The Fight for the Americas

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

April 21, 2001, Quebec City

I want to talk about what is on all our minds right now. We had an incredible day yesterday with the youth-led unofficial march and the penetration of the wall. We witnessed unbelievable police aggression and acts of great courage. Like all of you, I was in the thick of it and was hit time and again with tear gas. We also saw the television images of a small handful of demonstrators, or people dressed as demonstrators, throwing objects at the police and vandalizing some media vehicles.

I was bombarded with media interviews about these actions and asked if I didn't think they distort our message. "What are you going to do with your movement's young people?" I was asked. "What are you going to do to bring order?" It was a tough question. One answer, of course, is that they didn't ask me, or anyone else for that matter, for permission to engage in direct action. Nor would they have listened to my admonition to refrain from any but non-violent protests. Nevertheless, these questions do pose a serious challenge to us as a movement. I want to say very clearly and without equivocation that we are a movement that embraces the Gandhian principles of non-violence; in my organization, we have taken that position very strongly. We are seeking to reach the hearts and minds of the peoples of the Americas, and they won't be won over with tactics that mirror the system we oppose.

But at the same time, I need to say something else. I don't think that this question has been aimed at the appropriate target. These are not my youth. These are young people born into a toxic economy, a society that deliberately sorts winners from losers and measures its success by the bottom line of its corporations, not by the well being of its young. These youth are the result of years of poisonous economic and trade policies that have created an entrenched underclass with no access to the halls of power except by putting their bodies on the line. Their anger is our collective societal responsibility. The question isn't what I am going to do with angry young people. The question should be put to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President George Bush and all the other leaders here to promote the extension of this toxic economy: What are you going to do with them? It is your market economy, with its emphasis on ruthless competition and the wanton destruction of the natural world, that has created such deep wellsprings of anger in such large sections of today's youth, and it is you, the political leaders, so beholden to the private interests who put you in power, who must be held accountable.

And why should young people not be angry? We are poisoning the world's fresh water. By the year 2025, two-thirds of the world will not have adequate access to clean water. Large water transnationals salivate in anticipation of the profits to be made from such shortages as they prepare to commodify and sell water on the open market for profit. That's an abomination beyond anything that any protester did on that wall yesterday. The global economy has corporatized our food system. Now farmers don't grow food for people in communities - they have to produce for profit for food corporations. They feed chicken pellets to salmon and ground meat to cows and inject the DNA of scorpions into corn and then wonder why we are angry. And if any country dares to say no to such practices, they bring it to its knees with trade sanctions.

Their economic system has created a world of winners and losers, and the greatest gap between rich and poor in living memory. "Free" trade brought Canada, cited by the UN as the "best" country in which to live, the highest rise in child poverty in the industrialized world - 60 percent and counting. I warned them fifteen years ago when they signed the first free-trade agreement between Canada and the United States that they would create a First World in the Third World, a Third World in the First World. And it has happened. I said they would create a global royalty in which politicians and corporate leaders around the world have more in common with one another than with their own citizens, and that they would start to use their security forces against those citizens to protect their corporate interests. And this has happened. I told them that their policies would alienate huge numbers of us and that we would find each other and build a movement. And this has happened too.

Let's talk about vandalism. There was some vandalism yesterday, yes. But where was the first vandalism? The first vandalism was in that scar of a wall they put up in our beautiful city. That wall was the first vandalism. Where is the real violence? Let's talk about that. Well, I say the real violence lies behind that wall, with the thirty-four political leaders and their spin-doctors and their corporate friends who bought their way in, sleeping in five-star hotels and eating in five-star restaurants and thinking they can run the world by themselves. Well, I have news for them - there are more of us than there are of them, and we say, No!

This has been an emotional and difficult time for our movement. There are differences among us, to be sure. But the differences are small compared with what we have in common. And today we come together as a family in our opposition to the soul-destroying FTAA and its plan of corporate domination of our hemisphere. The peoples of the Americas are speaking loudly. We will not be moved.

We are making history today and we are standing united.

This is an edit from the transcript of Maude Barlow's April 21 speech. This document first appeared in The Nation. Posted here with the permission of the Council of Canadians.

For more rabble news coverage of the Quebec Summit and its aftermath, please click here.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.