Mac Students protest sanctions against Iraq
Paul Martin defends Canada's position
By JOHN BURMAN, The Spectator, Saturday March 7, 1998
Effigies of dead Iraqi children confronted Finance Minister Paul Martin as he explained the latest federal budget to students at McMaster University yesterday.
Every 10 minutes throughout his appearance at Convocation Hall, a student stepped forward to quietly place a naked child's doll before Martin and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, MP for Hamilton East, in protest of Canada's support for economic sanctions against Iraq.
Each doll wore a black armband.
The protesters told Martin the sanctions are contributing to the death of an Iraqi child every ten minutes for lack of proper food and basic medical supplies.
Some students held up placards that read: End the War in Iraq. Sanctions Kill Children.
A large banner proclaimed sanctions have been responsible for the deaths of 700,000 Iraqi children at a rate of one every six minutes.
Martin, who told the 20 protesters in the hall Canada has provided Iraq with $35 million worth of humanitarian aid since 1991, insisted Canada "is prepared to do whatever we can to help the Iraqi people."
"But Canada will not countenance the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons.
"We are not prepared to do that."
When someone suggested Iraq does not represent a threat, Martin shot back that a warehouse full of anthrax -- a cattle disease suitable for a biological weapon against humans -- "is a considerable threat to a whole lot of people."
Apart from one vocal heckler, the protesters stood silently with their signs or waited politely for a turn at the microphones in the audience.
Leah Dolmage, a member of the protest, said afterward the group is a loose-knit gathering of students who share a concern.
She did say it takes its cue from the Hamilton chapter of the Global Movement to End the War Against Iraq.
A pamphlet put out by the chapter quotes CARE saying children, seniors and the sick who were well cared for prior to 1990, are "now dying while outside world mistakenly believes it has solved Iraq's problems with the much-delayed oil-for-food shipments.
When a student told Martin that Canada had recently turned down Iraqi purchase requests for $1 billion in humanitarian supplies and can't survive under "brutal sanctions", Martin said Canada has supported increasing the amount of oil Iraq can export for supplies.
However, he said, Iraq has said technical problems prevent it from exporting event the amount it is allowed now. Martin defended Canada's support for sanctions against Iraq, but tried to keep the forum on the budget.