- Joyce Holmes -
10 December 2002
First let me thank you all for allowing me to represent our new Canadian Network on Cuba at this most inspiring and ambitious conference which saw over 1000 delegates from 43 countries all with one game plan -- NO TO THE FTAA!
I could write at length about each day or even each workshop and each plenary as all reflected a unity of thought. Of special note, though, was a meeting of all Canadians initiated by the CFS student delegation from Québec. I believe there were upward of 140 Canadian delegates. The meetings were held to deal with a proposal to hold a continental social forum between Canada, Mexico and USA. The Canadian delegation agreed with this proposal and a meeting of the three delegations was arranged for Thursday where agreement was reached in principle. The tri-lateral meeting agreed to assign one representative from each country to find three representatives - one each from people's organizations, organized labour and youth -- from each country to continue on as an organizing committee.
The final plenary session unanimously agreed on a Hemispheric Days of Action from September 10 to 14, 2003 around the WTO meetings in Cancún, Mexico. September 10 was singled out as the day for coordinated actions throughout the hemisphere. Leading up to this day, there were several manifestations that would serve to build a momentum - namely Porto Allegré in January, International Women's Day in March, May Day, the April 14th workers day of protest in the Caribbean. All traditional days of workers and peasants celebration and protest are urged to be held on the theme of the anti-FTAA campaign and used to build towards Sept. 10.
All the reports and facts delivered to the conference spoke to the devastating effects the FTAA (known as NAFTA on steroids) would bring to the people's of the America's.
Those of us from Canada shared our own stories about the effects NAFTA has had on our country and speakers from Mexico did likewise. If the US and Canadian Transnationals under the guise of FTAA were to succeed in their quest tototally dominate the Americas, we would see a mass scale depletion of all the natural resources in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. While governments are tantalized by the promise of massive profits from the resources for example in the Latin American countries, the people of those countries would be thrown into extreme poverty. It was pointed out that the working people of Canada and the USA would not be far behind.
These findings were not disputed - the main - the only - topic of discussion was how we will mobilize, how we would educate people about the true face of neo-liberalism. All participating organizations are urged to join together with other groups in their respective countries to start building the anti-FTAA movement and to help assist in the consultation and education process under way. In Canada, this process is being headed up by le Reseau in Québec and Common Frontiers in the rest of the country.
On another note - I took the opportunity to speak with various Canadians representing organizations in labour and community with the view of discovering feasibility of adding their organizations to our Network. Since the campaign to free the Cuban Five was front and centre in our deliberations - it wasn't difficult to connect this struggle with the struggle that brought us all together.
I am very happy to report to you that I represented CNC at a special meeting to honour Georges Govin from Québec (85 years old) for his many years of dedicated work in solidarity with Cuba. You may recall that our own Lee Lorch has also been designated this honour. I understand that Lee will receive his award at a special event at the Cuban Embassy office in Ottawa. I think our being present spoke well to common goals and common plan of the people of English speaking and French speaking Canada - at least to free our comrades who remain in prisons in the United States
So as we head into our next piece of work within the CNC - that is to say - to design our plan as to what we want to accomplish - we clearly must be part of this struggle. Our main focus should continue to be to free the Cuban Five.