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

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.

May 22

May 8, 2013 – Week #22

May 8

Before I left to protest, Kelly texted me to say that there was a terrible diesel smell all over the north end and that it might not be a good idea to protest today. I replied to thank her for her warning and that I would head down and see if I could still protest.

When I arrived, there was no smell so I decided to stay. I really wanted to stand with my signs after reading the front page article in today’s Chronicle Herald newspaper “Ship deal hits rocky shoals”. Journalist Paul McLeod raised many critical questions about the (war)shipbuilding contract in his article. McLeod wrote, “In all the delirium of competing for lucrative contracts to build new warships, we lost sight of the big question — what exactly are we building?”. I tweeted McLeod that an even more fundamental question has not be asked or answered – Why are we building warships?

As shipyard workers and naval personnel walked past my protest, I encouraged them to read today’s newspaper and flashed them my “Boondoggle” sign.

Then, Jeff came back! The young guy who came to protest with me last week has returned!

It was so nice to have his company on this sunny day.

We talked about Canadian foreign policy, Canada’s bombing of Libya, American foreign policy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US war in Vietnam, and false flag events like the Gulf of Tonkin.

We also talked about Canadian and American special forces that operate all over the globe without public or parliamentary oversight. I mentioned to him about journalist Jeremy Scahill’s new book “Dirty Wars” and Scahill’s interview on the CBC.

It was so great to talk to someone so knowledgeable about history and current affairs.

“Where do you get your information?” I asked Jeff.

“RT. Russia Today,” he replied. He explained that Russia Today often has stories exposing the terrible things that the US and NATO including Canada are doing around the world. He thinks Russia Today is even better than Al Jazeera.

I told him how much I liked the news outlets: Democracy Now, The Dominion and the Halifax Media Coop. I shared my admiration for journalists Robert Fisk and Chris Hedges. I thought about the brave Jewish journalists Amira Hass, and Gideon Levy who have courageously reported on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We talked about the role of the media in society and the importance of independent media, public broadcasting and investigative journalism. Alberta Einstein once said, “An informed citizenry will act for life and not for death.” I believe that informed Nova Scotians would say no to the warships – for war or death – and yes to life. ,

16 honks and waves and 6 yells, headshakes and fingers

Dedication: In solidarity with the hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo prison. Close Gitmo!

Epilogue: I found out that the diesel smell was from an oil spill from a Canadian frigate in the Halifax Harbour. Another reason we do not need more warships!

May 08

April 24, 2013 – Week #20

Boondoggle sign1

When I began my protest on this overcast and windy day, I thought that it would be uneventful, but it wasn’t. I had this unexpectedly beautiful exchange with a young man.

“I agree with your signs,” the young man said to me as he approached the crosswalk.

“Great,” I replied. “Do you work at the shipyard?” I asked him looking at his civilian clothes.

“No, I work for the navy. I’m a leading seaman but not for long,” he answered. He explained that he has worked for the military for the past four years but that his contract is up in January 2014 and then he is leaving.

“Why?” I wondered.

“I have had a change of heart. I don’t agree with the social, political and environmental impacts of the navy any longer,” he explained.

“Really!” I said with astonishment not expecting that reply. “What caused you to think differently?”

“Just reading,” he answered.

He told me that he was very moved by a book he read a few years ago. He found the book Earth in Mind in a bin at a secondhand store and has reflected often on its message.

“Wow! The book by David Orr about environmental education. I have it,” I said to him. I was so amazed that he has read this book. He also told me that he has read “Walden” by Henry David Theroux many times.

We talked about our mutual interests in environmental education, renewable energy, permaculture, and green buildings. We agreed that people should be learning more about these things and that society should be moving in a more sustainable direction.

“Look at the potential for wind energy here,” he said as his jacket blew up and I struggled to hold up my signs because of the wind.

“Yes, I know how windy it is. I have been standing here every Wednesday since December. That’s why I have my signs about climate change and the environment. I really believe that the workers at the shipyard should be building renewable energy technologies instead of warships,” I said.

Then he told me how much he loves the ocean and diving. With the navy he has dived all over the world – off the coast of Somalia, Venezuela, Egypt, and Victoria. He plans to leave the navy and go diving in Thailand next year. He said he wants to get away from North America, because he doesn’t like the politics and the culture. He wants to follow his environmental passion and see where it leads him.

I mentioned to him that he might like the film Sharkwater by the Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart. The filmmaker does a lot of diving in that film and the message about saving sharks and the ocean is so important. He said that he has already seen it and in fact just watched Stewart’s latest film Revolution at the theatre last weekend.

“Do you know Michael Reynolds and Earthships?” he asked me.

“No, I don’t, but I do know about Sunship Earth – the great environmental education program that is used at the Adventure Earth Centre in Halifax,” I offered and promised to look up Michael Reynolds and Earthships.

I told him how much I enjoyed our conversation. Then, I asked him,“Why don’t you wear a uniform like everyone else in the navy?”

“I wear it as little as possible,” he answered. He smiled and said he needed to meet his girlfriend at 1:00 p.m. and left.

That evening, my husband showed me this videoclip about this amazing green building in the U.S. and it made me think about my wonderful conversation with the young navy guy earlier in the day.

9 honks and saves of support and 5 head shakes and fingers of no support.

Dedication: To the great American environmental educators: Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, and David Orr. To the awesome homegrown Nova Scotian environmental educators like Ray Cote, Dr. Karen Beazley, Dr. Alan Warner, Janet Barlow and Rhea Mahar. These educators have inspired so many people, including me and this young seaman, to care more about the natural environment. We need more environmental educators and less military.

Epilogue: After my protest last week, I found out that there was a bomb threat supposedly called in to the Irving shipyard that is why the entrance was blocked and the police were there. In Boston last weekend, bombs went off tragically killing and injuring people at the marathon. There has been so much media attention focused on the Boston bombings, but so little media attention on the U.S./NATO bombs killing innocent Afghans and the U.S. drone strikes killing innocent people in Pakistan and Yemen. North American mainstream media rarely show the injuries and death caused by our western bombs overseas.

Earlier this month, Democracy Now had a special show about the legacy of the secret bombing by the U.S. of Laos in the 1960s and 70s – “40 Years After Secret U.S. War in Laos Ended, Millions of Unexploded Bomblets Keep Killing Laotians”. The U.S. never declared war on Laos but dropped over 2 million bombs on that country. Today, the people of Laos continue to be injured and killed by unexploded munitions that they stumble upon in fields and forests. Bombings have to stop at home and abroad.

May 01

April 17, 2013 – Week #19

Boondoggle sign1

I was alone today. It was warmer but still windy.

As I walked toward the shipyard entrance, I could see two police cars blocking the entrance and police officers standing solemnly.

A CBC cameraman walked past me. The Canadian Broadcast Corporation is the country’s public broadcaster.

“What’s going on,” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied.

While I have protest the past few weeks, I have seen the CBC news truck drive by but it never stops to cover my protest, so I decided to ask him, “Why doesn’t the CBC ever cover my protest?”

He just walked by without answering. I watched him set up his camera by the fence. He can’t see anything going on, but he’s there filming while ignoring my protest.

For my protest, I brought a new sign “$25 billion + $14 billion = Boondoggle”.

Last week, the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report entitled Titanic Blunder: Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships on Course for Disaster. The report denounces the federal government’s plan to build the Arctic patrol ships, because it says the design is wrong and the objectives are wrong.

As I protest, I can easily see into the cars driving by on Barrington St. I watch drivers trying to read my signs. Today, two young male drivers enthusiastically honked in support. A city bus driver who regularly drives past me has started to honk and smile too.

Then, a young navy guy walked by and asked grinning, “Did you call in the bomb threat and make me late for work?”

“Do I look like a threat? I’m a peace activist.” I replied.

Later, a middle-aged man crossed the street in front of me.

“Happy Wednesdays against Warships,” I said.

“Happy Wednesday,” he countered. He was wearing Lockheed Martin clothing and walking toward the shipyard.

I couldn’t resist saying to him, “Oh, Lockheed Martin, is such a terrible company. The world’s largest weapons manufacturer.” I have seen the Lockheed Martin trucks drive by but I have never seen an employee of Lockheed Martin walk by until now.

He didn’t say anything back and kept walking.

This is a guarantee: Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the building of Canada’s new warships will definitely make it a boondoggle just like Lockheed Martin’s Littoral Combat Zone warships in the U.S. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter estimated to cost over $45 billion is widely considered a boondoggle. In time, Nova Scotians, all Canadians, will realize that this warship strategy is a boondoggle too – guaranteed. Read this February 2013 report “Ships Leaking $37 Billion Reflect Eisenhower’s Warning” 

12 honks and waves, 2 fingers and 2 head shakes

Dedication: I’m dedicating my protest today to Sandra Finley, the Canadian who refused to fill our her census because of her opposition to Lockheed Martin’s involvement in our national census.


April 15, 2013 Global Day of Action on Military Spending

Today was the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS). The initiative started three years ago by the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. It is timed to coincide with the release of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s global military expenditure report and U.S. Tax Day.

Now, there are 25 countries participating and over 100 actions around the world. It is really inspiring to know that today people are standing together and calling for a shift in priorities – for government spending to meet human needs not buy weapons and fund war.

Global military spending is currently over $1.7 trillion. Last year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, stated, “The world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.” It would cost approximately $400 billion or 25% of what countries spend annually on their militaries to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Instead of spending on armies and weapons, we could eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and ensure every child can go to school.

Every year for GDAMS, the Halifax Peace Coalition and the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace have organized a demonstration outside the library. We have tried to raise awareness about how much Canada spends on the military, but how little it spends on other federal programs such as Environment Canada, Aboriginal Affairs, Education and Overseas Development Assistance.

In 2012, the Canadian government spent $22 billion on the Department of National Defence and only $1 billion on Environment Canada. There has been a minimal cut to the current military budget, but the federal government has forecast it will spend over $20 billion annually for National Defence over the next three years. By contrast, Environment Canada’s budget will fall to $850 million in three years. As well, the government is still planning to spend approximately $25 billion for warships, $16 billion on fighter jets, and $1 billion on armed drones.

Canada is ranked 14th for highest military spending in the world, but our government is cutting environmental programs and employment insurance. In this country, there are 150,000 people homeless, 15% of children are living in poverty, and there is growing income inequality. Canadians must question whether so many of our tax dollars should be spent on National Defence and so little on the environment and social equality. The greatest human security challenges we are facing are climate change and poverty.

Approximately 30 people showed up today to our demonstration and helped us collect signatures and pass out leaflets. We set up jars on a table labeled with signs “Healthcare”, “Education,” “Women & Children,” “Environment”, “Arts & Culture,” and “Military”. We gave people a quarter and asked them where they would spend their federal money. Like last year, “Healthcare”, “Education,” and “Environment” were people’s top choices.

It is really crazy to me that the federal government with the support of all of the political parties launched a National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy to build warships. The federal government could have launched a National Green Economy Strategy or a National Early Learning & Childcare Strategy or a National Affordable Housing Strategy to help us tackle the climate and poverty crisis. The leaflet that we passed out had a line mentioned the $25 billion for warships. We passed out about 200 leaflets.

I was so glad that the Chronicle Herald came to cover our action. Later, I also did a radio interview with Rick Howe on FM 95.7. Read the Herald story about our demonstration here.

Dedication: Thanks to the International Peace Bureau for its leadership on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending and to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for producing its reports on military expenditures.


April 22, 2013 – Protest outside of MP Megan Leslie’s Office

Today was Earth Day, so I decided that I would go down to Member of Parliament Megan Leslie’s office in the Halifax north end to deliver an open letter and protest her support for the warships. Megan is the NDP’s Environment Critic and also the Co-Deputy Leader of the federal party.

Megan knows that we are facing catastrophic climate change and increasing poverty, but she and the NDP supported the federal government’s plan to spend $25 billion of our tax dollars for new warships that the country does not need.

I knew Megan would not be in her office today because Parliament is still sitting, so I just gave me letter to her Constituency Assistant Anne-Marie. I showed Anne-Marie the graphs and explained my opposition to the warships and let her know that I hoped Megan would reply. Read my open letter here.

I wanted to publicly challenge Megan’s commitment to the environment and to the poor with my open letter and action. In my letter, I asked her why new warships for the navy are a priority over green jobs, affordable housing and First Nations.

Then, I stood outside Megan’s office for one hour with my signs. There was a lot of foot traffic on Gottingen Street. I passed out my Fact Sheet on Military Spending and said to people walking by “Happy Earth Day! I’m here to call on the MP for Halifax to stop her support for $25 billion warships and instead invest our tax dollars in urgent action on climate change and poverty.”

Most people walking by agreed with me. Across the street, two women clapped in support. “Please tell Megan. No warships,” I called out to them.

Only two men walked by and disagreed with me. They had the same argument: our country needs a military for security, we need warships to protect us, and that the military is important for Nova Scotia’s economy. I rebutted that we could have a strong, green economy instead of a militarized economy and that the real human security comes from safe housing, clean water and air, education and health care.

At the end of my protest, a fellow by the name of Brian stopped to talk to me. He said to me that he felt that the NDP was the only party to support because they are the farthest on the left but he still didn’t think that they were far left enough. If there was a party really committed to peace, he explained, he would vote for it.

I said to him that none of the political parties lead, they follow. It is up to us to push the parties farther in the direction that we want.

5 waves and thumbs up. 2 men opposed.

Dedication: I thought about the rare politicians who speak truth to power: UK MP George Galloway and Iceland’s Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir. Watch her interview on Democracy Now!

Earth Day

April 22, 2013 – Earth Day Rally

The sunny, pleasant weather brought out a great group for our Earth Day rally at 3:000 p.m. outside the shipyard. Brian, Sharon, Brian B., Alan, Charles, Kelly, Lucia and I stood for an hour with our signs and greeted everyone who walked by with a hearty “Happy Earth Day!”

At this time of the day, I noticed quite a few women drive by in their cars with kids in the back seat into the shipyard and dockyard. I thought that the must be driving in to pick up their husbands after work. I noticed the kids looking intently at our protest with a puzzled look on their faces as they read our signs.

At 3:30 p.m., the workers and the navy personnel streamed out.

A tall, thin middle-aged naval officer stood next time as he waited for the crosswalk. I hadn’t seen him before so I said, “Happy Earth Day. I protest here every Wednesday against the warships. You can go to my web site:”

“I don’t care,” he said flatly without looking at me and crossed the street.

A shipyard worker pulled up in his car, rolled down his window and said to me, “The warships are not just for war. They are for humanitarian aid too. Like in Haiti.”

“No,” I replied quickly. “There so much to say about Haiti. Please contact me and let’s meet for coffee to talk about Haiti.” I couldn’t say everything I wanted to about Haiti, because the driver was blocking traffic into the shipyard.

In 2004, Canada, France and the U.S. orchestrated a violent, military coup against the democratically elected government of Haiti and forced into exile the beloved president and priest of the poor, Jean Bertrand Aristide. The Canadian military’s shameful subjugation of Haiti in 2004 is not atoned by a half-empty Canadian warship after the earthquake in 2010. Warships are for war not for aid.

Canadians must learn the truth about our dishonourable involvement in Haiti, the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere.

14 positive gestures and at least 5 negative gestures

Dedication: To Canadians Jean St. Vil and Roger Annis who have been stong voices for justice for Haiti. To the organizations Canada Haiti Action Network  and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Let Haiti Live!

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.