A growing global movement of citizens decrying corporate greed and social inequality has reached Kamloops, with a small but passionate group pledging to camp out indefinitely in hope of sparking change.
The seven campers were part of a larger march through the downtown on Saturday that coincided with other peaceful events across Canada.
These, in turn, were inspired by the month-long Occupy Wall Street protest that continues south of border in the United States.
"Everyone can relate to it," Kaye Castleman, 60, of 100 Mile House, said of the movement's growing popularity. "People are homeless. People are jobless. There's no conscience about that."
Castleman, Brayden Stephenson and Jason Froehlich are camped out with about a half dozen others across from the Spirit Square on Mackenzie Avenue in North Kamloops.
The group has no plans to disperse anytime soon. The plan is to spread a peaceful message that change is needed in order to bring equality to society, said Castleman, who is a small business owner.
She's followed Occupy Wall Street since the beginning and believes it's one of the most inspiring things that happened on the planet.
"I was riveted by the whole idea of people getting together and rising up against the corruption and unlimited greed that's destroying our culture," said Castleman. "There is only the acquisition of more wealth for those in the elite sector."
The campers joined about 150 people for a rally outside the downtown library on Saturday. Cam MacQuarrie said there was a mix of people from young children to seniors who voiced a variety of grievances.
He said Sunday the Occupy movement isn't focused on one specific thing, but the themes of corporate greed and political unfairness are common.
"There are so many issues we are disappointed with. The roster of issues is massive," said MacQuarrie, a graphic designer.
A major concern is how big business seems to be driving government policy when government policy should be decided by and for the people, he said.
The march took the group through the farmer's market and along Seymour Street. MacQuarrie said the marchers received some positive honks from passing cars but the majority of passersby looked at the group in disgust and referred to them as dirty hippies.
The campers received a much warmer welcome, including gifts of drinks and oatmeal for breakfast. Stephenson said the hard working, middle class are often more generous than the wealthy.
"They seem the most generous, the most down to earth," he said.
The demands being voiced under the umbrella of the Occupy Canada movement are numerous. While many have been calling for a stronger economy and more jobs, there have also been demands for stronger environmental standards, less privatization of health care and opposition against local projects.
The demonstrators are just as varied as their demands. Occupations in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver have featured a melange of youth, seniors, activists, families with young children, union representatives and even some pets.
A Canadian observer pointed out that despite its vague and sometimes contradictory demands, the Occupy movement called attention to the volatility of the global economy.
"I take this movement quite seriously," said Queen's University finance professor Louis Gagnon. "I think it's an opportunity for us all to think very, very hard about what is happening."
Given Canada's stronger financial record, in comparison to the United States and debt-ridden parts of Europe, Gagnon didn't expect the protests to have the same traction as they could south of the border.
Still, he warned that Canada would not be immune to the economic problems plaguing other countries in the age of global trading and said governments and corporations would do well to listen to the most basic concerns of those protesting.
"It will not take very long for all of this to hit our shores," he said. "There's no need for a brand new economic system, nor do we have any alternative, but we need collectively to reflect on what is going on and seek to make improvements."
As protesters vowed to make their voices heard loud and clear when markets opened Monday, Gagnon said he thought political leaders, banks and business leaders would be paying attention.
"You can't ignore people, you have to be sensitive to the issues with which they are confronted, especially at this juncture because we are having difficulty, the economies of the world are showing signs of further weakness."
© Kamloops Daily News