This coming weekend, Nov. 17-18, Ottawa is host to the latest meeting of the G-20, The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The meeting was originally planned for New Delhi, India. However, after the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September, Federal Finance Minister Paul Martin offered to host the talks in Ottawa. So, members of the G-20 from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union will visit our capital city.
Security has never been as tight in Ottawa. Streets surrounding the Congress Centre (old Union Station opposite the Chateau Laurier) will be closed to traffic.
It is said that the G-20 countries "control 88% of the world's economic output and 60% of the world's poor." That translates into vast power and, when you think that the Group was created in 1999 to address issues between wealthy and poor countries, it's no wonder that many of the world's peoples struggle to redress inequities.
Think about it. How can we go about fostering real change so that the world's peoples can live more equitably, with a standard of living we all find acceptable?
On September 11 fundamentalist Muslim leader Ossama bin Laden chose the path of terror, targeted at American civilians who, he says, were not "innocent civilians." According to recent media reports he considers anyone who works in such symbols of American power as the WTC to be justifiable targets.
Is this an acceptable way to change the status quo? I adamantly say no. Others note that this is what it takes to bring promoters of the status quo to their senses.
Really? Have we stooped to justifying violence to further our ends?
Another way of changing the status quo is by permitting the G-20 nations, WTO and IMF to continue their meetings in peace, as they have in the not-too-recent past. If terrorist attacks such as Bin Laden's are truly effective, then this would be a logical conclusion.
How could allowing the meeting to continue, unchallenged, change the current political agenda, you ask? According to the website of the IMF, their goal for this meeting in Ottawa is to:
"bring together ministers and central bank governors from around the world to discuss issues of importance to the membership of the IMF and World Bank, especially including the global economic outlook in the wake of the tragic events of September 11; their impact, in particular, on the poorest; the ongoing work to improve the stability of the international financial system; and preparations for the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development."
Can they be trusted to implement effective change? Opponents clearly think otherwise.
Another way to redirect the status quo is to join a group of like-minded people working for change.
I found www.flora.org/gdo, the website of Global Democracy Ottawa. It offers thought-provoking questions all of us should consider on various topics, such as "10 Reasons to Oppose the G20, World Bank and IMF Meetings" or "4 Demands of the World Bank and IMF."
Also on this website, you'll find information on rallies and meetings. Among these is a rally on the G-20 IMF and World Bank, to be held Saturday, November 17th 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.. Organizers hope to meet in Ottawa at LeBreton Flats at 9:00, start a march at 10:00 which will end up in front of the Supreme Court where many speakers will address the assembled crowd.
Several Pontiacers will be attending. Because I know them personally, I know that at least some people go with peace in their hearts, wanting to add their democratic voice that calls for fundamental change to our political and economic systems.
But what of those who, according to their Internet websites, incite people to rally with acts of violence as a way to advocate change?
The website I found at www.protest.net announces a Friday Nov 16 rally in Ottawa to protest "Globalization and Imperialism." The website description reads," The IMF, WB and G20 will be meeting in Ottawa, Canada on November 16-18. This is a call for a mass mobilization against these killers. Shut them down."
Killers. This is the language of hate.
And check out www.ocap.ca/legalguide/policestate.htm in which police are ridiculed at best, vilified at worst. This site claims there has been "an escalation on the level of police repression (nationally and internationally) such as violence, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and the level of repression through court proceedings."
When I watched the WTC collapse upon 400 or so firefighters and police who were doing their jobs, trying to help people who were trapped inside, I didn't think of them as reprehensible agents of repression. Rather, I saw them as men and women who lost their lives hoping to help others.
Theirs was a noble cause, if there ever was one.
In my opinion, we must strive for peaceful change in this sad, magnificent world of ours. So I ask you: Exactly how do we change the status quo? Without violence, I remain convinced.
Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
His wisdom rings true. What I don't believe counts as "wisdom" at all are some of the websites that you yourself will encounter just by following the links on such sites as at Global Democracy Ottawa.
But that's my opinion. Go to their site, read their page, which has some thoughtful writing on it. Then follow the links. Inform yourself about anarchy and anarchism. Dip into some of the texts, read them for yourselves and consider exactly how we as Canadians, both as individuals and collectively, should lobby for political change.
And consider how everyone has a political agenda.
Is anarchy the way? Pending the interpretation of that political platform (which varies as much as does any political group) I cannot agree.
But is peaceful demonstration acceptable? Of course, in my opinion. However, how can thoughtful people rally peacefully, when among the anarchist agenda there are so many who lobby for "direct action" against "killers"? It is known that many of the demonstrators who intend to rally in Ottawa and, later on, in Kananaskis, encourage violence.
In the face of this, is closing Ottawa's streets (such as Wellington and Mackenzie, for example) during this weekend's G-20 conference as the police and security forces want to do an affront to democracy and the ordinary person's right for free democratic access to their own city?
Think about it. Check out the websites I've listed above. Follow their links. Explore, read, and decide for yourself. It is an interesting, thought-provoking and sometimes disturbing exercise that all of us should take so that we are informed.
And then consider for yourselves: how do we as a civilized people protesting the status quo in the New Millennium?
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer who, just like you, struggles with how to lobby for effective, fair change of our economic and political systems.