The Honourable Paul Hellyer
April may be the cruellest month; but in terms of fighting the Free Trade
Area of the Americas, it was one of the most inspiring and empowering.
The resistance to this "corporate bill of rights" has increased
by leaps and bounds, and our efforts are beginning to draw in new support.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), is the newest in a series of attacks by big money to usurp the powers of government. It is an investment agreement that is masquerading as a trade deal -- an agreement that will bind 34 nations of the Western Hemisphere into a single trading bloc. The only real beneficiaries are big business and high finance.
The FTAA is a direct threat to our sovereignty, to public services, and to quality of life. It promises the further dismantling of democracy, continuing poverty, and the deterioration of our standard of living that Canadians have built in the last 40 years.
But it will not go through without a fight. All over the Western Hemisphere, from Toronto to Buenos Aires, tens of thousands of people have gathered to combat this.
On April 2, the Canadian Action Party joined other like-minded groups in a non-violent, direct-action protest outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. Nearly 1,000 demonstrators participated in the "search and rescue mission" by demanding the text of the FTAA, which is still largely secret. In a moving scene, 87 demonstrators crossed the police barricade and peacefully submitted to arrest. Many of those detained included senior citizens and members of faith communities.
The next day, almost 2,000 demonstrators gathered at Queen's Park in Toronto and marched to the Four Season's Hotel to welcome the finance ministers of the Western Hemisphere. An awesome police presence prevented marchers from reaching the hotel, but a successful rally was held in which the participants declared their opposition to the FTAA in the name of all those who suffered from the impacts of corporate globalisation.
Throughout April, the Canadian Action Party worked in concert with a number of groups to organise transport to Quebec City for the demonstrations against the third Summit of the Americas, held April 20-22. The event was a large success, with estimates starting at 70,000 participants on the Saturday march, as well as the thousands upon thousands who engaged in direct actions to remind Canadians that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
CAP members and staff participated in a wide variety of ways, from co-ordinating logistics in coalitions, to assisting with the lawsuit against the illegal barricade, to speaking at the Perimeter of Solidarity, and by marching with the tens of thousands to voice our opposition to the FTAA.
By far the most promising aspect of the month was the sense of growth that the movement against corporate globalisation is experiencing. It has expanded from a core of groups and individuals, dedicated to exposing the evils of "trade" deals, to a wide network of citizens committed to building a better world.
Among the tens of thousands of those gathered in Quebec were seniors, farmers, members of the faith community, students, anti-poverty organisers, women's groups, environmentalists, all types of political organisations, working people and labour unions, indigenous groups, and social justice activists. The sense of unity among all who gathered only increased their resolve to resist -- despite the largely unprovoked aggression of the security forces.
Now it is time for the real work to begin. The FTAA has been exposed but not defeated, and the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services will be upon us by the end of 2002. All levels of government are working together to destroy our hard-fought standard of living in the name of competition.
Quebec City has forced the issue of globalisation into the minds of all Canadians. We must strike while the iron is hot to reach out to our friends, family, and neighbours, to fan the flames of dissent into a movement of resistance, and then build this into a culture of progress. We must resolve to knock on every door and spread the word that big money can be defeated, and that the power of the people is returning.
The lesson of the past month is that not only must we defeat the FTAA and GATS, but that we can, in fact, create a more equitable, prosperous, and democratic society for everyone -- in Canada and around the world.