Protest organizers are pulling out all the stops as they try to gather crowds in time for a visit to Canada by U.S. President George W. Bush.
Mr. Bush comes Tuesday to a nation where many people are deeply unhappy about his policies. He can expect major protests in Ottawa and reportedly cancelled plans to address Parliament because of the likelihood of being heckled.
His two-day visit was announced only a few weeks ago, leaving little time to rally demonstrators. But protest organizers, who say their intentions are peaceful, hope to get out thousands of people.
WHEN BUSH COMES TO SHOVE
Demonstrators protest the upcoming two-day official visit by U.S. President George W. Bush in Ottawa, November 29, 2004. United States President George W. Bush will come to Ottawa on November 30 for a two-day official visit. REUTERS/Mike Casses
Alex McDonough, an MP from Halifax, was furious Monday with what she saw as government efforts to stifle dissent.
“I am aghast that the Parliamentary Secretary for Canada-U.S. relations would urge Atlantic Canadians to 'take a pause from expressing our view' during Mr. Bush's visit,” she said.
The visit will be marked by a major security effort, with restricted airspace and a huge deployment of police officers and bodyguards.
Travelling with his most senior advisers, Mr. Bush will first pay a courtesy call to Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson on Tuesday. He will spend the rest of the day meeting with senior government officials, setting aside time to speak to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
Mr. Harper has long criticized the Liberal government for not stamping out anti-Bush sentiments in its ranks. He has warned that public criticism of the Bush White House has slowed the resolution of trade disputes.
Polls through the summer and early fall showed that the majority of Canadians were opposed to Mr. Bush's foreign policy and would have preferred that he lose the election at the start of this month.
A new poll out Monday, commissioned by Friends of America, suggests, however, that Canadians value the national relationship with the United States and do not confuse it with personal differences between leaders.
A survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted by GPC Public Affairs, showed that 71 per cent thought the United States was our closest friend and that about the same percentage believe that “opposing the policies of President Bush is not the same as being anti-American.”
Talks on Tuesday are expected to focus on trade and security issues, with an emphasis on reopening the U.S. border to Canadian beef. The border slammed shut in the spring of 2003 after a single Alberta cow was found to have BSE, more commonly known as mad-cow disease.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said on the weekend that his government has been given “signals” that Mr. Bush's visit would set in motion a clear timetable for opening the border.
Highlighting the urgency of the issue, Mr. Bush will be fed Alberta beef at his dinner Tuesday evening.
Mr. Bush will finish the day with a private meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin – to “review the day's work,” as the PMO puts it – and a dinner and official reception hosted by Mr. Martin.
The U.S. President will travel Wednesday to Halifax, planning to thank residents of the East Coast for taking in air passengers stranded by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
At every stop, Mr. Bush can expect protesters. Although they concede the difficulty of raising a crowd in the middle of the week, with temperatures expected to remain locked in the single digits, protest organizers are predicting thousands of demonstrators.
They are planning varied events, including a mock trial of Mr. Bush under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
“We are supporting the millions of American citizens and people around the world who, like us, want an end to the illegal war and occupation of Iraq,” the Halifax Peace Coalition (HPC) said in a statement.
“While we may be dismayed, angry and frustrated, these actions will be non-violent and reflect our support for peace and social justice, self-determination, the environment and other people.”
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