Shouting: “Shame, Shame!” and “Arrest Dick Cheney,” raucous protesters shoved and grabbed at people who paid US$500 apiece to hear former US vice president Dick Cheney speak in Canada.
Some 300 activists protested against Cheney’s arrival late on Monday in Vancouver, accusing him of authorizing torture during former US president George W. Bush’s war on terror and calling on Canada to arrest him.
“I am surprised and disappointed that he was allowed into Canada,” Gail Davidson of Lawyers Against the War, a group opposed to the US-led invasion of Iraq, said on Monday, as the crowd screamed: “Arrest the murderer!”
“Canada is not supposed to be a safe haven for people who have committed acts of torture,” opposition lawmaker Don Davies said. “This is an embarrassment on the world stage, and it’s an embarrassment domestically.”
The New York-based Human Rights Watch had earlier called on Canada to arrest and investigate Cheney over the alleged torture of prisoners in the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens, obligates Canada to investigate Cheney to comply with the Convention Against Torture,” the group said on Saturday.
Cheney was invited to Vancouver by the Bon Mot Book Club, a private company with bank, university and media sponsors, to talk about his new book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir.
Bon Mot owner Leah Costello defended the invitation to Cheney, saying that he had the right to speak about his eight years in the US administration.
“It’s important to maintain an open society that has open dialogue, and the freedom to speak,” she said.
Costello turned down Agence France-Presse’s request to attend the event or talk to Cheney because Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, a sponsor of the event, had an exclusive right to an interview.
“It’s irresponsible the way they throw these words around,” the Globe quoted Cheney as saying, in response to critics who accused him of approving torture.