I was happy today to unveil my new hot pink signs: “Make Love, Art & Music: A Creative Economy Not Warships” and “♀ Rise against Violence; Rise against Warships.” The signs were made to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the One Billion Rising Global Day of Action. I was also hoping that my provocative signs would get people to think more critically about the difference between an economy based on creativity and love versus one based on war and violence.
A shipyard worker drove past me, rolled down his window, flashed a big smile and said “I like your signs!”
After a few minutes, I had company. Janet who had protested against the F-35s with me on MLK Day in January 2011 showed up. We talked about her research into the Halifax explosion in 1917. She reminded me that the Mont-Blanc was a French munitions ship that collided with a relief ship in the harbour. Janet said that today the risks are much greater because there are nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered warships that come into our harbour that could cause a much worse disaster. Plus, she recently learned that the piloting services in the Halifax Harbour have been reduced, which also increase the risk, so new warships are the last thing that our harbour needs.
Brian also showed up. He started to talk about Muriel Duckworth, a matriarch in the Canadian peace movement who died in 2009 at the age of 100 years old. Brian and Janet remembered when she would demonstrate sometimes alone in the city. “Muriel was so courageous,” they recalled. I remember her protesting with her walker and then later in her wheelchair outside the library as her health deteriorated. She was so committed to peace and social justice and would always show up to rallies and events taking place around the city. It was nice to share memories of Muriel. Muriel’s well-known quote was “War is Stupid.” I know that she would also think that “Warships are stupid.”
We got 9 honks and 1 wave of support and one angry growl from a taxi driver.
Delivering My Cake of Gratitude
After my protest, at 1:00 p.m., I walked down to the shipyard to give a cake that I had made to Karl, the union leader who came to speak to me the week before. It was a heart-shaped cake with pink frosting, fresh strawberries and the word “Thanks” written on it in red icing. I brought the cake and my sign “Make Love, Art & Music: A Creative Economy Not Warships” down to the security gate. At the gate, I propped up my sign to be visible to everyone and asked for Karl. While I was waiting in the security room, an Irving executive came to drop off a brochure about an “Irving scholarship for $1,000” to the guards. The executive said to them, “Your kids can get a scholarship for university.” What a joke, I thought, $1,000 wouldn’t pay for two months of university. I couldn’t say what I was thinking, so instead I said to the guards, “I worked for the Canadian embassy in Norway a few years ago. In Norway, they have free education from primary to PhD, free healthcare, free childcare, a guaranteed annual income, and no domestic poverty. We could have the same in Canada if we kept control of our natural resource wealth like they did and didn’t waste money on warships.” I told them how the Norwegian government and people are wealthy with a surplus fund of $583 billion and no debt because they kept control of Statoil, the country’s oil and gas company. Instead in Canada, we have over $600 billion in national debt and we do not benefit from our natural resource wealth and have no majority shares in any major oil and gas company. Petro-Can was sold off by the federal Liberal and Conservative governments and is now owned by Suncor. I wanted to remind the guards that Irving Ltd. is a wealthy private family business that is getting billions of dollars of our tax dollars from the federal government and hundreds of millions from the provincial government for warships and then Irving is turning around and giving a measly thousand bucks for a university scholarship for employees. If the governments weren’t giving away our tax payer wealth to Irving we could have free tuition for Canadians to go to university. Unfortunately, Karl wasn’t available to accept my cake, so a woman from the office came to take it to the union leader.
February 14, 2013 – Valentine’s Day and One Billion Rising for V-Day
Today is the day of love! Valentine’s Day! It is also One Billion Rising! One billion women rising around the world to say no more violence against women! I decided that I would have an extra protest this week to be in solidarity with this Global Day of Action and to make the links between violence and the warships. I also wanted to have a protest during the busy, after-work traffic so I timed it from 4-5 p.m.
Lucia and I drove down to the shipyard and were so pleased to see two women waiting for us who we didn’t know: Jennifer and Sarah. Jennifer is a student at Saint Mary’s University and Sarah is a student at Mount Saint Vincent University. They mentioned to us that they had been waiting for about 10 minutes before we showed up and they remarked at how it was mostly men leaving the Irving shipyard and the naval dockyard. “This is patriarchy,” I replied pointing to the shipyard and the dockyard behind us. “Building warships are not good for women workers and for women,” I added.
Later, Fiona and Kelly showed up to help with the signs and they stood across the street to get the traffic going the other way. It was so wonderful to have all these women at the protest today and to think about being in unity with sisters around the world striving for peace and equality.
We got 19 honks and 5 waves of support and we had about 8 thumbs down and shouts against us.