A peaceful anti-war demonstration took place Saturday in front of the United States Consulate in downtown Toronto. Dozens urged the government of Canada and the international community to end the war in Afghanistan and Libya.
The wars in Afghanistan and Libya have not been major issues so far in the Canadian federal election campaign. The wars have been briefly commented on by all federal party leaders, but it has not been a central theme in this year’s election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced earlier this year that the Canadian military would stay in Afghanistan passed the July 2011 deadline. Between 700 and 1,000 Canadian troops will stay in Afghanistan and serve in a non-combat, training mission.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Green Party leader Elizabeth May want the Canadian military to return to a United Nations peacekeeping mission and New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton wants the troops to come home.
On Saturday, hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver urging for the Canadian government to end the wars in Afghanistan and Libya and to bring the troops home immediately from international global strife.
In front of the United States Consulate in downtown Toronto, dozens of activists and representatives of anti-war organizations, including the Coalition to Stop the War, spoke about NATO’s missions in Afghanistan and Libya.
Protestors carried signs that stated: “NATO out of Libya,” “For a class-struggle fight against capitalist cutbacks,” “Don’t spill more Afghan blood,” “End the occupation of Afghanistan now” and “Canada...what happened to being a peace-loving nation?”
One of the primary reasons for this protest was to educate Canadian voters about the parties’ platforms on foreign policy before they head to the polls on May 2.
Speakers discussed how the no-fly zone over Libya has caused an enormous amount of civilian deaths and how much the war in Afghanistan has cost the Canadian taxpayer – although there are disagreements over certain estimates, it is believed the Canadian government has spent about between $20 and $30 billion in Afghanistan.
Furthermore, they discussed how redirecting military spending can better the nation’s education system and healthcare.
“Any support for the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai works against the aspirations of the Afghan people to live in a free and democratic society,” said the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War in a news release. “The Harper government admitted that they were propping up a corrupt regime while at the NATO summit in Lisbon. They even announced that they would refuse to send aid to the Afghan president until they had assurances that the money would be spent properly.”
The number of Canadian troop fatalities has reached 154. According to the Canadian Forces’ Casualty Statistics (Afghanistan) as of Jan. 2011, 1,244 Canadian soldiers have been wounded since the war began nine years ago – the figures do not include traffic accidents, accidental discharges of a weapon and other accidental injuries not related to combat.