Protest at torch run

By Paul Turenne, WINNIPEG SUN


Seal hunt protesters set up a giant inflatable seal — which they nicknamed Sparky — at the corner of Broadway and Donald Street at noon on Jan. 5, 2010. The protesters are following the Olympic Torch route across Canada to spread their message. (Paul Turenne/WINNIPEG SUN)


The arrival of the Olympic Torch in Manitoba yesterday presented the perfect opportunity for some people to catch the world’s eye and shine the spotlight on their causes.

Four protesters representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Massachusetts-based International Fund for Animal Welfare inflated a giant seal on a downtown Winnipeg boulevard yesterday to express their opposition to Atlantic Canada’s annual seal hunt.

The protesters have been following the Olympic Torch across Canada and will continue along its route to Vancouver, but say they are not protesting the Olympics, just piggybacking on the torch run’s publicity.

“With the Olympic torch coming through town, all eyes are on Canada, so there’s an increased responsibility for Canada to set a positive example,” said David Shirk, a PETA organizer.

Shirk said raising the issue during the Olympics is similar to the human rights protests that took place when the summer games were held in Beijing, China, in 2008.

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Chief Terry Nelson, who took part in a demonstration near Hadashville as the torch entered Treaty 1 territory yesterday, also said his protest was not against the Olympics or its athletes, but about reminding the world Canada is not a perfect place.

Nelson said almost 100 people from bands across southern Manitoba attended the demonstration, which was meant to ensure the hundreds of aboriginal women who have been murdered or gone missing in Western Canada over the years are not ignored.

Nelson said the social and economic conditions that led many of the murdered and missing women into a vulnerable lifestyle are linked to Canada’s failure to live up to its treaties and its refusal to change the Indian Act.

He suggested torch run organizers should expect similar protests throughout the rest of Western Canada.

A small group of protesters were also downtown last night, although it was unclear at press time exactly what issue they were trying to draw attention to.

paul.turenne@sunmedia.ca

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