Canadian Forces not welcome

Students stage die-in to protest military

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A group of student activists at Fanshawe College were forcibly removed from an annual job fair during their anti-military protest last Wednesday.

The demonstration sought to criticize the involvement of the Canadian Forces in the career fair and raise awareness about the growing number of casualties in Afghanistan, student protestor Pete LeBel said.

Darius Mirshahi, president of Fanshawe’s Social Justice Club, was one of 12 demonstrators who dressed in ripped, red-painted clothing and lay down in front of the CF recruiting booth until they were dragged out by college security.

“[Fanshawe] offers no programs that relate to military life. [The job fair is] very much for people who want civilian jobs,” Mirshahi explained.

LeBel described his removal from the building.

“The guard seemed overly excited. After he put me in handcuffs, he started walking me to the security office. On the way there he told me I was under arrest. He said I was trespassing. I offered to show him my student card and he ignored me.”

Manager of Security Services, Ed Pimentel, explained Fanshawe security did what was necessary to ensure the safety of job fair attendees.

“It was a combination of things. A fire door was blocked, observers were disturbed and becoming very challenging " it could have escalated quickly.

“Some of [the protesters] were belligerent. One person seemed like he was intoxicated,” Pimentel said.

“The only people being belligerent were the security officers themselves,” Mirshahi said in response to these allegations.

Mirshahi helped organize the event and explained why the CF was unwelcome on the college campus.

“I firmly believe places of education should be free of military influences,” he said, adding the military uses questionable recruiting tactics. “It’s a job you can’t quit.”

Lieutenant Steve Churm, Ontario public affairs officer for the CF, maintained students have the right to express their opinions, but said it is up to individuals whether or not to join.

“We go to campuses to provide information about employment opportunities,” he said.

LeBel agreed students must make the final decision whether or not to enlist. “Absolutely, it’s up to students. But if a student wants to join the military, I’m pretty sure they know where to go ... The barracks is about four blocks away on Oxford Street.”

Lt. Churm assured if the majority of students disapprove of military recruiters, the CF would not attend the job fair.

“I support the actions we took,” Pimentel said. “We did everything within our legal right.

“They refused to answer questions or follow directions, and when security attempted to remove the individuals, they were uncooperative,” he added.

Mirshahi claims demonstrators were nowhere near the fire exit. “Everyone could easily move around, nobody’s access to the recruitment table was blocked.”

Fanshawe Student Union President Travis Mazereeuw said the FSU supports students’ freedom of expression, but could not take a stance on the protest.

“Each student at Fanshawe has the right to speak up and stand behind the things they believe in,” he assured.

“We have the right to demonstrate whether people like it or not,” Mirshahi said.

The CF appeared at Western’s Career Centre’s All Campus Job Expo in the University Community Centre on Feb. 7 without incident.

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