edith Lafrenière works at Passages, a shelter for young women in difficult situations, and says she has already seen the charity adapt to less government funding. Lafrenière participated in yesterday’s march, as well as the Halloween protest that saw thousands opposing austerity in the streets.
“It affects the way we work, it affects the people we want to support,” she said. “It’s stressful for people that are already in precarious situations to know that their services and programs are no longer available.”
After marching down Ste. Catherine St., the group stopped by the St. Laurent metro to hear from other activist groups and sing more resistance songs.
Student groups like Demilitarize McGill, which participated in Saturday’s protest, are raising awareness about McGill’s funding for developing drones, data mining and analysis of social media to counter terrorism. Demilitarize McGill believes the government uses the labour available in universities to spread its own agenda.
Budget cuts to higher education give universities like McGill reasons to seek funding for military and weaponry contracts, because they are considered to be “necessary for survival.”
“On the contrary we see money flowing into projects which service the Canadian military, as well as into the pockets of administrators who work to strengthen these state and corporate connections,” said Cadence O’Neil from Demilitarize McGill. “[All the] while workers are made more precarious, financial aid is made more difficult to access and tuition continues to rise.”