U of C students protest WTO in Seattle

By Cameron Baughen

This week, thousands of protestors, including University of Calgary students, will speak out against negative effects of globalization in front of delegates of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, Washington. The protesters represent a wide gamut of interests, including environmentalists, social activists, union supporters, and agriculturists.

The WTO is an organization set up by the General Agreement of Tariff and Trades and was formed to promote free trade of goods between member nations. For many critics, it has become a vehicle for corporations to control democracies.

“The main reason is to voice our opposition to the World Trade Organization,” said U of C student Alphie Primeau. “The Liberal government has been completely silent on what’s going on, so basically we feel we have no other options to voice our opinions. We physically have to go down there and be there when these trade discussions are going on.”

Among the students’ concerns are the detrimental effects of globalization to Third World Nations and the loss of Canada’s rights to protect its resources. The students believe these problems arise from WTO policy and are compounded with agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement. As well, they believe that a lack of opposition will now further WTO agreements, having serious consequences on the federal and provincial governments’ ability to pass environmental and social laws, especially those deemed detrimental to business interests.

“Everything [in the WTO mandate] is defined in terms of profit,” said student Wesley Morgan. “And it’s important to start a movement which says that there are more important things than profit, such as democracy, sustainability, basic human dignity. Those things come first and it’s important that those are put on the agenda and that is sort of the broader thing we are fighting for. The WTO is the specific instance of that and the WTO is an integral part of that global economic order.”

Of the students going to Seattle, 17 received funding from the Students’ Union. These students are members of the Revolutionary Anarchist Kollective and the Development Studies Club. In total, the SU allocated over $850 towards the students’ travel expenses.

“The Students’ Union does not have an official stance on the protests,” said SU Vice-president Operations and Finance Amanda Affonso. “However, we believe it is important to fund students to allow them to participate if only to provide them with an opportunity to enhance their university experience.”

The main protests will be completed by Friday, so all the students who received SU funding plan to be back by the weekend. When asked if they were nervous about police involvement, they said yes.

“There is a very real possibility that we could be pepper sprayed or tear gassed or, God forbid, shot by rubber bullets,” said Morgan. “But once this goes through it is going to be a lot harder to stop.”