In February 2003 I was in Montreal, Quebec and it was a day I will never forget: Quebec Civil societies organisations came together to organize the biggest Demonstration in the History of Canada!
Despite the freezing temperatures (-26 C), more than 150.000 peoples of all walks of life marched through the streets of Montreal downtown. Unions, Students, Women organisations, engaged Artists for Peace, teachers, Health workers, religious communities, Indigenous organisations, First Nations communities, immigrants, families… etc. all came together lead by the dynamic Anti-War movement in Quebec “Collectif Échec à la Guerre”.
Politicians didn’t have the choice but to come and listen to this powerful message from citizens of Quebec and Canada. This great mobilization was possible first because of the deep-rooted history of pacifism in Quebec but also because of the hard work of mobilization during months ahead of the February 15 2003.
The active involvement of Quebec most important Artists was also detrimental to the mobilization of large segments of the population.
Another successful and simple action was the idea of inviting everyone to wear a simple White Ribbon as a sign of being against this unjust war. And it was amazingly so moving to see so many peoples wearing the White Ribbon and peoples hanging white flag everywhere (in their homes windows and in the cars)….
This great moment inspired as well many others citizen to march throughout Canada’s majors cities: more than 20.000 in Vancouver; more than 10.000 in Toronto; more than 12.000 in Edmonton; more than 3.000 in Quebec City and more than 2.000 in Ottawa.
But that day, I remember it clearly because I was tasked by my Students organisation “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights” (SPHR) to make one of the main speech. To be in front of an endless sea of peoples was one of the most frightening experiences I was faced ever! I was trembling and shivering but not because of the freezing cold… but to stand up in front of 150.000 peoples, it’s a hell of stress!
In my speech, I mentioned that this was a war of conquest and for oil and that the federal government of Canada that was detrimental in the creation of the Blue Helmet peace force should not joins it despite the treats of Washington! The logic of war in which the United States continue to lead the international community is actually the greatest danger to world peace and security.
I concluded my speech with the beautiful poem of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich about hope. It was an unforgettable moment that made history in Quebec and Canada, because, following this huge people’s March and mobilisation; the Canadian government got the means to stood up to Washington and refuse to participate in its criminal war in Iraq.