When Dalhousie University in Halifax started considering a project in Indonesia, a group of local people formed the Nova Scotia East Timor Group. The group, led by Bill Owen, Audrey Samson and Ross Shotton, undertook a letter-writing campaign to the Canadian government, the first time Ottawa felt compelled to respond to letters from the public. Ten years after the 1975 invasion of East Timor, the NSETG was instrumental in the Canadian component of an Amnesty International to raise awareness about human rights in East Timor. Under Indonesian rule, AI reported, some 200,000 Timorese had died.
Bill Owen (crouching) at NSETG literature table and banner showing, Halifax
Photograph of East Timor Alert Network vigil outside the Indonesian Consulate in Toronto, date unknown [1990s]. Vigils took place on a weekly basis for some years in the 1990s outside the office building housing the Indonesian Consulate at 425 University Avenue, Toronto. The Consulate later moved to its own building on Jarvis Street.
Each year, a Canadian member of Parliamentarians for East Timor travelled to take part in international testimonies to the UN Decolonization Committee. -Dan Heap MP at the United Nations with José Luis Guterres of Fretilin and Charles Scheiner of ETAN/US
Canadian support for economic development in East Timor began in 1990 with a small grant to ETADEP, which the Canadian government considered to be the only true Timorese NGO. The most significant early player was the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which provided both funding and human rights support, especially for the Peace and Justice Office created by Bishop Belo. -Jess Agustin of Development and Peace with Bishop Belo in Dili, 1999
In Canada, solidarity activists rallied to try to make a “citizen’s arrest” of Indonesian president Suharto at the 1997 APEC summit, picking up on the example of Timorese activists who had put their country’s struggle at the centre of the 1994 APEC summit in Jakarta. -Bella Galhos presents media with photos of torture in East Timor outside the APEC summit, Vancouver, 1997 (Photo: Elaine Briere)