Feb 25

February 20, 2013 – Week #11

It was cold, very windy, and pounding down freezing rain. I didn’t want to be outside protesting, but I made a commitment, so I had to stand outside the shipyard. I was alone today in this terrible weather. It made me think about extreme weather that will become more frequent with catastrophic global warming we are facing. Humanity is at critical juncture now.

I thought about the big climate justice rally organized by 350.org that was held a few days earlier in Washington D.C. On February 17, the largest climate protest in U.S. history was held outside the White House. Approximately 50,000 protesters gathered to tell President Obama to take action on climate change and to not allow the Keystone XL pipeline that would take Alberta tar sands oil to Texas refineries. Watch this Al Jazeera’s coverage of this important rally.

I believe we have a choice at this juncture that we are at: we are either going to spend our time and resources trying to live harmoniously on a sustainable planet or we are going to kill each other on a dying planet. Warships lead us on down the wrong path.

I got 5 honks and 1 finger.

Trip to Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s Office in New Glasgow and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong’s Office in Truro

I knew that Parliament was not sitting this week, so I expected that the Members of Parliament would be back in their ridings. It’s also budget time and the federal politicians are seeking economic input from their constituents. On Minister MacKay’s web site, he claims to be “inviting comments on how to further improve the effectiveness of government spending.” MP Armstrong wants to “engag[e] Canadians in discussions about their priorities and ideas for achieving the best use of taxpayers’ dollars in the lead-up to the 2013 budget.”

So, a good opportunity to visit Minister of Defence Peter MacKay at his office in New Glasgow and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong at his office in Truro!

I prepared and delivered open letters to Minister MacKay and MP Armstrong about my opposition to the $25 billion warships. My letters listed my economic priorities: education, the environment, health care, affordable housing, municipal infrastructure and First Nations’ communities. I also explained how our country could put more Canadians to work and strengthen our economy by greening it.I reminded them that our country’s national debt has increased to $606 billion and the annual deficit is now $26 billion. One way to reduce the national debt and the annual deficit is to not spend money on things that our country doesn’t need, like warships,and that are not priorities for Canadians. The letters are posted on my demilitarize.ca web site.

At Peter MacKay Office_2_sm

I drove up to New Glasgow with friends Allan and Dawn. It was great to have their company and their help with the signs. When we arrived in New Glasgow, three media people were waiting for us. After the media interviews, we went inside MacKay’s office. I talked with one of his staff members who told me that MacKay was out of the country. I presented her with my open letter and explained my opposition to the warship contract and my concern about military spending. I also reminded her that I was at the office three years ago to protest the F-35s and that I was proven right by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Auditor-General and KMPG that the stealth fighters were a financial risk to taxpayers. I promised her that I would be right again about the warships – they would turn out to be an even bigger boondoggle. I also gave her copies of two petitions – one with the signatures of almost 500 Canadians who want the federal government to redirect military spending to tackle urgent environmental and social needs and the other one petition with the signatures of almost 300 Canadians who are opposed to the federal government spending money on new stealth fighters. After our meeting in the office, we went outside to protest along East River Road. I was so heartened to receive quite a few honks and waves (11 in total) and no negativity. People in New Glasgow understand that warships aren’t good for rural communities!


Then, we drove up to Truro to meet with Conservative MP Scott Armstrong. Armstrong was in his office at the time, but refused to come out to meet us briefly in the lobby. We were so pleased that a radio station showed up for an interview. Inside the office again, I presented our open letter to his assistant who seemed distracted and uninterested. We went back outside to the Willow Street sidewalk to protest for a while and I was happy to have a few more honks (7 honks and waves of support, no negativity. People in Truro get it!). We tried again to meet with Armstrong but he still would not meet us. Somebody leaving Armstrong’s office, asked about our signs and told us that she was a Reformer (former Reform Party member) and that Canada should have warships to protect its sovereignty in the Arctic. I told her that we don’t need warships and that we have international law and diplomacy under the UN to solve any sovereignty disputes. It is in fact what Canada is using right now to solve our dispute with Russia in the Arctic Ocean. She disparaged the UN. I figured that if she was a Reformer that she would also be a right-wing evangelical. So, as we were departing, I told her that I didn’t believe that Jesus would use warships.

At Scott Armstrong Office_1_sm

Feb 18

February 13, 2013 – Week #9

Janet and Brian_smI 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

Rising in Halifax

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.

Feb 10

February 6, 2013 – Week #8

union-worker-thumb (1)Just as I arrived with my signs, a car drove up. The driver rolled down his window and asked me what I was doing there. I told him that I was protesting the $25 billion warship contract. He shook his head angrily, swore and drove off. Then more cars drove by giving me the finger. For the first time, a driver in a military uniform gave me the finger too. My weekly protest was not off to a good start.

Then, an hour later, just as I was about to pack up my signs and leave, a tall guy came and introduced himself to me.

“Hi, I’m Karl. I’m president of the union. They have been talking about you in there and I wanted to meet you and find out what you are doing,” he said smiling.

Karl Risser is the President of CAW/Marine Workers Federation Local 1.

I was so surprised and pleased to meet him. “Thanks for coming. I’ve wanted to meet you. I’ve been protesting the warship contract here every Wednesday for the last couple of months. I have a web site and a blog,” I replied. I told him that I have been opposed to the new warships since the federal government announced the Canada First Defence Strategy in 2008 and the plans to spend $490 billion on the military over the next 20 years.

Risser asked me why I was opposed to the warships. I told him that the country doesn’t need them – we are not going to be engaging in any naval combat and that our greatest security challenges are climate change and poverty. I was shocked that he readily agreed with me! He asked me what I think they should be building. I said all those construction workers and electricians in there could be building affordable housing, weatherizing homes and buildings, installing renewable energy technologies, expanding mass transit, and fixing municipal infrastructure. He agreed as well and then asked me, “What about ferries?” Yes, I said ferries! I hadn’t thought of that before. Risser said that the workers had  been talking about building ferries and light rail for years but those plans got shelved once the federal government announced the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy in 2010 (which comes out of the Canada First Defence Strategy).

Risser then told me some other interesting and important things:

  • There is a report that was done a while ago about the Irving Shipyard building ferries for the Atlantic Provinces and a high speed ferry in the Halifax Harbour.
  • He said that some of the provinces are leasing ferries from Germany instead of having them built in Canada.
  • When Prime Minister Harper came to Halifax to make an announcement about the shipbuilding program in January 2012, his staff asked that the union flags and banners be removed. Risser insisted that the guys keep their flags and banners visible during the press conference.
  • He believes that Prime Minister Harper does not really care about the shipyard workers and the union – the contract is really not about improving their employment situation.
  • He said the situation for workers at the shipyard isn’t that good but that Irving is doing alright.
  • He believes that the highest number of workers that will be needed will be 2500 workers by 2020, which is much lower than the federal and provincial governments predict.
  • He expects that Foreign Temporary Workers will be needed, will come from poor countries, and will be paid low, non-union wages.
  • He expects that the bulk of the jobs and money will go to Lockheed Martin (which is the biggest weapons manufacturer in the world!)  in the US for the technical systems for the warships.
  • He said that Lockheed Martin is at the shipyard all the time. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, the shipyard is currently working on retrofits for seven warships to help them last another 20 years. So, he doesn’t really think new warships are needed.
  • He expects that Ontario and Quebec will provide some of the steel, but that the major technical systems will be imported from the US by likely Lockheed Martin.
  • CAW supports green jobs and he agrees with me that a National Green Job Strategy would be good.
  • He knows about Germany’s national retrofit program and renewable energy progress. See the Green Economy Coalition web site.
  • He talked about the possibility of a merger between his union the CAW and another big national union that could lead to national general strikes someday and give labour more power.
  • His union – the CAW – is supporting the IDLE NO MORE movement and attended the solidarity march across the bridge two weeks ago.
  • He believes the warships are part of Harper’s militaristic agenda.
  • The only way Harper will change course is if Canadians push the government to change.
  • Risser said more people need to tell the Harper government that they don’t want warships for the federal government to stop the National Shipbuilding plan.
  • He asked me how we can wake up Canadians about Harper’s agenda.

I assured Risser that I’m not against the union and the workers. I want workers to have meaningful, good paying jobs and I want our province to be prosperous but that neither will happen with the warship contract. I said to him that I think the labour unions should have stood up to Harper and said tax dollars should not be wasted on warships because they aren’t a priority. We should be taking action on climate change and poverty not preparing for war. I told him about Van Jones’ Green for All program in the U.S. that puts people to work in the green economy and that there is great potential for this in Canada. More jobs could be created in a green economy than a war economy. I let him know that I have worked closely with union allies in the past on peace issues, such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on events and actions for Palestine. He replied at the end that he agreed with most of what I said.

Risser is a very friendly and down-to-earth person. I learned a lot and enjoyed speaking with him very much. We shook hands three times during our conversation.

Finally, my protest today was dedicated to Rosa Parks, the black woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person and helped launch the Alabama city bus strike in 1955. She was born on February 4, 1913. Parks said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Watch this hour-long February 2013 radio documentary about her Rosa Park’s incredible rebellious life on Democracy Now!

Note: I have a special Valentine’s action for this week’s “Wednesday against Warships” protest that will take place from 12:00-1:00 p.m. on February 13 outside the shipyard. I will also be joining One Billion Rising, which is the Global Day of Action to Stop Violence against Women, on Valentine’s Day (V-Day) February 14 and will be protesting the warships from 4:00-5:00 p.m. I encourage you to join me on both days! See my web site for details: www.demilitarize.ca

I got 8 honks of support, 3 waves of support, 4 fingers, 3 thumbs down.

Feb 05

January 30, 2013 – Week #7

I was alone on this cold, windy day. My fingers were freezing and my arms were getting tired holding up the signs in the strong wind.

About 30 minutes into my protest, I noticed a shipyard worker standing across the street waiting for the crosswalk light to change. The worker was looking at me intently and smiling. When the walk sign flashed, the worker hurried across the crosswalk and said, “I agree with you. The warships are a bad idea. It is f*%cked in there. It’s a mess. The downtime. They don’t know what they are doing. It’s bad for workers but Irving is doing alright.” I told the shipyard worker that I was glad for the support and said to check out my web site. The worker replied, “I will. I can’t wait to get out of there. It’s f*%cked.”

Just as I was about to leave, a Lockheed Martin truck drove into the shipyard. Lockheed Martin is an American company and is the world’s largest weapons manufacturer. Lockheed Martin’s recent Littoral Combat Ship for the US Navy has been a total failure just like their F-35 Stealth Fighters. Read the recent reports about Lockheed’s wasteful US warship program. Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the Canadian combat vessel program will also be doomed to failure. My motto is “If Lockheed Martin is involved, it’s a lemon.”

I got 5 honks and 2 waves of support and 1 thumbs down.

Trip to Ottawa January 25-28, 2013


I had to go to Ottawa for a Canadian Voice of Women for Peace board retreat on January 26 and 27, so decided to take the opportunity to bring my warship protest straight to Parliament Hill. Before I left, I contacted some peace friends and the media in the capital.

On Friday, January 25, I got off the plane and headed straight for the hill for my protest. To my surprise, Global TV came for a short interview. A local peace activist, Koozma Tarasoff, who I had met the CANSEC arms show protest a few years earlier, joined me. A family from Calgary and a few young people stopped to talk to me and expressed support. Then, Koozma took photos and helped me deliver my letters right to the leaders of the four political parties (Conservatives, NDP, Liberals and Greens). I went into the House of Commons and asked to meet with a representative from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair’s office and a woman came down to the lobby to accept my letter, said thanks and gave me her card. Later, a woman from Liberal Leader Bob Rae’s office came down to accept my letter and left. Both of these women listened to me explain my opposition to the warships, but they did not ask any questions or say anything else. I went to the Confederation Building to deliver my letter to the office of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Her assistant came down to the lobby and listened, asked questions, talked for several minutes, gave me her card, and then offered us passes to Question Period on Monday, which we accepted. Finally, we took my last letter the Prime Minister’s office in the Langevin Building. Noone from Harper’s office would come down to the lobby. So, the Security Guard in the building told me to leave and put my letter into the Prime Minister’s drop box outside the building (11 Metcalfe).

Koozma on the Hill against warships

On Monday, January 28, I attended the IDLE NO MORE rally on Parliament Hill with members of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. There were hundreds of people at the rally and a lot of media despite the very cold, blustery weather.  I brought my sign “IDLE NO MORE: Invest in First Nations not Warships: No Bill C-45”. Some NDP and Liberal MPs came to the rally to show their support and speak. Afterward, I went up to the several MPs to say that if they were serious about First Nations and poverty, they would not squander $25 billion on warships that our country doesn’t need.

Later, I went into the House of Commons for Question Period. There are signs inside the building that state “Public disturbances are not allowed.” As I was going down the hall to get to my seating area, I passed MP Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Public Works and the Status of Women, I said to her quietly that If her government is serious about First Nations issues, they wouldn’t be wasting money on warships. The government should care about the well-being of Canadians not warships.” Ambrose looked irritated and just said OK. A security guard then escorted me to the gallery. I was wearing a sweatshirt with my “Sink the Ship Strategy” t-shirt underneath. At the end of Question Period, when the MPs starting rising from their seats, I took off my sweatshirt and stood up in the gallery so that my t-shirt message was visible.

At the Ottawa airport in the evening, I noticed that Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons manufacturer, has a big poster in the departure area showing advertising a warship with the caption “World of Trust: Halifax Class Modernization Combat Systems Integration.” What warship propaganda! I thought. Lockheed Martin absolutely cannot be trusted!

Lockheed ship ad_2