First Published: New Canada, Vol 5, No 5, Nov-Dec 1974
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Ottawa: It was a mild sunny day on Saturday, December 7 as members of the Canadian Liberation Movement, the Progressive Youth Movement and patriotic individuals met at Plouffe Park in Ottawa to celebrate Anti-Imperialist Day. We were gathered to mark the 137th anniversary of the revolutions in the Canadas with a two-mile march and a symbolic burning of Time and Reader’s Digest on Parliament Hill.
It was in 1837 that the people of Upper and Lower Canada first rose in revolt against British Imperialism, under the leadership of Mackenzie and Papineau. But we also planned to commemorate much that had happened since.
We were gathered at Plouffe Park because this was where members of the “On to Ottawa Trek” had been encamped in August 1935. Although our history books tell us that the trek was turned back in Regina, some of the members had been able to carry on and members of the Workers Unity League (an independent Canadian trade union centre organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Canada during the Depression) in Ontario had come here to Ottawa in the spirit of working class solidarity. It was in this park that the RCMP brutally beat and dispersed hundreds of these heroic workers.
There was a speech in recognition of these workers by Jeff Sharpe, Chairman of the Progressive Youth Movement, and then the march was on its way.
Two banners and three flags led the procession.
Between the Anti-imperialist Day banner and the Progressive Youth Movement banner we proudly carried three flags, the flag of the Upper Canadian Patriots, the flag of the Lower Canadian Patriots and the flag of the Canadian Liberation Movement which leads the struggle today against U.S. imperialism.
We were “escorted” by a motorcycle and a city police cruiser, top light flashing all the way. It was a tribute to the Ottawa anti-imperialists that the police and the government should take our struggle so seriously!
Jim Brown led the way, megaphone in hand, to provide a running commentary for the many passersby. He explained that we were demonstrating against 137 years of treason by the sellout government of Canada. He told the people that only 2% of the books and magazines sold in Canada today are Canadian and that under those conditions, the tax concessions made by the government to foreign publications constitute treason. “We have collected a large stock of Time and Reader’s Digest in a campaign to clean up and we are going to burn them on Parliament Hill in the Centennial Flame.”
As we marched along Somerset Street people accepted our leaflets and many expressed their support. Two high school students joined us for the rest of the march.
Marching along Laurier Avenue towards the National Defence building, two cars backed up to make way for us, but a third car tried to force its way through. We noticed that it had New York licence plates and the spontaneous cry arose “Yankee Go Home.” The car came to a stop and its occupants showed shock and astonishment. The natives of their most dependable colony were beginning to rise up against them!
After this confrontation, we turned up a flight of steps toward Laurier Street sending our police escort on a three block detour to arrive back just as we grouped in front of the Defence building for a few words from Jim Brown about the army and the militia. He pointed out that Defence Minister James Richardson was systematically decimating the Canadian Forces through budget cuts at a time in our history when armed aggression by the United States is becoming a real possibility.
Jim Brown also asked for a minute of silence for the Canadians who had died fighting in two world wars.
Then we regrouped and marched to the War Memorial on Confederation Square. Two wreaths were laid there in honour of the Canadian and Quebecois revolutionaries who died in battle against imperialism between 1837 and 1839, or, who were hanged by the traitors as in the case of Peter Mathews and Sam Lount. During the wreath laying ceremony the anti-imperialist flag was flanked by the flags of Upper and Lower Canada and a minute of silence followed the laying of each wreath.
Then it was in to the Sparks Street Mall where crowds of people listened as Jim Brown repeated his call for people to join us on Parliament Hill to burn Time and Reader’s Digest. Several high school students joined the march and a young businessman and his wife, members of the Committee for an Independent Canada, came forward carrying their copies of Time, and joined us for the march on Parliament Hill.
We made one last stop, this time in front of the “yankee embassy” which is, significantly, right across from the Parliament Buildings. After we had angrily called our “Yankee Go Home,” beneath the flag of the United States of America, there was a short speech by Jeff Sharpe, chairman of the Progressive Youth Movement, who pointed out that there will not always be an embassy here and that Yankees will not always be welcome in Canada.
While he spoke, our magazines had been thoroughly soaked in lighter fluid and we marched across Wellington Street and gathered around the Centennial Flame. Jim Larwell, chairman of Ottawa C.L.M., stepped into the fountain surrounding the flame and lighted one copy of Time magazine to use as a torch.
Copies of Time were passed out to everyone and each of us had a chance to burn some of it as city and mounted police looked on passively or even sympathetically.
As the last magazine burned to ashes we all came to attention and sang ’Oh Canada’. Anti-imperialist Day 1974 had been a great success!