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Occupations spread to Streets and Squares across Canada

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Issue: 80 Section: Photo Essay Geography: Canada Topics: decolonize, decolonizecanada, occupy, occupycanada

October 17, 2011

Occupations spread to Streets and Squares across Canada

A look at Occupy actions from coast-to-coast

by Media Co-op contributors

Photo: Caelie

On Saturday, October 15, thousands of people across Canada joined the international day of Occupy Together: a call for people around the world to join Occupy Wall Street, an encampment in the heart of New York City's financial district and home to many of the companies that people now hold partly to blame for the ongoing economic crisis.

The Wall Street occupation, which began on September 17, has its own roots in the uprisings and occupations of central plazas across the Middle East and Europe over the past year. These movements are perhaps best exemplified by the Egyptian revolution, where people held their ground in Tahrir Square until the fall of then-president Hosni Mubarak.

The Occupy movement has since spread around the world, and taken on distinct characteristics and demands in each country—and each city— Canada is no exception. Recognizing that Canada is a colonial nation established on occupied Native land, many have called for Decolonize Canada to also become a rallying cry.

But like Occupy Wall Street, for many a radical change to the economy and the government are the main motivations for their participation. “What are people waking up to? We are waking up to a world where all young people and working class people have no future,” said Fightback member Farshad Azadian, to applause from the gathered assembly. “The conditions for our people are getting worse and worse, while bankers and industrialists are making huge amounts of profit and getting government hands outs, tax breaks, and bail-outs," he said. "What we are saying is we’re not having it.”

Below is a collection of photos from Occupy actions across Canada.

In Ottawa, hundreds marched to Confederation Park. Protesters have set up more than thirty tents. There are also areas for food and first aid, and an information booth. “What originally inspired me to join any type of movement against global corporate greed first begun in the spring with the Arab Spring,” University of Ottawa student Omar Abdul told the Media Co-op. “It really motivated me because I am from Yemen, and Yemen is going through a revolution right now.”
The Kanienkah Flag flies prominently at the front of Toronto's Oct. 15 march. Toronto—like most of Canada, or Turtle Island—is already occupied land; Toronto specifically being part of the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Calling for occupations on land that is already being occupied has led many to instead call for a Decolonize Canada movement.
Hundreds of people marched from Banker's Hall to Olympic Plaza in Calgary. They erected tents at the park and vowing to camp out indefinitely in the city seen as the heart of Canada's oil industry and home to some of the country's largest corporations.
Thousands gathered on October 15th at the corner of King Street East and York Street in downtown Toronto. Three young women express feelings of empowerment from attending their first protest.
In Vancouver, people raise their hands in a sign of approval. At general assemblies across the country, people engaged in consensus decision-making to decide on the initial steps of their occupations. Many people cited participating in direct democracy and having more say in decisions that affect their lives as a reason for participating.
Thousands of people showed up in Montreal's Square Victoria, at the heart of the city's financial district. During the opening general assembly, seen above, it was renamed The People's Square. On Sunday night, one count placed the number of tents at over 100.
Tents went up in squares and plazas across Canada on the weekend, often in the the financial heart of a city or another symbolic location. Here, tents are seen outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, with skyscrapers not far away.
In Halifax, hundreds marched and dozens camped out in Parade Square. A few of them were awoken by the photographer on day two.
While degrees of activity and organization vary, most Occupy camps have self-organized to provide for the needs of campers. In Halifax, for example, free food is being offered (seen above), people are playing music, and discussion groups on capitalism and media are taking place around the site. "We all feel pretty alone in our opinions sometimes," said camper Lianne Lessard, who feels a sense of community in Parade Square. "I'm going to stay here as long as I can," she said.

The photos above were taken by Caelie (Vancouver), Andy Crosby (Ottawa), Mike Barber (Toronto), Alheli Picazo (Calgary), Mike Barber (Toronto), Caelie (Vancouver), Darren Ell (Montréal), Caelie (Vancouver), Miles Howe (Halifax), Hillary Lindsay (Halifax), and posted to Media Co-op locals across the country.

Looking for more coast-to-coast coverage of the Occupy movement? View—and add—ongoing coverage in the Media Co-op's Occupy site.

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