Jul 14

May 29, 2013 – Week #25


It was a beautiful day. Warm and sunny with a gentle breeze. I’m wearing my t-shirt “No warships: Green jobs”. I’m alone.

I have come to my protest straight from my sons’ school. For the past two weeks, I have been busy helping to organize the school’s gardens and grounds project. We have to get the soil in the raised beds ready so that the elementary students can plant their vegetable seeds. We are also planning to build a bog, butterfly gardens and an orchard in our schoolyard this spring so there has been a lot of planning. I love gardening and growing things – I love seeing plants and flowers sprouting up from the earth. I especially love gardening with kids – they love to plant and water.

Gardening is creating life – such a contrast to warships that cause death and destruction. I recall an article in the 2010 edition of Canadian Geographic in which University of Calgary professor Rob Huebert said the navy is designed “to kill people and break things.” 

As I’m thinking about gardening, a navy guy walks by me. “Happy Wednesdays against Warships,” I said to him.

He looked at me angrily and snarled, “What do you want? Do you want us to bend over and get fucked in the ass by the enemy?”

“Who’s the enemy,” I ask.

“The US,” he says and walks away.

A few minutes later, several tall, muscular military men walked toward me. They are wearing naval caps with HMCS Star on them and are an imposing group. I have never heard of that ship before. Out on a busy street in broad daylight, I’m not intimidated by these guys, but I thought that I would feel very uncomfortable surrounded by so many men on a Canadian frigate. The percentage of women in the Canadian navy is less than 15%.

Then, a young navy guy walked up and stands beside me at the crosswalk.

“Hi, how long have you been in the navy?” I ask him.

“Eight years,” he replies.

“How’s it been going?”

“OK. It’s just a job,” he answers.

Later, an older, tall naval officer dressed in a white uniform walks up to the crosswalk.

I haven’t seen him before so I give him my spiel, “Happy Wednesdays against Warships. I protest here every Wednesday because I’m opposed to the federal government spending $25 billion of our tax dollars to build new warships.”

“That’s nice, dear,” he states condescendingly and crosses the street.

With approximately 15 minutes left in my protest, Sharon, a member of the Voice of Women for Peace, joins me. It is nice to have her company. She is always very encouraging about my protest and says things like “You’re doing a good thing.”

A white truck with Lockheed Martin’s logo emblazoned on it drives into the shipyard. I shake my head at driver. I can’t help thinking about how much I despise this corrupt weapons dealer.

Finally, a couple of Irving employees walk by.

I give them my usual greeting, because I don’t recognize them.

“I have seen you here before,” the suited young man says to me smiling.

“Oh,” I didn’t realize I have talked to him before, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“I hope you are wearing sunscreen. You could burn,” he said seriously.

“Thank you for your concern,” I replied. That’s nice I thought.

“Have you checked out my web site,” I asked.

“Yes, I already have,” he stated, smiled and carried on to work.

7 honks, 1 wave, 1 peace sign, 1 head shake

Dedication: I’m dedicating my post to gardeners like, Ron Finley, a guerilla gardener in South Central, Los Angeles. Watch his incredible TED talk about his food forest in the inner city. Check out his great beyond gardening web site! That’s what we need to do be doing – gardening, growing food and creating life not “killing people and breaking things.”

Jul 14

May 22, 2013 – Week #24

It was windy and rainy. I was by myself.

A few minutes after standing with my signs, a motorcyclist drove into the shipyard, pulled over and said to me, “Don’t you want me to have a job?”

I walked over to him and pointed to my sign “No Warships: Green Jobs” and replied, “Yes, I do. I want you to have a great job with a good salary and benefits but not building warships.”

A tall young guy walked out and looked a little bewildered at me.

“Hi,” I said to him, “Happy Wednesday against Warships.”

“Hi,” he replied and acted like he was no’t sure what direction to turn. He was wearing a suit and figured that he worked for Irving.

“How long have you worked for Irving?” I asked.

“Two days,” he replied.

I laughed and gave him my spiel, “I’m here protesting because I’m opposed to the federal government spending our taxes to build warships. It should be spent on building a green economy.”

“I see,” he said, smiled and walked away.

Quite a few cars were stopped at the red light in front of me.

I noticed a young woman in the passenger side of a car stopped in the furthest lane looking at me.

Then, she rolled down her window and shyly said to me “I agree with you.”

The light changed and the car drove off.

Her brave act of support made my day.

11 honks, 3 waves, 1 thumbs up, one “I agree with you” and 3 fingers.

Dedication: I am dedicating my protest to everyone involved in climate justice work around the world. There is an exacerbating climate crisis. On May 13, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that for the first time, they have monitored 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. See the graphs here.

Listen to Democracy Now’s coverage here: “Climate Tipping Point? Concentration of Carbon Dioxide Tops 400 ppm for First Time in Human History”

Evening, May 22 NS NDP “Women & Wine” & Warships?

I found out that there was a “Women & Wine” Fundraiser being held at Alexa McDonough’s condominium to raise money for female NDP candidates in the upcoming provincial election. In the past, I worked alongside many of these women, like Tanis Crosby, on early learning & childcare campaigns and feminist causes. I wanted to let them know that warships, which the NDP supports, are not good for women and children, so I decided to go down to protest with my signs outside the political shindig. As the NDP women party-goers walked by, I told them that I was opposed to Dexter giving a $260 million forgivable loan to Irving to upgrade the shipyard and flashed my sign “Women: Rise against Violence; Rise against Warships” – many of them looked irritated or embarrassed as they walked by me. I wondered how they could support Dexter and the Nova Scotia NDP when it has been such a terrible, militaristic, corporatist, anti-environment provincial government. Not one NDP woman has spoken out publicly to challenge Dexter on giving Irving a handout for warship construction. Not one NDP woman said those tax dollars should not go to Irving, but instead go to a publicly funded early learning & child care program, education, or affordable housing – not one NDP woman spoke out – not one.

Jun 26

May 15, 2013 – Week #23

Judy at Shipyard

A few peple have showed up today to protest with me!

Jeff, Kelly and Sharon came and we decided to have a couple of people with signs on both sides of the street.

Then, I was so pleased to see, Judy, a professor at Saint Mary’s University, join us as well.

She promptly picked the sign “Canadians warships out of the Middle East” and waved it at the cars driving by. Judy is a member of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace in the Middle East (CAJJP) and has been to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel many times. Judy is one of those rare academics who are active on social justice issues both on campus and in the community. Her husband, Larry, and two adult sons are also amazing activists whom I admire. Larry once said to me, “A family who pickets together ‘stickets’ together.”

In Judy’s email signature, she has the quote by famed feminist Gloria Steinem, “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters…” I have reflected on this quote quite often as I try to raise my two sons.

As we were all standing together protesting, a navy guy drove into the dockyard on a shiny, black motorcycle and pulled over to talk to us. “Hey,” he shouted, “we give you the freedom to protest.”

I walked over to him. “No,” I replied nicely but firmly, “I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree at all that the military gives us freedom.”

“Yes,” he insisted, “The military gives you freedom and security.” He explained that he is in the navy and said that they patrol the oceans and act as international cops.

I disputed his claim that the Canadian military is enforcing international law. I said that the military is too often breaking the law, engaged in illegal activity and ignoring the will of the Canadian public. I discussed how Canada’s special forces, Joint Taskforce 2, and Canada’s participation with the US military and NATO in the Middle East and Africa has no parliamentary or public oversight. The presence of Canadian warships in the Arabian Sea and off the coast of Somalia and South America is provocative and not promoting security in those countries and adversely affecting Canada’s reputation.

“The Canadian military did not give any freedom and security to the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya quite the opposite,” I argued.

I then told him about Chuck Wiley, the highest ranking navy personnel to leave the US navy and come to Canada as a war resister. Chuck was the Chief Petty Officer on the USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which was used in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two years ago, Chuck spoke to audiences across Nova Scotia and revealed the illegal activities he witnessed on the American warship. Chuck served in the US Navy for almost 20 years and left in protest losing his pension because his conscience would not let him participate in war crimes committed by the US military any longer.

“It is the same with the Canadian navy,” I said to the motorcyclist. I explained that there were Canadian special forces, JTF2, on the HMCS Charlottetown off the coast in Libya during the bombing raid and that this Canadian warship was actually accompanying the USS Enterprise in the Mediterranean Sea. I told him that there was Canadian special forces operating alongside the US in Afghanistan.

He tried another tactic, “The Irving contract will be good for jobs.”

“No, it won’t,” I asserted. I tried to explain that the federal government could employ more Canadians in the green economy than with this defence contract.

“I need the job plus I better get to work,” he said.

I assured him that I wanted him to have a good job in a green, creative economy and that I would love to chat more and that he could contact me through my web site demilitarize.ca He nodded and drove off.

Toward the end of the protest, Judy pointed out that the house across the street from the Irving Shipyard was for sale. “Imagine if we bought that house and turned it into a peace office,” Judy said, “We could put a big peace sign on the front lawn facing the shipyard and they would have to see it every day.”

I love the idea – a peace house!

With all the company, the time went by so quickly that I had trouble keeping track of the support and opposition from the cars and people going by. I counted myself 10 honks and 3 swears.

Then, we all went to Julien’s Café and Judy generously bought us drinks and cookies. As we were sitting outside the café, the Nova Scotia Minister of Finance, Maureen MacDonald, and the Minister of Labour, Marilyn More, walked by and said “hello.” I wanted to tell them that I was just protesting the warships but I suspected that they knew that already.

Dedication: In recognition of the dedicated activism of Judy and her family and in solidarity with them to support the Palestinian struggle. I am dedicating my protest to Independent Jewish Voices, Canadians Arabs & Jews for a Just Peace, and the Jewish youth who refuse to join the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and refuse to participate in the brutal occupation of the Palestinians. Check out “Why We Refuse”.


May 19, 2013 Bluenose Marathon

Registration: On Friday, May 17, I went down to the World Trade & Convention Centre with my kids to pick up my registration kit for the Bluenose Marathon. I wore my t-shirt “No Warships: Green Jobs: Demilitarize.ca.”

As we were walking through the exhibition area, a woman from the IRUN booth came up to me and said “Are you running this weekend?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Why,” she asked and passed me a card to fill out.

“I’m running for peace!” I exclaimed. I told her that I was going to run the full marathon wearing my t-shirt against the warships and flash the peace sign all over the city.

“What a great reason to run,” she said. “Can I take a picture of you and tweet it?”

“Yes, absolutely!” I answered and my kids and I smiled for the camera.

Day of the marathon: It was sunny but cold and windy for the race. When I was at the starting line, the announcer asked everyone to pause for a minute of silence to think about the people who were tragically killed at the Boston Marathon and he said that terrorism was never going to slow down runners. I wondered if the announcer ever asked runners at previous Bluenose Marathons to take a moment of silence to acknowledge all the innocent Iraqis, Afghans and Libyans killed by NATO and the Canadian and American militaries during our wars in their countries.

The announcer then asked us to acknowledge the presence of the navy personnel who were at the race today. I could see the group of navy personnel in the starting area and I went to stand nearby them, so that they would see my t-shirt. I wanted them to know that there was somebody who objected to the navy and was not going to give them any deference.

I was really motivated to run that day just to wear my t-shirt through Dartmouth and Halifax and pass hundreds of people on the street. At approximately 28 kilometres, I ran past the Irving Shipyard and down through the dockyard. I flashed the peace sign as I ran. It was nice to see some of my environmental and peace activist friends along the route.

I ran the whole way and finished the windy, hill race in 4:18.

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 22

May 1, 2013 – Week #21

May 1

My kids had a half day of elementary school today, so I had to bring them to the protest. They were not thrilled to come, but I promised them a trip to the candy store afterward. Since their birth, my kids have attended protests, rallies, pickets and demonstrations. They have helped me hold up banners, put up posters and pass out leaflets. I talk regularly to my kids about peace, social justice and environmental issues, so they know about my weekly protest against the warships.

With my kids in tow, I decided to protest across the street because there is a small green space that they can sit and play and is a safer distance away from the traffic.

When we arrived, I was so amazed to see that a stranger was there to protest with us! A nice young guy named Jeff had heard about my protest, checked out my web site and wanted to stand in solidarity.

A little while later Heather and Kelly joined us. It is amazing to think that we are a group of strangers who are standing together in our opposition to the federal government wasting billions of tax dollars on warships. We have only met each other because of this protest outside the Irving Shipyard.

I let the group know about the essay contest that I launched for high school students. I’m giving out money and prize packs to the top three essays that answer the 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?”

Then we went up to Julien’s Cafe together to chat some more about the issues that matter.

We received 21 honks and waves. 1 swear and 1 thumbs down.

Dedication: Today is May Day! International Workers Day! In 2013, hundreds of poor Bangladeshi garment workers sewing Joe Fresh, Children’s Place & Benetton clothes were killed by the collapse of a dilapidated factory. In 1934, the largest strike in US history was the textile workers strike demanding safer and fairer conditions. It is a long brutal history of workers struggling for decency and dignity. There is an important interview with Charlie Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, on Democracy Now! Listen here.

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: demilitarize.ca”

“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!

Apr 17

April 10, 2013 – Week #18

I was running a bit late for my protest. I figured that it didn’t matter if I started at 12:07 p.m., because no one would notice or care and I would just finish at 1:07 p.m. I always aim to protest for a full hour.

However, I was shocked to find three women waiting for me – Janet, Kelly and Heather. They rightfully ribbed me for my tardiness!

When we got into position in front of shipyard with our signs, we started to talk about Rehtaeh Parsons. Rehtaeh is the 15-year old girl who committed suicide last week at her home in Cole Harbour. A year and a half ago she was sexually assaulted by some boys in her school and then bullied. A few days later, the media reported that a girl in California also committed suicide under the same tragic circumstances. We talked about this awful affliction of violence against women. Eve Ensler, the feminist playwright said in her famous work The Vagina Monologues, “When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.”

Then, we talked about violence against the earth and the terrible environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas. A Nova Scotia company is storing fracking waste from New Brunswick in a facility in Debert, but the company wants to dump it into the Cobequid Bay. Activists, like my friend Janet, are worried that this toxic waste will contaminate drinking water for communities around the bay and she is trying to prevent that from happening.

Our conversation was interrupted by a car that pulled out of the naval dockyard. The driver, a uniformed military personnel, rolled down his window and said to us, “Hey, we need warships. We need the military. They protect you. It is nasty out there.” We didn’t have time to respond because he drove off, but we reflected on his belief that the world outside our borders is “nasty.” Kelly and I talked about our travels in Asia and how it opened our eyes to the amazing world in which we live. We didn’t share that perception that the world outside our borders is “nasty.”

I thought about my sons’ school. Last Friday, I helped the teachers with Multicultural Day. The students travel from one classroom to the other with their “passports.” Each classroom is a different country and they learn about that country’s unique culture and language. They try to locate the country on the world map and find its flag on the chart. While doing a craft they listen to that country’s music. That day, the students went to Egypt, Iraq, China, Jamaica, Libya, Lebanon, the Congo, and the United Arab Emirates. They had fun celebrating multicultural diversity with their classmates, many who are new immigrants. A couple of the teachers mentioned to me that it is one of the best days at the school, because the students are so engaged. The children are not learning that the world is a “nasty” place but an amazing home that we share with over 6 billion people.

I believe that this manufactured perspective of the Canadian military that the world outside our borders is “nasty” is dangerous because it dehumanizes people who are different from us and makes it easier for us to bomb them. Last year, Canada led the bombing raid of Libya that injured and killed innocent civilians. Last week US/NATO bombs killed 10 Afghan children and 2 women in Kunar.

I want to see and strive for beauty, peace, and justice in the world not blinded by the “nasty.”

22 honks and waves. Approximately 9 swears and scowls.

Drop the Suit_2_sm

Dedication: I’m dedicating my protest today to anti-mining activists in Central America like Sandra Carolina Ascencio. She is a member of the Coalition Against Metal Mining in El Salvador (the Mesa) and the Franciscan Office for Peace, Justice and the Integrity of Creation. The Mesa is calling for Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company, to halt development of its mine and drop its lawsuit against the government of El Salvador. Many people have been assassinated for protesting Canadian mining operations in their countries that pollute the water and soil and displace the local communities. I would also like to acknowledge the solidarity work of Canadians who speak out against mining injustice – my tireless anti-mining and social justice activist friend Tracy, MiningWatch, and the Council of Canadians.

Drop the Suit_1_sm

Apr 10

April 3, 2013 – Week #17

It was a cold and windy spring day. I was alone again. I expected it to be an uneventful protest but I was wrong.

As I was holding up my signs, a young, slim man was trying to talk to me from across the street. I waved and shouted at him that I couldn’t hear what he was saying because of the noise of the traffic.

So, he crossed the street and said to me, “I agree with your signs. You make a very good point but I work in there and I need a job.” He’s in his mid-20s.

He told me that he has worked at Irving Shipyard for two years.

I said to him that I want him to have a great job with excellent pay and benefits and I that I believe that he could have one in a green economy not building warships.

He agreed and added, “What the f*ck do we need warships for?”

He wondered why I was the only person out there protesting, “There is only one of you out here. That’s not going to change anything. Money does. Money talks. Irving has money.”

I replied, “I have to do something. I have tried to do other things like writing letters, organizing events, and passing out leaflets against the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy but nothing is working. I just have to stand out here to publicly express my opposition.”

I asked him if he was working today. He said that he’s off on holiday this week and is practicing his boxing to prepare for a match on the weekend. He said again that he agreed with me and then left to catch his bus.

I wished him good luck.

I got 11 honks and waves. 5 fingers and frowns.

Apr 03

March 27, 2013 – Week #16

Health care education environment sign_sm

I was alone outside the shipyard today. I brought my new purple sign: Health care, education & environment: No warships. “Happy Wednesdays against Warships”, I said to a shipyard worker who walked by me. I see him almost every week. He chuckled.

A car drove by, slowed down and the driver, a young guy, yelled and swore at me. Over the past four months, I have noticed that all of the people who swear at me have been men. Only one woman, a civilian employee who works at the naval dockyard, has told me politely that she disagrees with me.

At 12:45 pm, a group of naval personnel crossed Barrington Street toward me. At the same time, a fancy car with a little flag in the hood was pulling out of the dockyard, the navy personnel stopped and saluted the car going by. I could see that inside the car in the back seat there was a man  wearing a well-decorated uniform and hat. He was obviously a high ranking naval officer. I have seen this scenario before while I protest – these fancy cars with little flags shuttling around senior male officers. I have noticed that sometimes the drivers are women, but women are never the ones sitting in the back seat being chauffeured around. I really don’t like the male domination, the elitism and the hierarchy that I see in the military.

“Hello and Happy Wednesdays against Warships”, I said to the three naval personnel walking by me. “I’m here every Wednesday at noon. Check out my web site demilitarize.ca”

One of the naval officers, stopped and smiled, “You’re against warships? You want to get rid of the military?” he asked. He was in his 50s and friendly.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m opposed to the federal government spending $25 billion on warships. They are not a priority. The priorities of Canadians are health care, education and the environment” and flashed him my new sign.

“We need warships,” he said.

“No, we don’t. We need affordable housing, investments in our schools and hospitals, and action on climate change. We have homelessness and hungry people in this country. We need to help them first,” I said. I tried to tell him about the children in my sons’ elementary class that come hungry to school and the poverty in my community.

“We need the military to protect our land. If we didn’t have a military they would come and get our land. They all want our land and our resources.” he said.

“Who?” I asked.

“The Russians,” he answered.

“The Russians! That is what they are telling you in there,” I said. “That’s preposterous.”

He insisted, “They are going around and putting flags in the Arctic. They want our land. They want to take over.”

“We have international law and diplomacy. That’s what we need to solve any conflict including with the Russians. In fact we are using the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea negotiation process right now with the Russians in our dispute in the Arctic Ocean,” I explained.

He shook his head and said, “Canada needs a military. It protects you. It gives you security.”

“No, your guns, warships and fighter jets don’t protect me. It’s quite the opposite. The Canadian military is fomenting conflict and violence around the world and not providing peace and stability.” I argued.

“We are doing peacekeeping,” he tried to say before I interjected and vehemently disagreed. “The Canadian military is not doing peacekeeping. You know that and I know that.”

We talked about the Canadian military’s role in Haiti, Libya and Afghanistan. He said that the Canadian military was protecting women in Afghanistan against the terrible Taliban. I said that the Canadian military did not go to Afghanistan to protect women and told him about Malalai Joya, the democratically elected woman from the Farah province to the Afghan Loya Jirga but was kicked out for her condemnation of the government corruption under President Karzai and the foreign occupation by the US/NATO. Joya has faced death threats but the Canadian government and the Canadian military did not stand up for her and provide her any protection. I asked him to tell me what he did for the Afghan women but he didn’t answer me.

“I’m totally against armed force, which is fundamental to the military.” I added. “The Canadian military has killed people in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.”

At first, he said that Canada didn’t fight in Iraq. I reminded him that his former Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk commanded troops in Iraq and an estimated million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 in the U.S. war and occupation. We argued about how many Iraqis died and if Canada was complicit. He conceded the Canadian military did fight in Iraq and it shouldn’t have. “It was wrong,“ he said.

“We don’t solve conflict in our homes, schools and communities with weapons and violence; we shouldn’t use weapons and violence against our global family,” I said.

“We are going to get there,” he said.

“Yes, I’m trying to speed it up,” I said. I felt very heartened that he could envision this path of peace, non-violence and no military with me – he understood.

We shook hands. I enjoyed our vigorous debate.

“Well, I better get back to work,” he said and walked away.

I had 9 honks and waves and 5 fingers and scowls.

March 26, 2013 – Premier’s Office & Protest at the Legislature

Letter and book to Dexter

Today the provincial legislature opened for a new session. I decided that I would go down to protest and let the MLAs know about my opposition to the (war)ship contract and the provincial government handout to Irving Shipbuilding Ltd.

Last spring, Premier Dexter and the NDP government gave Irving a $304 million loan of which $260 million is forgivable to upgrade their shipyard. It is the largest government handout to a private company in our province’s history. Irving is one of the wealthiest family businesses in the country. As a private business, the public has no access to their financial statements and annual reports. The Government of British Columbia did not give Seaspan Ltd. any provincial money to upgrade their shipyard after they won the $8 billion joint supply ship package. This NDP government had a choice: invest in Nova Scotians or invest in Irving.

At 10:00 a.m., I went to One Government Place to give Premier Dexter a package with my open letter and a copy of William Hartung’s book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. The security guard in the building would not let me take the elevator up to the Premier’s office, so I asked if someone from his office would come down to meet with me. A woman named Lana came to accept my package and listened to me explain my opposition to the Premier’s support of the warships and my concern about lobbying and the violations of the Lobbyist Registration Act. She politely explained that the Premier was not in his office but that she would give him my package. After she left, the security guard asked if he could have a copy of my letter to the Premier and I gave one to him. I also encouraged him to check out my web site demilitarize.ca and he said he would.

Outside the legislature, I placed a few of my signs near the steps and then started walking around the building holding up my new sign “Health care, education & environment: No warships”. Colleen joined me. I was happy to see many women from the Nova Scotia Child Care Association having their own protest with their signs “Invest in Early Learning & Child Care”. I knew a few of the women and expressed my solidarity. In fact, I read to them a passage from my letter to Dexter where I wrote “Little progress has been made toward poverty reduction, affordable housing, and early learning & childcare, yet you are further subsidizing Irving Shipbuilding after it has won a $25 billion contract from the federal government.” I reminded the child care workers that the NDP knows better – it had a choice: to give a handout to Irving or to invest in a quality, universal early learning & child care program in the province, such a program would have had a much greater impact on our society and the economy than the giveaway to Irving.

As the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) walked by, I tried to tell each one that I was opposed to the (war)shipbuilding contract and the loan to Irving. I noticed a few of the NDP MLAs stopping to talk to the representatives of the Nova Scotia Child Care Association but I felt that the MLAs feigned concern. If the NDP MLAs really cared about early learning & child care they would have done something when they formed the government four years ago. Just before 11:00 a.m., Premier Dexter walked across the street to the legislature. I was waiting there with some of the other protesters. Dexter walked right by my signs “No warships: Green jobs” and as he walked into the building through the back door, I shouted at him “a militarized economy is a failed economy.”

Signs on steps of legislature

Finally, as I watched all the women NDP MLAs enter Province House like Marilyn More, Becky Kent, Lenore Zann, Vicky Conrad, Denise Peterson-Rafuse, and Michele Raymond, I especially felt disappointed. I really feel like they have let down the women, children, and natural environment in this province. Not one of these women MLAs stood up to say why are we supporting warships and not greening the economy, why are we giving a handout to Irving and not investing early learning & child care? The NS NDP has been a huge disappointment, because they have utterly abandoned their social democratic principles.

The NS Liberal Party and the NS Progressive Conservatives Party are absolutely no better and even worse. These parties also supported the (war)ship contract. On April 8, 2011 in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, there was unanimous support by every MLA for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. In the past, when the NS Liberals and the NS Progressive Conservatives were in government they never adequately invested in early learning & child care, education or the environment. It is a sad commentary on the state of our democracy that not one politician at the provincial or federal level has expressed any opposition to the warships, the largest procurement in our country’s history, not one.