Sep 04

August 7, 2013 – Week #34


It was warm and sunny. I had to protest on the other side of Barrington Street, because I was with my children Sam and Will.

They sat in the grass and played with my smartphone as I held up my protest signs.

I was thinking about the anniversary of the US nuclear bombings of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. For five years from 2004-2008, I helped to organize Peace Day in early August in Halifax to raise awareness about the continued threat nuclear weapons.

The female Irving employee who had shared her tragic story of having a miscarriage and being off of work for many months because she was very sick drove past me and waved.

Then, a tall man in his 60s came up to me and asked, “Who are you with? What organization?”

“No organization. I’m doing this on my own,” I replied.

“Really?” he said.

“Yes. I am just a concerned citizen. A mother,” and pointed to my kids.

“What are you protesting exactly?” he asked.

I told him about the federal government’s plan to spend $25 billion to build new warships for the Canadian navy.

“Why? Canada doesn’t have any enemies.” he said. He explained that he is American and captains a small commercial ship that makes a regular run to the Port of Halifax.

I told him how it will be American weapons manufacturers that will gain the most from this (war)shipbuilding contract.

“Yes, billions are made off of war,” he agreed.

I nodded, “War is a racket.” I asked him if he had ever heard of General Smedley Butler, the most well decorated American general in history. General Butler wrote an important book called “War is a Racket” in 1935. The book was so popular that Butler toured the US with it and it was re-printed in Readers Digest that year.

He said he had never heard of that book. He got out his pen and small notebook and jotted down the name.

I asked him if he’d ever read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. “It’s the most important book to read for Americans,” I explained.

We talked about the United States’ government and US foreign policy. We also discussed what is going on in the US now – the foreclosures, bankruptcies, unemployment and poverty.

“What’s your name?” he asked me.

“Tamara,” I replied, “What’s yours?”

“John Reynolds,” he said, “Nice to meet you. What’s that name of the other book?”

I said to him that I would love for him to email me after he read “War is a Racket” or “A People’s History”. He smiled and said he would.

“Where’s a good place to sit and have a coffee?”  he asked.

“Just up the hill is the Hydrostone with a little park, shops and cafes. Just what you are looking for,” I answered.

“I enjoyed talking to you,” he said and walked away.

It was hard to count the number of supporters and opponents because of talking with John and watching my kids.

1 head shake and 1 wave in support and 1 finger in opposition.

Dedication – This August marks the 68th anniversary of US nuclear bombings of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My post is dedicated to the Japanese survivors, the hibakusha, their dedicatoin to rid the world of these weapons of mass destruction. I also dedicate this post to the many organizations around the world who are working toward the abolition of nuclear weapons including Mayors for Peace, Global Zero, and Physicians for Global Survival Canada.

Dec 30

December 26, 2012 – Week #2

Idle No More_Dec 26_smToday is Boxing Day. It is a beautiful, sunny winter day. I took off my sunglasses so that I could make better eye contact with people. As I expected, the traffic is light on Barrington Street because of the holiday.  Only one car drove into the shipyard. I’m glad the workers have the day off to be with their families.

I brought a new sign to my protest, which read “IDLE NO MORE, INVEST IN FIRST NATIONS, NOT WARSHIPS, NO BILL C-45”. I am standing in solidarity with Chief Spence who is on a hunger strike in Ottawa demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister and Governor General to discuss the needs in First Nations communities in Canada. In 2006, the Conservative government cancelled the Kelowna Accord that committed $5 billion to improve education, healthcare and housing for First Nations. This year, the Conservative government has introduced Bill C-45 that will reduce protection to our waterways, reduce opportunities to engage in environmental assessments, and adversely change the Fisheries Act and the Indian Act. Bill C-45 is not good for First Nations and for all Canadians.

I believe that instead of investing in warships, the federal government should be investing in our First Nation communities.

In an hour of standing with my signs, one person waved, another honked and another gave me the finger.  Bruce, a long-time member of the Halifax Peace Coalition, showed up at 12:50 p.m. and took a picture of me protesting and then we went for a coffee.

In this holiday season, let us reflect by what is meant when we wish others “peace and goodwill.”

Dec 22

December 19, 2012 – Week #1

Today was the first day of my weekly protest to stop the building of new warships outside the Irving Shipyard in Halifax. I have wanted to do something more visible to raise awareness about the Canadian government wasting $25 billion on new combat vessels for the navy instead of investing in environmental and social programs that are desperately needed in this country.

Over the past year, I have written letters to the editor, met with MPs, handed out hundreds of fact sheets, organized events to denounce the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy but I realized that it wasn’t enough. So,  I have decided that I will protest every Wednesday from 12:00-1:00 p.m. while it is still light out and my kids are in school. Also, I thought that it sounded catchy “Wednesdays against Warships.”

At 11:55 a.m. I arrived outside the shipyard with my signs: “NO WARSHIPS, GREEN JOBS, DEMILITARIZE.CA” and “ACTION ON POVERTY AND CLIMATE CHANGE, NO WARHIPS”. They are corroplast signs: one I hammer into the ground and the other I hold. A photo journalist from the Chronicle Herald arrived and took a picture (It was published the next day in the Chronicle Herald).

I was surprised how many cars came out of the shipyard at the Niobe Gate entrance at that time. I found it a bit funny to see how many shipyard workers drove by taking a picture of me on their smartphones. It was more amusing to see how some tried to take pictures surreptitiously, hoping that I won’t see them. There was also a lot more traffic on Barrington Street than I expected.

I was really glad to be out there standing for peace even in the cold, pouring rain. I thought about the brave women and men on Jeju Island, South Korea who have been arrested, threatened and imprisoned trying to stop the building of a naval base on their UNESCO world heritage island. Go to their web site to learn more about their brave five year struggle Save Jeju Now []. I thought of my friends in the Global Network Against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space who protest every week outside the shipyard in Bath, Maine that manufactures the Aegis destroyers for the U.S []. I thought of my friends in England with the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases []. They have protested against the American spy base Menwith Hill for 20 years. I thought of the committed folks in Wolfville who stand for peace outside the post office every Saturday. They just passed their 10-year anniversary!

I’m in solidarity with all the courageous and compassionate people in the world who are striving for a world without weapons and war and who want to create a culture of peace and sustainability.

In an hour of standing there with my signs, out of the hundreds of cars that passed, six cars drove by and honked and only two drove by giving me the finger, so I’m off to a great start!