Peace Arch rally this weekend

Published on Thu, Apr 19, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Peace Arch rally this weekend

By Soren Velice

As law enforcement agencies prepare for the April 21 rally against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), its organizers have been busy assembling a schedule of speakers, music and food to educate, entertain the crowd.

FTAA would extend NAFTA-like regulations, such as rights for corporations to sue government over business-impeding environmental and health standards, from the far reaches of South America to the northernmost boundaries of Canada and Alaska.

“If trade ministers see (a country’s law) as a barrier to trade - or corporate greed - they could wipe that law off the books,”said Whatcom County Labor Council president David Warren. “Protection for workers, health and safety – everything goes by the wayside in the name of profits.

Warren said he understands the need to expand trade in a changing economy, but said such expansion must take into account protection of workers’ and governments’ rights. “There’s a huge piece at stake for working families, union and non-union alike,” he said. “The expansion of NAFTA and free trade has the potential to threaten the sovereignty of this country.”

“We’re not opposed to fair trade, because the world is a vastly changing economy. It’s free trade we have a problem with.”

Organizers say although some radical-sounding organizations will be there, all members of the Peace Arch Coalition have agreed to keep the demonstration peaceful as a stipulation of membership in the group. “We don’t think there’s going to be any trouble,” said Jeff Engels, one of the event’s organizers and Inland Boatmen’s Union representative. “If there is, it’ll be isolated and we’ll take care of it and move on with the program.”

The program starts at 10 a.m. with an introduction by Emily Ryan, and continues until 2 p.m. with short speeches by representatives of groups such as Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, Vancouver and District Labor Council, International Longshore and Warehousing Union and British Columbia’s provincial government. The speaking schedule is peppered with local musicians and introductions to member organizations of the coalition, who organized the rally.

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