Mar 27

March 20, 2013 – Week #15

After reading the newspaper this morning, I’m mad. The front page headline is “Irving payroll leans on taxpayers.” The province will pay up to 8.5% of salaries for the (war)shipbuilding project as part of the $260 million loan to Irving. Our poor province with so many Nova Scotians struggling to make ends meet is going to subsidize a wealthy private family company. It only gets worse. In the Business section is the headline “German firm eyes work on ship contract.” The article discusses how representatives of the German Diesel & Turbo manufacturer met with local companies to partner on the (war)shipbuilding program at a daylong ACOA-sponsored event at the convention centre in Halifax. The week before Lockheed Martin had a similar event to attract partners for (war)ship contracts again sponsored by ACOA. It infuriates me to read how the corporate elite are going to enrich themselves like this with our tax dollars to build warships and this is all greased by the tax-payer funded ACOA!

With the snowstorm the night before, I didn’t think anyone would join me at a cold and snowy protest. Good thing I thought because I was still grumpy from reading the Herald. But within a few minutes, Janet came to protest with me. Janet has a great, wry sense of humour and always makes me laugh. Then Kelly and Heather came too and they are so positive. Kelly cheerfully wished one of the navy personnel who walked past us a “Happy Wednesdays against Warships Day” – I loved that. I’m going to say that every week now. It really warmed my heart and made me feel better to be with these women today.

Though we chatted and laughed, we also talked sadly about the 10th anniversary of the illegal U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. We will never forget Canada’s participation in this supreme interational war crime. Canada’s former Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk commanded American troops in that devastated country. Canadian warships supported the U.S. wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Janet said “there should be thousands of people on the street today like there was in 2003.” I agreed. We also talked about the letter that Tomas Young, the dying U.S. veteran who became disabled while serving in Iraq, wrote to Bush and Cheney on the 10th anniversary. Read the story here: “The Last Letter.”  

Tomas ended his letter by writing, “My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours [Bush & Cheney] will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

The former Liberal government and all those Canadian military personnel who served in Iraq need their day of reckoning and to beg for forgiveness. Justice for Iraq.

Another record of support – 41 honks and waves. Only 5 fingers and 3 angry scowls and head shakes

Mar 20

March 13, 2013 – Week #14

It is gray and cloudy. I’m alone but I’m not lonely at the start of my protest. I’m thinking about two incredibly courageous women who I met in New York during my trip to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women conference last week: Suzuyo from Japan and Nelly from Honduras.

I should explain that I was invited to participate on a panel entitled “Confronting Military Violence: Challenging Militarized Security” organized by the Canadian Voice of Women as part of a side event to the UN’s annual women’s conference. The theme for this year’s conference is “The Elimination of Violence Against Women.” On the panel, I spoke about the research that I had done on sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian military.

VOW Panel_1

After the panel, during the Q&A period, Suzuyo stood up and told us about the 50-year struggle to close down the U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan. Her organization is the Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence. She described the ongoing sexual assaults by U.S. servicemen against Japanese women. She asked “How do we close down U.S. military bases and reduce the military worldwide?” Her question is one we must all answer – how do we demilitarize and stop this violence? Later in the lobby, she came up to me and handed me a 42-page document detailing all the crimes, mostly rapes and murders of Japanese women, committed by the U.S. military personnel in Okinawa since 1945. Her persistence and pursuit of justice for the women of Japan is so inspiring. We shared our hopes for a world without militarism, hugged, and took a picture together.

With Suzuyo

The other woman who I can’t forget meeting in NY is Nelly. She is with Dreamweavers and Women in Resistance, two social justice organizations in Honduras. She was one of the presenters on a panel entitled “Violence, Economics and War.” Through a translator, Nelly talked about the deterioration of human rights in Honduras since the military coup in 2009 that installed the right-wing government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. She described the prevalence of armed soldiers on the streets and the increase of weapons and violence across the country. Nelly listed prominent journalists and activists who have been killed over the past four years, because of their criticism of the Lobo government. She said it was transnational corporations seeking natural resources that are colluding with the undemocratic national government against the impoverished Honduran people. She also described the U.S. military base in Honduras that has been built on the pretext of the war on drugs. However, Nelly argued that drugs, corruption, and violence have risen despite the base. The U.S. has not brought stability and security to the country, exactly the opposite. She said there is a resource war now in Honduras and it is women and the earth who are bearing the burden of this war.

Nelly speaking

As Nelly spoke, I cried and couldn’t stop. I thought about the Nova Scotia Environmental Network interns (Jackie, Leigh, Sophia, & Becky) who I had working in Tegucigalpa, the capital on Honduras, many years ago with the courageous Dr. Juan Almendares of COHAPAZ. The interns reported back to me about the pollution caused by Canadian mining companies, the militarism, the poverty, and the brave resilience and resistance of the Honduran people as things were slowly improving in their country. Then the coup in 2009, the internship program ended, and we lost contact with our Honduran allies. Now, Nelly has just shared how things are far worse in Honduras. I know the Canadian government and Canadian mining companies are complicit in this horrible suffering of the Honduran people and it breaks my heart.

Today, I’m standing in solidarity with my sisters Suzuyo from Japan and Nelly from Honduras who are working diligently for peace and non-violence.

Kelly and Sharon later joined me in my protest today and because of their enthusiasm, we got 23 honks and 17 waves. Only 1 finger and 4 head shakes.

Mar 13

March 6, 2013 – Week #13

Kelly Heather and Brian

I was not alone for long today. Within a few minutes, four people showed up to stand with me: Kelly, Heather, Brian and Sharon. It was great to have their enthusiastic company.

After sharing what was new in our lives, we talked about the untimely and tragic passing of the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez. We discussed his incredible legacy of improving the lives of the poor and promoting democratic socialism.

I had just returned the night before from a trip to the United Nations in New York and recalled Chavez’s 2006 speech to the UN’s General Assembly. During his speech, Chavez held up Noam Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance and urged everyone to read it. It was just on Monday night, two nights earlier, that I attended a lecture by Chomsky for the first time. He spoke at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan and his lecture was entitled The End of the Vietnam War and the Collapse of Empire?


Before the lecture, there was a reception and I got a chance to take a picture with Chomsky. I told him that I had come from Canada to hear him speak and he frowned and said “What a shame about your federal government.” I agreed and told him how our country is spending billions to build a new fleet of warships. “It’s the largest government procurement in our history”, I explained. He asked, “What’s the pretext?”. “Arctic sovereignty”, I replied. He started to talk about the melting ice and the natural resource wealth buried in the Arctic, but then was interrupted by another fan for a picture – this guy had Chomsky’s face tattooed to his arm!

Chomsky’s lecture was packed and a brief overview of the public lecture is here. In his speech, Chomsky reminded us: “War never ends for the victims” and spoke about the lingering effects of chemical warfare in Vietnam. He ended with a reference to Chavez and a message of hope: “Over 10 years ago, Latin America broke away from U.S. control. And look how it was the only region not to participate in the U.S.’s international program of rendition and torture”, he said. Venezuela and the other South American countries did not appear on the map derived from the Open Society Foundation‘s shocking report Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition. Chavez had often spoken out against U.S. foreign policy and its wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

[If you haven’t seen the documentaries “The Revolution will not be televised” and “South of the Border” about the incredible progress in Latin America, please do so. If you are in Halifax, you can rent them from Video Difference on Quinpool Road. Watch as well Democracy Now’s coverage of the life and legacy of Chavez].Viva Chavismo!

At our warship protest today, we had 31 honks and 23 waves – another record! Only 3 fingers and 3 frowns.

Mar 05

February 27, 2013 – Week #12

Kelly and Healther

A beautiful sunny day! Today is the 3-month mark of my weekly protest against the warships.

A young military guy drove by in his car, slowed down and said out his window, “You weren’t here last week”.

“Yes, I was,” I replied, “Please read my blog.” I found it interesting that some people are now expecting me to be here at noon every Wednesday.

A CBC news truck and then the CTV news truck drove by but didn’t stop – neither media outlet has covered my protest nor has raised any opposition in their coverage of the (war)shipbuilding contract. Not once since our Bush protest in 2004 has the CBC covered any peace story that I have sent them. Too often, the local CBC has been an uncritical echo chamber for the federal government instead of a public broadcaster.

A few minutes later, Kelly and Heather showed up to stand for peace with me. They were so positive and energetic and would wave at cars and trucks going by while holding up signs. Kelly is an environmental consultant with water expertise. She is looking for a full-time green job that puts her knowledge and skills to use for local communities and the protection of the natural environment. Heather is a strong feminist grandmother who is passionate about federal investment in renewable energy, mental health and poverty reduction. We agreed that the federal government should be investing in those things and not warships.

At 1:00 p.m., I said “OK, protest is over, let’s head over to Julien’s Café now.”

“No,” Kelly replied, “Let’s wait a couple more minutes. I see more trucks coming. Let’s get them to honk so they can hear it in the shipyard!” Sure enough she got the trucks to honk loudly!

We got 23 honks and 17 waves – a record of support! Only 1 finger and 3 angry looks.