Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Demonstrators greet Bush in Canada


Demonstrators greet Bush in Canada

OTTAWA, Canada (AP) -- Holding up signs calling U.S. President George W. Bush a "war criminal" and "liar," a few thousand demonstrators rallied in the Canadian capital Tuesday to protest his visit, the U.S.-led war in Iraq and a host of other issues.

Organizers said about 5,000 people, many of whom rode buses overnight from across Ontario and Quebec, held a rally at Ottawa's City Hall before a planned march on Canada's Parliament buildings. Police put the figure at between 2,500 to 3,000.

Making his first official visit to Canada, Bush arrived Tuesday for talks with Prime Minister Paul Martin. Bush was welcomed by many placards and signs along his motorcade route, including a truck parked nearby that was emblazoned with the phrase "Bush is a war criminal." Another placard branded him an "assassin."

Much the anger seemed focused on Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Canada decided against sending troops to Iraq -- a decision supported by more than 80 percent of Canadians.

"Canada is not against America. We're totally against Bush," explained Fredric White, a 40-year-old who works for an entertainment company, who stood by the Parliament building as the president's motorcade arrived.

"He's arrogant and ignorant. We totally disdain his policies on the war and his treatment of the U.N.," White said. "The administration has an imperialist attitude where he thinks he can take over countries by bombing them."

One group, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, planned to roll out a so-called "unwelcome mat" for Bush -- a giant carpet-turned-protest-sign.

Protesters also voiced disapproval over trade issues and U.S. efforts to get Canada involved in the continental missile defense shield.

Christy Ferguson, a 27-year-old activist with Greenpeace, held a large banner saying "Stop Star Wars."

"We think Canada shouldn't even be talking to the U.S. about missile defense because it's driving nuclear proliferation around the world," she said.

Martin has promised an open debate in the House of Commons on whether Canada should take part in the defense program. Polls show a majority of Canadians are against joining the system, calling it destabilizing and a misguided effort to put weapons in space.

An Ipsos-Reid/CTV poll released Tuesday shows 58 percent of Canadians think Bush's re-election was a "bad thing," while 26 percent believed it was good. The poll surveyed 1,000 Canadians and had an margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Joe Cressy, an organizer for the anti-Bush rally and a student at Carlton University in Ottawa, called the protests a "direct communication link to Bush" -- but also "a message to our prime minister that he should not support Bush's policies."

Gathered at the City Hall rally, Lawrence Wueft, a 60-year-old sculptor from the eastern province of New Brunswick held up a banner made from a bed sheet that read: "Bush, go home. Keep your bloody hands off Canada."

"Bush, you're involved in an illegal war. Don't involve Canada in that illegal war," he said.