Posted by Joshua on April 04, 2003 at 12:20:47
Apr. 4, 2003. 02:40 PM
Eves, Harper address pro-U.S. rally
'Silent majority' seeks to mend shaky relations
About 1,000 Canadians gathered in the freezing rain today to show their support for the United States at a downtown rally.
Organizers of the Friends of America said the rally was not formed to champion the U.S.-led war in Iraq but to show friendship and goodwill between the two countries.
"We're not fair-weather friends," emcee Ted Woloshyn, a local radio host, told the crowd bearing American and Canadian flags and Union Jacks. Others held placards with slogans such as Canada Loves America, Chrétien Doesn't Speak For Me and Freedom Isn't Free.
Political speakers included Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Ernie Eves. The widow of a Canadian killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center was also scheduled to make remarks.
Eves said there were likely those who do support the war in attendance — himself included.
"Canadians, friends of America - that is who we as Canadians are," Eves told the crowd.
"Our American neighbours, our friends, our colleagues, our Allies have always supported us, they've protected us, they've helped us and they've stood by us and now we should be standing by them."
Harper thanked the crowd for "opening your hearts" and "saying to our friends in the United States of America, you are our ally, our neighbour, and our best friend in the whole wide world.
"And when your brave men and women give their lives for freedom and democracy we are not neutral," Harper said.
"We do not stand on the sidelines; we're for the disarmament of Saddam and the liberation of the people of Iraq."
Although Friday's storm was forecast well in advance, freezing rain, snow and ice pellets didn't stop supporters from attending.
Dave Somers, 63, said Canada doesn't have the same military might as the U.S. but should be offering something to help.
"I'm hoping that Canada will offer some more supports for everything the U.S. represents," he said.
"Nobody wants war, but they are defending freedom."
A small group of peace protesters also attended the rally, including 16-year-old Justin Lathangue who went shirtless, the words I Freeze For Peace scrawled across his naked chest.
He said he'd stay shirtless, despite the frigid weather, "as long as it takes - until the end of the rally."
Rally participants listened to pro-American rock songs as the crowd gathered, many joining in the refrain "What would the world be without America?"
In a radio interview before the rally, Harper said the line between a pro-American message and pro-war sentiment is a fine one.
"I don't think it's possible to separate the two, frankly, in the sense that our American friends are engaged in this battle, men and women are putting down their lives," Harper said on Toronto's CFRB.
"I think as the U.S. ambassador said, it's pretty tough to say you're a friend if you're not standing with them at this point in time."