Protest group raises awareness over ‘imminent’ threat of war with Iran

Research leads local roofer to take action

Crazy for Peace protesters took their message to the steps of the Manitoba legislature. Ethan Cabel

It all started with one man’s obsession with United States foreign policy. It culminated in a three-day lovers’ quarrel and a rain-soaked march through downtown Winnipeg on Saturday, Aug. 28 to raise awareness over the “imminent threat” of war with Iran.
After all, it never rains but it pours.

Crazy for Peace, a small group that organized the march through the volunteer-based Peace Alliance Winnipeg website, formed because of the rigorous research and passion of a 60-year-old Chilean-Canadian roofer, Hugo Lopez, and his pacifist wife, Christina Petriuk, 41, a University of Winnipeg graduate and former librarian.

In the time between the end of March and the beginning of August this year, Lopez spent countless hours on his laptop, compiling information he believed to be indicative of a war between the United States and Iran.

“The U.S. wants to invade Iran ... all the signs point to that,” said Lopez, who believes that the Canadian government would follow the American lead, as they did in the Afghanistan conflict.

To support his claims that war is imminent, Lopez cites the growing trade sanctions on Iran, media reports of an Iranian nuclear threat that he finds reminiscent of reports about Iraq in 2003, “tough talk” by U.S. secretary of state Hilary Clinton and rumours that U.S and Israeli naval ships are within striking distance of Iran.

To his wife’s chagrin, it was all Lopez would talk about for months.

“I told him, there is no war in this house,” said Petriuk.

You can be against fundamentalism and change things but you cannot change people’s minds with war – war is destruction.

Mojtaba Safari, Iranian immigrant and University of Manitoba student

Petriuk’s frustration resulted in Lopez leaving for a three-day stay at his brother’s house from Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, until finally Petriuk called and eventually offered her husband the support he had been looking for.

That support resulted in five days of protest in front of the Manitoba legislature between Aug. 24 and 28. On Aug. 28, Petriuk and Lopez arranged a police escort, gathered together a small group of relatives and peace activists and marched through the downtown brandishing a banner that warned of an imminent, global-scale war.

The protest attracted a diverse group of people.

“The threat (of war) is real,” said Mojtaba Safari, a 25-year-old University of Manitoba student who moved to Canada from Iran two years ago.

Safari was born in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 and witnessed the impact of the war’s aftermath on his country and his family, including the loss of relatives and the impact of dislocation, until he came to Canada to pursue a master’s degree and a PhD in electrical engineering. Two years after moving to Canada, he has embraced freedom of speech and pursued a pacifist philosophy.

“You can be against fundamentalism and change things but you cannot change people’s minds with war – war is destruction,” he said.

There are others, however, who believe that a war is far from imminent and that a crackdown on Iran, through sanctions or minor military action, is justified.

“Nobody really knows for sure (whether war is imminent),” said Paul Michaels, communications director of the Canada-Israel Committee, a lobby group for positive relations between Canada and Israel.

“The threat is real – Canada has taken a very strong stand against the Iranian threat ... those activities, both economic sanctions and military action, can hit Iran where it really matters.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 9, 2010)

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