Aug 16

July 24, 2013 – Week #32

tamara hmc

It was cloudy but warm, so I wore my “No warships” t-shirt. As I started to protest, it started to unexpectedly drizzle. I was worried, because I didn’t have an umbrella or a jacket. Luckily, the rain stopped.

Jonathan, a journalist with the Halifax Media Coop, came to interview me about my high school essay contest. In the spring, I launched an essay contest open to all high school students in the province. They were invited to write an essay that answered this question: “Instead of spending $25 billion to build new warships for the navy at the Irving shipyard in Halifax, how could the Canadian government invest our tax dollars to make our society and our economy greener, more equitable, and more peaceful?” To publicize the contest, I mailed a letter with a poster and emailed every high school in Nova Scotia. I also put up posters in high schools and hand delivered letters and posters to individual teachers. I was so thrilled to receive about a dozen entries from students. They wrote thoughtful essays about how the federal government could instead spend our tax dollars on smale-scale organic agriculture, education, and renewable energy to create a better country.

I was very grateful to the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group for helping to fund the prize packs for the winning students.The winners got a copy of the book by Todd Gordon, Imperialist Canada, stickers, a DVD “What I’ve Learned about U.S. Foreign Policy”, a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence“, and a cheque.

The essay contest was a great way for me to reach students on this issue and encourage them to think critically about what is going on in Nova Scotia. It was also a way for me to counter the NDP provincial government’s Kids & Learning First Policy that was released in February 2012. The policy presents the new direction for education and re-orients curriculum so that high school students have the skills to work in the shipyard. The word “shipbuilding” is stated three times in the policy but the words “sustainability education,” “environmental education,” education for sustainable development,” and “climate change” are not even mentioned. Under the policy, the Department of Education is also giving credit if high school students join the cadet program. The department is not being honest with the high school students that it is warships that are going to be built at the shipyard and that the cadet program is really a recruitment strategy for the military.

Jonathan has been working for the Halifax Media Coop for a few months. He is a student at Mount Saint Vincent University and is interested in sociology. He took a course with Dr. Alex Khasnabish, a professor who teaches critical and radical political theory, and became more interested in popular movements and resistance. As a journalist, Jonathan wants to write under-reported stories about people’s struggles. I think that’s so important and noble. We also talked about the importance of critical thinking and dissent in education and in society.

Judy, a professor at Saint Mary’s University joined us. She is an example of a professor and a person who inspires critical thinking, dissent and positive social action. It was nice to see her again at the protest. We laughed again about buying the house that is for sale across from the shipyard and turning it into a peace house.

We were talking a lot and I was not paying close attention to the expressions of support and opposition but I did count 3 happy honks.

Afterword: Jonathan published his article about my essay contest with the Halifax Media Coop on July 26. The article is entitled “Nova Scotia youth discuss alternatives to warships.”

Dedication – For brave Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye who was just released from prison after being held for three years on trumped up terrorism-related charges at the request of President Obama. Shaye is a reporter who helped expose the U.S. cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah that killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children in December 2009. Many people around the world believed that Shaye was imprisoned to silence him and stop him from reporting on US drones in his country. You can read about his reporting and plight in prison here on Democracy Now! “Yemeni Reporter Who Exposed U.S. Drone Strike Freed from Prison After Jailing at Obama’s Request.” 

Aug 15

July 17, 2013 – Week #31


It was sunny and I was by myself.

A man and a woman walked out of the Irving Shipyard and past me down Barrington Street. I gave them my usual “Happy Wednesdays against Warships” greeting. I felt something odd about them.

A young navy guy then stood beside me at the crosswalk. I said hello and asked him how long he has been in the navy.

“Two years,” he replied.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Great,” he said.

“Why?” I wondered.

“Because I like the guys, they are good to work with,” he explained.

“Have you sailed to the Middle East?” I asked.

“No, just down to Virginia,” he said.

“What do you guys do down in Virginia?” I asked.

All of a suddne, he got all flustered and stammered“I don’t know. I don’t know. I have only been in the navy for a year” and quickly walked away.

Across the street, an attractive, middle-aged woman walked by and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up. I could feel her solidarity sister vibe.

A young, smartly dressed woman walked out of the DND dockyard and up to the crosswalk. I have seen her before but have never said more than my usual greeting. She was by herself this time, so I asked her how long she has been working at Irving.

“I work for DND and I have been there for five years,” she replied.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“Great,” she said and crossed the street.

Then, the odd man and woman who walked by me at the beginning of my protest walked back to the shipyard and passed by me closely. I could see that they were wearing Lockheed Martin lanyards around their necks. No wonder I felt a bad vibe about them!

“Oh, Lockheed Martin is the worst company in the world!” I said to them, “The world’s largest weapons manufacturer. The ship contract is guaranteed to be a boondoggle with Lockheed’s involvement. Look at your failed Littoral Combat Vessel program in the US.”

“The worst company?” the man said incredulously and kept walking.

“Yes,” I shouted, “The worst.”

As I was returning to my car across the street with my signs, a young engineer walked by and said, “I agree with you.”

“You saw me protesting?” I asked.

“Yes, I was watching you as I walked down the hill,” he said smiling and carried on to the shipyard.

I got 14 honks and waves and no negativity.

Dedication – To the memory of Trayvon Martin – the 17-year old black boy in Florida who was killed while walking home with ice tea and Skittles to share with his younger brother. My heart breaks for him and his family. On July 13, George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. So many black teenagers and men are stopped, frisked, arrested, beaten and imprisoned in the United States. Justice for Black America! Justice for Black Canadians too!

And in solidarity with the work and words of black leader, Dr. Cornel West. West gave an impassioned interview on Democracy Now! about the verdict “Cornel West: Obama’s Response to Trayvon Martin Case Belies Failure to Challenge ‘New Jim Crow’”.  West said that Obama was a “Global Zimmerman” for killing Afghan, Pakistani, and Yemeni children with drones.

Aug 15

July 10 – Week #30

Alan Kelly and Canada needs an antiwar government

I had company on this cloudy day! It was so nice to have Alan and Kelly join me to protest.

Alan is a great anti-war activist who has helped me with my many peace events and demonstrations over the years. He is very friendly and knowledgeable. He has this easy-going and amicable way about him that allows him to connect quickly with strangers. I have gotten to know him better over the years as we have planned together the rally against the Halifax International Security Forum (the NATO war conference) every November. I was glad that he brought his big banner “Canada needs an Anti-War Government” but I was disappointed that he didn’t bring his “No Harbour for War” banner.

Alan closely follows what Canadian warships are coming and going into the Harbour. He also investigates what foreign warships are coming into Halifax and prepares a quarterly No Harbour for War publication.

Alan, Kelly and I talked about the Japanese warships that are in the Halifax Harbour right now. I told Alan that I wished that I could protest them as well, but that I didn’t have time that week to plan anything because of my children being home from school. Alan discussed the Japanese government’s self-defense force, which is really a military.

I told Alan and Kelly about the Japanese government’s plan to amend Article 9 of its Constitution and that there was a worldwide effort to prevent that “Global Article 9 Campaign”.

Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution is the important peace provision and reads: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Yet, behind of the guise of self-defence, Japan is maintaining a military and violating its constitution – the Japanese warship in our harbour is evidence of that. We also talked about Japan’s role in the war in Iraq.

Then we discussed hydraulic fracturing – war on the earth. Kelly told us about the fracking protests in New Brunswick and the new coalition against fracking in Nova Scotia and the campaign to permanently ban fracking in this province.

The runner ran by and waved.

We got 24 honks & waves and 3 head shakes & 1 hand down.

Dedication – In solidarity with my friend, Alan, the kind and committed long-time anti-war and social justice activist in Nova Scotia. He has a weekly protest every Friday in downtown Halifax – Hands off Libya! Hands of Syria! 

Aug 15

July 3, 2013 – Week #29

Tamara with warships bad for oceans

At the start of my protest, a shipyard employee came to the crosswalk and said to me, “I agree with your signs.”

“Thanks,” I replied and told him a little about my protest.

Then he said, “I’m not responsible for the federal government wanting to build warships. I just work here.”

I told him that I thought that we are all responsible in some way, “Canadians voted for the Harper government. The shipyard union didn’t object to the warship contract and didn’t put pressure on the government to build something else. There aren’t enough citizens standing up to oppose this,” I said.

Then two more shipyard workers came up to me and also said that they agreed with my signs. I asked them how they were doing.

One of the workers said that he wasn’t going to be working at the Irving Shipyard for much longer. There is not very much work right now and more layoffs are expected he explained.

“What is going on in there,” he said pointing to the shipyard, “is not what is portrayed in the media.”

The light changed and they crossed the street.

A few minutes later, a naval engineer in his late 50s walked by and said, “I agree with you.”

“Really,” I exclaimed, “Wow! I didn”t expect that. Why?”

“Because combat is a small part of what the navy does. What the navy needs are new joint supply ships to deliver humanitarian aid. That’s what the need is now and is going to be in the future,” he explained.

The runner ran by and waved. After many months of protesting, the runner has finally warmed up to me a bit. I had told him that I ran the Bluenose Marathon in my protest shirt and I think he respects my feat and now acknowledges me when I protest.

Toward the end of my protest, a young shipyard worker drove into the gate, pulled over and started to talk to me from his car. I walked over and he said to me through his window, “What you need to be worried about are volcanoes not climate change. It’s a hoax. You should watch the documentaries on Youtube.”

I said to him that it in the opinion of thousands of scientist worldwide that it was undeniable that we are facing severe environmental degradation and global warming and that it is one of our greatest human security challenges along with poverty. Warships will not help with climate change and they certainly won’t help with exploding volcanoes.

A couple more shipyard workers drove by and yelled at me to get a job.

A Metro newspaper van and a CTV news SUV drove by – neither media outlet has covered my protest.

At 1:00 p.m., two female Irving employees walked by. They always exude an “uncomfortable” vibe toward me and I always say to them “Happy Wednesdays against Warships.”

14 honks and waves of support and 5 thumbs down, head shakes and swears.

Dedication – To the truth tellers: Horace Campbell and Clare Daly. Horace Campbell is a Professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University. He gave this incredible interview on Democracy Now! about President Obama’s visit to South Africa. Listen to it here: “Obama Takes “Imperial Tour” of Africa as World Honors Ailing Mandela”.

Clare Daly is an elected member of the Irish Parliament. She gave this 5-minute riveting speech condemning President Obama during his visit to Ireland. She called Obama “a war criminal and the hypocrite of the century” Watch it here.

Aug 15

June 26, 2013 – Week #28


It was rainy and cool. I protested by myself.

I was thinking about Edward Snowden, the American computer specialist who recently leaked information that revealed the US National Security Agency and the CIA have been spying on private citizens and countries around the world. Snowden is in hiding and finding a safe refuge from the US government.

A few years ago, I read Daniel Ellsberg’s autobiography “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” about his leak of the 7,000 classified pages in 1971 that revealed the US government was lying to the American people about the Vietnam War.  Ellsberg’s story of personal transformation is amazing – from being a staunch supporter of the US government and its war in Vietnam to becoming an outspoken anti-war activist. When I was in New York at the UN for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review meeting in 2005, I had the opportunity to hear Ellsberg speak and meet him.

Ellsberg has been publicly defending the young American whistleblowers who are now being persecuted: Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.

I thought about how the US Secret Service tried to prevent me from attending a Rotary breakfast that featured the US Consul General Richard Riley last month. I talked my way into the breakfast by giving the assurance that I would not protest while he was speaking. I wondered  how they knew I was going to attend the breakfast – the only way was by tracking my email – I thought of Snowden.

As I was standing and protesting, a runner came up behind me and said, “I bet you don’t get a lot of support standing here.”

I turned to him and said, “Actually, I get much more support than hostility. I have been protesting here for seven months and I didn’t suspect that I would get as much support as I have. It’s about 9 to 1. The majority of people support what I’m doing and respond positively to my signs.”

When I’m protesting, I can see drivers looking over and reading my signs. I know that I am helping to get people to think critically about the warship contract and about real social and environmental priorities.

I loved that a Bromoc truck drove by and the driver gave me an enthusiastic honk. Bromoc is a printing company that is known for caring for the environment and using sustainably harvested paper products.

At 1:00 p.m., I rushed back to the school to help with gardening.

I got 12 honks & waves and 1 head shake.

Dedication: The young, courageous American whistle blower Edward Snowden. Thanks to the people of Hong Kong for supporting him. Watch the Democracy Now! report here.

Aug 15

June 19, 2013 – Week #28

Kelly with warships bad for oceans

A warm and sunny day, so I could wear my t-shirt “No warships: Green Jobs:”.

I had rushed to my protest from my sons’ elementary school. I have been busy there helping the young students plant flowers in their new butterfly beds. Children love to garden. It is so easy to engage them outdoors planting, digging and watering.

One of the Irving employees who I have often seen running on his lunch break stood beside me at the crosswalk. I said hello. He asked me how my Bluenose Marathon went. Before the marathon, he was the only person that I had told that I was going to run it in my protest t-shirt. I figured our mutual interest in running would break the ice between us a bit. He asked about my time. I told him I ran it slowly at 4:18, but that I ran the whole way. I found the course very hilly and windy. I asked him about his running. He said he wanted to do the Boston Marathon and had to qualify for it. It was the first time that we talked.

Kelly came back. “Long time no see,” she said smiling as she joined me to protest.

It was nice to catch up with her. I told her about the environmental projects at my sons’ elementary school. She likes gardening and environmental education as well. She told me more about all the initiatives that she is involved in – St. Margaret’s Bay Transition project, Sierra Club, and the Ecology Action Centre. I discovered that she is the Coastal Issues Committee Coordinator at the EAC. That committee does such good water and coastal work!

I showed her my new sign “Sonars and explosives are bad for marine life. Protect our oceans. No warships.” and we talked about all the ways that warships are not good for the oceans.

Toward the end of our protest, a member of the navy walked up to us. He said, “I support what you are doing – we need people to be passionate about things.”

Then quite a few navy personnel walked by and one asked what we were doing. We told them about the weekly protest and encouraged them to check out the web site:

At 1:00 p.m., I had to rush back to the school to watch a play.

Because of Kelly’s smile and enthusiasm, we got 23 honks and waves and 1 swear & 1 head shake.

Dedication: To the Ecology Action Centre and all its great staff and volunteers. Halifax’s oldest environmental organization. 40 years of action for the earth. There are so many ways to get involved and create positive change: Transportation, Coastal & Water, Marine, Wilderness, Food, Energy, Birds and the Build Environment. I just wish that more money was being spent by the federal and provincial governments for sustaining life not destroying it.

Aug 15

June 12, 2013 – Week #27

Solar bad for marine life graphic

It was windy, cold and rainy – what a contrast from last week!

I was by myself but I had a new sign, “Sonar & explosives bad for marine life. Protect our oceans. No warships.” I unveiled it on Friday, June 8thWorld Oceans Day. That day, I tried to deliver an open letter to NDP Fisheries Critic Robert Chisholm at his Dartmouth office and protest outside, but his office was closed.

Today, I have been thinking about the book “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” by Canadian environmental journalist Alanna Mitchell. She traveled all over the world interviewing the leading scientists about the state of the oceans. She documented how pollution, over-fishing, and climate change are leading to the collapse of fish stocks, the destruction of coral reefs and the creation of dead zones in the oceans. There are now 500 dead zones around the world – nothing lives in those zones.

Another threat to the oceans is from the military, though it is something that Mitchell did not include in her book. For example, the sonar and explosives used by warships in naval war games injure dolphins and whales and warships have been known to dump oil and damage reefs.

As I struggled to hold up my new sign in the wind, a Department of Fisheries & Oceans van drove by me and I could see the driver and passenger reading it.

I’m never embarrassed as I protest, but today I felt like a ridiculous marshmallow. I couldn’t find my plain, gray rain pants, so I had wore this puffy, white rain suit with bright stripes that I got for running a leg during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Torch Relay in 2009.

Toward the end of my protest, a Lockheed Martin truck, a Porsche Cayenne, and a fancy car with a military flag drove by me into the Niobe Gate – the entrance to the shipyard and the dockyard. I could see the drivers and passengers looking over at me. I pointed to my other sign “$25 Billion Boondoggle: No Warships.”

I was reminded about the opinion piece that was published in the Chronicle Herald about a week ago written by Mount Saint Vincent University management professor, Michael Whalen. The title of his article was “Home-grown shipbuilding bound to be a boondoggle.”

Whalen wrote, “To put it bluntly, there is no market for Canadian-built warships. The major buyers, the Americans, the British, the French, the Chinese, etc., build their own. They will never buy a ship from Canada. Our governments, federal and provincial, will spend billions establishing a small, inefficient industry for which there is no market outside the government of Canada…. The inevitable escalation of costs will probably result in fewer ships than the navy needs and the jobs will be short- to medium- term in areas that offer no sustainable strategic advantage. Perhaps it is time for the government to re-examine this program, as it has with the F-35, and ensure this is the right path forward for Canada. There are alternatives.”

Whalen is absolutely right that the warship contract should be re-examined.

I got 9 honks + 1 wave & 1 finger + 1 head shake.

Dedication: For Medea Benjamin, the passionate, indefatigable American peace activist whom I greatly admire. Medea is the co-founder of the rabble-rousing peace group Codepink and is the author of the book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.” She stood up and challenged President Obama during a security & foreign affairs speech he gave at the National Defense University last month. You can watch an interview with Medea about her interruptions to Obama’s speech here on Democracy Now! We need more rabble-rousers!

Aug 13

June 5, 2013 – Week #26


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.