Volume 96, Issue 62
Tuesday, January 21, 2003

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London joins international protest against war on Iraq

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Community and religious leaders gathered at a rally on Saturday in downtown London to protest Canada's position on future military action in Iraq.

Approximately 500 people, many waving signs with anti-military slogans, attended the rally, which was held in front of the John Labatt Centre.

"Military action would present a real danger of igniting larger conflict," said Faisal Joseph, president of the London Islamic Centre.

There is no evidence that Iraq was responsible for the events of Sept. 11 or that the country has weapons of mass destruction, Joseph said.

"One hundred and 20 prominent Canadians urge the government of Canada to oppose military action against Iraq," he said, reading from a letter signed by the likes of federal New Democratic Party leader Alexa McDonough and Canadian author Pierre Burton.

One of the key speakers was federal NDP leadership candidate Jack Layton, who had just arrived from a similar protest in Toronto.

"Canadians shall come together with a united voice focussed on peace," he said, adding the choice to invest in war still remains.

"War will kill innocent children," Layton said, adding war money could flow to save lives instead. "We need to unite across political parties, religions, cultures and geography – we say peace not war."

The United Nations estimates 10 million people would be affected by disease if a war in Iraq were initiated, said Sue Wilson, speaking on behalf of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

"[It is] important to name war in Iraq as unjust, unnecessary and unacceptable," adding all avenues of political dialogue have not yet been pursued.

Tim Curry, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union local 27, said he was proud to stand arm-in-arm seeking peace.

"[We] should be for a war against poverty and the denial of basic human rights in countries," he said, adding billions of dollars are spent on war against Iraq, and not on helping other people.

Irene Matheson, of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, said the community is clearly concerned about this issue.

"As a teacher, my students are [also] concerned with the violence," she said. "We have a collective obligation to a civil and peaceful society."

Sandy White, vice president of the Labour Council, was there representing 25,000 members in the London area.

"[We] continue to watch in disbelief as the United States prepares for war in Iraq," she said, adding that a world of peace, not a world of war, is needed.

The day was marked with other peace rallies across Canada and around the world, with expected participants in the tens of thousands.

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