Canadians join global peace rally

At least 150,000 Canadians rally for peaceful end to Iraq crisis, joining worldwide day of protest against a U.S.-proposed military strike

At least 150,000 Canadians braved the cold with a fervent message of peace Saturday, joining a worldwide day of protest against war in Iraq.

The largest demonstration was in Montreal, where an estimated 100,000 people marched through the streets, chanting: "No to war, yes to peace" in French and English.

They gathered in front of Complexe Guy Favreau, the city's main federal building and denounced Washington's threats to use force against Baghdad.

The crowd carried banners with messages like: "Stop Bush" and "A village in Texas has lost its idiot." One French sign read "Shut your mouth," with the word "bouche" replaced by "Bush."

Bloc Qubcois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the United States should not act against Iraq without the approval of the United Nations.

In Vancouver, about 20,000 people streamed through the city's core, filling a 10-block stretch of one busy street. In Toronto, about 10,000 protesters rallied outside the U.S. consulate.

Demonstrations were held in at least 60 other towns and cities, including Halifax, Windsor, Fredericton, Edmonton and Victoria. Men, women and children came out even though temperatures were below 20 C in some spots.

Canada's peace movement is building as the U.S. inches closer to launching military action against Iraq, according to NDP Leader Jack Layton.

"There's no question Canadians are beginning to become worried and fearful," Layton said in Toronto. "But more and more of them expressing their views like this opens up the door to some hope."

Toronto resident Elaine Brandt called the worldwide anti-war marches wonderful. She said Saturday's protest is the second one she's been to in two months.

"I am here to voice my opinion against the murder of innocent Iraqi citizens. We cannot continue to deal with political issues with violence. The bottom line is innocent people will pay. And that's what I am against," said Brandt.

"Thirty-five years ago, we were protesting the Vietnam War that was a waste of time and a waste of innocent lives," said another woman in the crowd. "And here we are again."

Some voiced support for Washington as it threatens to use force to disarm Iraq.

Patricia Persovsky went to the Toronto rally wearing a pro-U.S. sign: "May God Bless America 9-11 was the smoking gun boys." She said Canada should back the United States in its war on terrorism.

"And I'd like to know where the naturalized Canadian citizens are the ones that gloriously holiday in Vegas, Florida, North Carolina...they enjoy America's Disneyland why am I the only one here with a sign?" Persovsky asked.

She said she's ashamed of Canadians and the Canadian government for not supporting the United States.

About 2,000 people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, chanting and banging drums. The protest began across the Ottawa River in Hull.

In Fredericton, N.B., more than 300 people turned out in front of City Hall. Chanting "wage peace" and "war is not the answer", the crowd stopped traffic to march through the city's downtown.

Protester Bridget Grant said the message is simple: war is not a solution.

"Canada should not support the U.S. in this war... we should work through the United Nations if possible," said Grant.

Organizers plan to hold a peace vigil in front of Fredericton's City Hall every Saturday afternoon until the threat of war passes.