OTTAWA – Thousands of protesters marched on Parliament Tuesday, rallying against President Bush's (search) visit and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Twelve people were arrested after scuffling with police on the fringes of the peaceful demonstration.
Making his first official visit to Canada, Bush was greeted by many placards and signs along his motorcade route to a meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin (search), including a truck that was emblazoned with the phrase "Bush is a war criminal."
Much the anger seemed focused on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Canadian government decided against sending troops to Iraq — a position that strained U.S.-Canadian ties but drew overwhelming support from Canadians.
"Canada is not against America. We're totally against Bush," explained Fredric White, a 40-year-old who works for an entertainment company.
Organizers said the march drew at least 13,000 people, many of whom came from Ontario and Quebec, but police put the figure at closer to 5,000.
Bush was also met by protests against the war in his last foreign trip as thousands demonstrated in Santiago, Chile, 11 days ago during a economic summit of Pacific region leaders.
The Canadian protesters also voiced disapproval over the U.S. ban on the import of Canadian cattle following the discovery of mad cow disease (search) on a Canadian farm as well as U.S. efforts to get Canada involved in the continental missile defense program. Martin has promised an open parliamentary debate on whether Canada should join the missile shield effort.
Joe Cressy, a rally organizer and student at Carlton University in Ottawa, said the protests were not only meant for Bush, but also were intended to send "a message to our prime minister that he should not support Bush's policies."