This week may very well mark a critical turning point in the movement against corporate globalization. Most of the media has focussed on the welcome absence of violence, but, in Ottawa, something even more important happened. For the first time, the demonstrators started to reflect the colours of the community.

The theme of the yesterday’s G8 protest in the capital was “No One is Illegal.” It spoke to the interests of immigrant communities, particularly in light of the repressive new immigration law. The anarchist organizers of the CLAC (Anti-Capitalist Convergence) agreed to no direct action in Thursday’s march in response to requests by Palestinians and other vulnerable groups.

The demonstration was a rowdy, energetic, youthful march through downtown Ottawa.Banners and placards had a decidedly anti-imperialist tinge. The largest groups were the Palestinian solidarity contingent, Attac Quebec (a group supporting the Tobin Tax) and the Ontario Common Front, which most recently organized militant actions against the Ontario Tories.

Even a thunderstorm couldn’t dampen the spirits of the protesters. Each clap of thunder drew a massive cheer from the multitudes. As the demonstration stopped at various targets of protest, like Immigration Canada and the Israeli Embassy, one speaker in French and one in English addressed the issue relevant to that building.

The march was organized as an explicitly anti-capitalist action; although many who marched were far from drawing those conclusions.

One woman on my bus from Montreal was an art therapist who was starting to think she should be a little more active. Another was an environmental activist who was thinking of voting for Mario Dumont of the right-wing Action Democratique (ADQ) because he is young.

As in Calgary, Ottawa riot police were nowhere to be seen. In fact, some police walked side by side with the marchers, often mixing with no incident.

“The largest anti-war demonstration in Ottawa since September 11,” Jaggi Singh said triumphantly, “and the radical hooligans organized it.”

There were about 2,000 marching on Thursday and there were many more the day before. Even taken together, though, the Calgary/Ottawa marches were much smaller than the massive march in Quebec City last year of almost 70,000.

What was missing was the labour movement. With the exception of a small Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) contingent, including President Judy Darcy, and a handful of Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and Confédération des syndicats nationaux du Québec (CSN) members, labour was virtually absent at the march in Ottawa. Conspicuous by their absence too were many local Ottawa activists who had organized around the G20.

The anti-capitalist organizers of the Ottawa march can claim a victory for their ability to successfully mobilize and broaden the movement to immigrant communities and people of colour. In Calgary, labour and community groups were equally successful in a creative, well organized series of actions that managed to overcome serious state-imposed barriers to freedom of assembly.

Just imagine what could be accomplished if both wings of the movement came back together again, respecting their differences but working in concert to build the kind of mass movement that is sweeping Europe and Latin America.

Judy Rebick

Judy Rebick

Judy Rebick is one of Canada’s best-known feminists. She was the founding publisher of , wrote our advice column and was co-host of one of our first podcasts called Reel Women....