Grandmother prepares to take to streets with other Canadians to protest war NANCY CARR
(CP) - At 72, Catherine Verrall says her belief that people her age must keep the peace for children will send her marching in the streets of Regina this weekend against any U.S.-led war in Iraq.
A grandmother of two, Verrall spent Friday painting anti-war slogans like Bombs Kill Kids onto signs protesters will hoist in Regina, one of at least a dozen communities across Canada staging anti-war rallies Saturday. Canadians are expected to turn out in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Edmonton and Victoria, in uncertain numbers, in a series of protests that will also sound anti-war cries around the globe.
"I care about my grandchildren and I care about everybody's grandchildren: the children in Iraq or Palestine or wherever," said Verrall.
"Especially as older people, we have a responsibility to take care of the world we are leaving to the next generation."
A retired kindergarten teacher, Verrall who as co-chair of the Regina Peace Action Coalition has been a peace activist for most of her life, said she's astounded by the speed at which the current anti-war sentiment has grown.
"I think it's beginning to hit home to people that war is imminent and people are beginning to think more about what the consequences could be for the whole world."
Verrall estimated about 600 people would join her city's rally Saturday, twice as many as the number of people who turned out for a similar demonstration in January.
The marchers in Regina - bundled in their warmest cold-weather gear - are expected to be joined by like-minded Canadians and millions of marchers in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Antarctica. In Melbourne, Australia, at least 150,000 people took to the streets Saturday to protest the war and their government's commitment of 2,000 troops.
Despite chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reporting Friday his teams had not found any illegal weapons in Iraq, peace activists all over the country feared Canada was drawing closer to war.
And that concern wasn't diminished despite comments Thursday night in Chicago by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Chretien told a meeting of international policy advisors that much of the world was skeptical about America's motives for a war with Iraq and warned Canada's closest ally not to proceed with a war against Iraq without UN backing.
By early Friday morning, a few dozen protesters had already gathered in Ottawa, saying they, too, believed Canada should not go to war unless the United Nations gives the green light.
"It's best if they don't declare war, if they don't support the U.S., unless the UN has their agreement," said Terence Reeves, a university student from New Brunswick.
In Toronto, Pam Johnson, 44, said while she doesn't support Saddam Hussein, she's helping organize that city's peace march because she doesn't think the Iraqi people deserve to suffer.
"These are the same people who have already been suffering under war and 12 years of a sanction regime that has basically left them with no infrastructure, no clean water, road system, sewage, education, medical supplies, and now they're going to be visited by another war," said Johnson, a modern dancer.
"I think the prospect of that is horrifying."
As Johnson was typing informational leaflets Friday to distribute at the protest and fielding calls from people wanting to help her cause, she said she expected about 20,000 people to take part in the Toronto demonstration.
Toronto police scheduled extra officers to be on the streets Saturday, but if the protesters are as well-behaved as they were in January, they may hardly be needed.
"It was a very good peace march," Sgt. Robb Knapper said of the Jan. 18 protest.
"It was very peaceful, moved along quite nicely and the crowds were great."
In Kamloops, B.C., a community of 80,000, Tristan Cavers was eagerly expecting 500 marchers to join his protest - double the number that turned out in January. Following the march, the Kamloops Peace Coalition will screen a video about the condition in which children live in Iraq.
Just as Verrall credits her grandchildren with her interest in peace, Cavers, 21, says his grandfather taught him to love history, and pursue peace.
"My grandpa always taught me the more you learn about history the less like it is to repeat itself," Cavers said.
Š The Canadian Press, 2003