Occupy Canada protest hits Kelowna

Their stories were varied, their demands different, but demonstrators drawn to Kerry Park on Saturday were united by their desire to decry the financial inequality and corporate greed they thought was eating away at society.

After being inspired by a nearly month-long movement south of the border, the Occupy Canada campaign took off in cities across the country this weekend.

The grassroots protests have Canadians expressing their disenchantment with governments, which they say defend the interests of the elite and not those of the masses or "the 99 per cent."

In Kelowna, the message was the same. Crowds of varying sizes gathered throughout the day to listen to speakers decry corporate greed, the food chain, homelessness and poverty.

The discussion ranged from better safeguarding of the environment to voicing frustration with the economy and creating steady employment.

People carried signs saying "The 1% screwed up" and "time for change" as well as those asking for free education and the cancelling of student debt.

Karen is one of those students who wants a better deal.

"I am the 99%. I had to go back to school because jobs were scarce and I needed to set myself apart. In the corporate world I saw that it's not about lies being told, it's about reality being shaped into a particular idea."

Nationwide, the demonstrators were as varied as the demands they voiced. Occupations in Halifax, Montreal and Toronto featured a mixed bag of students, seniors, families with young children, union representatives and even some pets.

While some in the crowds covered their faces with masks, the majority sported smiles as they chanted refrains like "We are the 99 per cent."

In Halifax, demonstrators crowded into a park in the city's downtown, setting up tents, waving union banners, hoisting hand-drawn placards and talking politics.

Joy Woolfrey, an international development consultant, stood in a stiff wind holding a banner that read 'Women for Peace.' She said she believed people were compelled to come because of deep-seated inequities in the distribution of wealth.

There was a similar scene in Montreal where hundreds gathered at Victoria Square in the city's financial district.

The site was dotted with a half-dozen tents and coolers brought by those planning a long occupation.

In Winnipeg, dozens of people came out for the occupation demonstration.

Other Canadian cities to see protests included Calgary, Vancouver, Fredericton, Moncton, N.B.; Guelph, Windsor, Kingston and London in Ontario; Nanaimo, Courtenay, Duncan, Kamloops and Nelson in B.C.; Lethbridge, Alta., Regina and Ottawa.

They argued the gap between rich and poor in Canada is growing faster than in the U.S., they decried poverty, tar-sands pollution and exploitation of Aboriginal people.

Despite hundreds of arrests, the protests across the U.S. have been largely peaceful, and those involved in planning the Canadian demonstrators are insisting they, too, will be non-violent.

--With files from the Canadian Press

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