Carnival in Quebec City, Quebec, Quebec’s annual winter celebration, will include not just the traditional drinking and dancing this year, but also a protest.
Activists from Quebec City Ian Renaud-Lauze, Helene Vallieres and Jaggi Singh visited Dwight Hall yesterday afternoon to drum up support for an upcoming protest against the Summit of the Americas, called the Carnival against Capitalism. They have traveled to universities across the East Coast mobilizing students to participate in the protest in Canada April 20-22.
The Summit of the Americas is a meeting where leaders from North, Central and South Americas and the Caribbean will come together to discuss issues regarding the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA is a treaty that would extend the North American Free Trade Agreement to the entire Western Hemisphere, excluding Cuba.
The two groups the activists represented, the Anti-Capitalist Convergence and the Summit of the Americas Welcoming Committee, criticized the summit’s closed meetings and possible approval of the FTAA, saying the treaty would adversely affect workers within the Americas.
Singh, an Anti-Capitalist Convergence organizer, said NAFTA sets an example of how the FTAA would take away the rights of governments to regulate corporations. He told the story of a methanol production company, Methanex, that was producing a chemical, MTBE, that contaminates groundwater. California banned the chemical and Methanex sued the state under NAFTA’s regulations for “unfair trade practices and discriminatory trade barriers.”
Welcoming Committee organizer Renaud-Lauze also decried the security measures being taken within Canada in preparation for the conference. Protest organizers as well as government officials anticipate a situation similar to the World Trade Organization riots in Seattle.
Renaud-Lauze said precautions in Quebec include a lengthy wall being built around the neighborhood where the summit is taking place and the clearing out of local prisons in anticipation of the protests.
“They are creating a climate of fear on two levels,” Renaud-Lauze said. “Those who want to demonstrate will come, but those who are not sure, these measures are meant to scare them off. They are also being used to make repressive police measures acceptable to residents in Quebec.”
The Student Alliance to Reform Corporations sponsored the event at Yale, one of many of universities — including Harvard and Cornell universities, the University of Massachusetts and Hampshire College — to host the activists. STARC hopes to sponsor a bus of Yale students and New Haven organizers to go to the rally.
David Corson-Knowles ’03, a STARC organizer, said about 100 students attended the International Monetary Fund and World Bank protests in Washington, D.C. and he expects a more diverse turnout in April.
“Now we have spent a lot of time networking with unions, the homeless and community groups we hadn’t previously worked with,” Corson-Knowles said. “We’re thinking we’ll get a lot of Yale folks, high school students and others all together on a bus to meet, do some long-term networking and also protest against this threat to our lives.”
Katie Kline ’03, who attended the meeting, said she is gearing up for the protest.
“I think people are excited about it,” Kline said. “The FTAA hasn’t happened yet, and maybe if people act now then maybe we can stop the FTAA from coming into existence. It’s easier than taking apart something that already exists.”
The organizers also anticipate a strong showing in Canada from students all over America.
“There is a budding campus activism,” Singh said. “I think students realize that there is more to life than career fairs and there is another lifestyle out there.”