It was beautiful – warm, sunny weather – perfect for protesting and for World Environment Day!
Today is the United Nations World Environment Day. The theme this year is “Think – Eat – Save: Consider your Foodprint”.
On the UN web site, it states, “The World Environment Day (WED) celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. Through WED, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.”
I’m trying to be an agent of change – pushing to change the federal government policy from building warships to building a green economy.
At my protest, I greeted everyone who passed by with “Happy Wednesdays against Warships and Happy World Environment Day.”
I’m compelled to protest the planned new warships precisely because they are not good for the environment. The military is generally not good for the environment. I have a pin that I wear on my jacket with the slogan, “Militarism: #1 Polluter.”
A few minutes into my protest, Jeff came. It was nice to see him again. He picked up the sign “Make Love, Art & Music: No Warships” and held it toward the traffic. We talked about current events. I told him know about the Halifax Peace Coalition’s protest for the Guantanamo detainees outside the US Consulate’s office and the recent protest we had for Bradley Manning. Jeff and I also talked about the International Day of Action against Monsanto, agricultural giant. We discussed how Monsanto’s GMOs and chemicals kill bees and butterflies and threaten pollination and the food supply. I mentioned Monsanto and its link with Lockheed Martin – they share board members.
“Monsanto and Lockheed Martin are killing life,” I said. I told Jeff about the contrast with the plans that I have for my sons’ elementary school garden. “I want to create life and grow things.”
As we were talking, a young, tall DND employee approached us.
“Hi,” he said smiling, “I’ve been meaning to come out to talk to you. I have driven by you many times and wanted to stop, but this is the first chance that I have had to meet you and find out what you are doing. I’m Cameron. I work in Public Relations and Communications for DND.”
“Public relations!,” I chuckled and introduced myself, “They must be talking about me inside.”
“Yes, they are,” he admitted, “How’s your protest been going?”
I told Cameron that I have been protesting for seven months federal government’s planned spending of $25 billion on warships.
“But we need the ships,” he argued. “The ships that we have now are old and need to be replaced.”
“Warships aren’t a priority,” I countered. “The federal government should be spending money on our greatest security challenges: climate change and poverty.” I told him all the reasons that I’m opposed to the warships.
“How long have you been working for DND?” I asked.
Cameron told me that he has been working for the department for about three years. Before his current job, he did an undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University taking philosophy and political science. He told me how he is interested in spiritual philosophy – world religions. I didn’t expect to hear him to say that and thought he might be open to my moral arguments against the warships and the military.
“When you were at Dal, did you go to any Centre for Foreign Policy Studies events?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “I remember you. In fact, I was working for DND when Captain Skjerpen of the HMCS Charlottetown came to speak at Dal.”
“Yes, I was at that seminar in 2011!” I exclaimed.
“I know,” he said, “you asked him a tough question about civilian deaths.”
“I also asked about what Canadian special forces were doing on the HMCS Charlottetown,” I added.
Then Cameron, Jeff and I talked about Libya and Canada’s role in the bombing and the naval blockade of the North African country.
Jeff also pointed out that the bombs launched from Canadian warships off the Libyan coast and the bombing of civilian infrastructure, including schools, was a violation of international law.
I told Cameron that Canadians and the Parliament have no oversight of the Canadian navy and the special forces operating overseas and that I was concerned that too much of what the military is doing is illegal.
“I filed an Access to Information request on Captain Skjerpen’s seminar at Dalhousie University. I wanted to know what DND said internally about my questions and comments at the seminar,” I said.
“I suspected that,” Cameron said. “It was my first Access to Information request that I handled.”
“Wow! You processed my ATI!” I exclaimed.
I couldn’t believe we have this connection from Dalhousie and from my Access to Information request filed two and half years ago.
Then, Cameron and I talked about our perspectives on human security. He challenged me that the military makes our country and others more secure. I disagreed and said that I was opposed to the military’s use of weapons and war and that the military really makes things more insecure and that Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq are perfect examples of how the military makes things worse not better. I also argued that Canadians should have a say what the military does and that there should be a new federal white paper on defence and that Canadians should be consulted. The last time the Canadian public had a say in defence policy was back in 1993. Canadian tax dollars pay for the military, so we should have a say.
He seemed to agree with that but added, “We need a military. War is justified sometimes.”
I staunchly disagreed. I told him about the international movement to abolish war and demilitarize. I believed it was possible and that was why I was protesting outside the dockyard every week.
“I understand what you are saying and doing,” he offered with a smile. We talked for half an hour. It was a good discussion and it was incredible to discover how our lives have intersected in the past.
“I have to get back to work,” he said, shook my hand for the second time and left.
Dedication: My protest and post are dedicated to U.S. whistleblower and soldier Bradley Manning. He is the army intelligence analyst who released hundreds of thousands of classified cables to Wikileaks. The massive leak revealed the shocking Collateral Murder video – footage of US soldiers in an Apache helicopter killing innocent civilians and a Reuters journalist in Iraq, the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and the US diplomatic cables. Manning exposed the illegal activities of the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq and the covert machinations of the US state department in other countries.