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Protesters cry out against war outside Security Forum

Protestors range from Dal academic to 96-year-old activist

Protesters held a rally at Cornwallis Park on Saturday to oppose the Halifax International Security Forum.

The group “No Harbour For War,” an anti-war, anti-imperialist and anti-NATO collective, helped organize the event.

The Halifax International Security Forum is a meeting between members of government, militaries, businesses, academia and the media to discuss global security and ways to meet emerging threats.

Participants include Peter MacKay, minister of justice and attorney general, U.S. Sen. John McCain and others from around the world. The forum is held at the Westin Nova Scotian hotel and goes from Nov. 21 to 23.

NHFW drew attention to the rally through pamphlets and a Facebook event. In both, they refer to the HISF as the “Halifax War Conference”.

The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) and Anarchist Initiative co-sponsored the event. Jordan Roberts, outreach and administrative coordinator for NSPIRG, says the objectives of NHFW fall in line with the mandate of NSPIRG. She added none of NHFW’s posters have NSPIRG’s logo.

A statue of Edward Cornwallis, the founder of Halifax, lies in the middle of the park. Members of Anarchist Initiative climbed the statue and covered his head with a drape.

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Protesters veil a statue of Edward Cornwallis. (Photo by Michael Lee)

Dr. Isaac Saney, a professor at Dalhousie University and a member of the editorial committee for NHFW, says Cornwallis carried out genocide against the Mi’kmaq people. As an act of protest, the park is symbolically renamed “Halifax Peace and Freedom Park”.

“Every time we run an activity here, we cover up Cornwallis.”

The protest started at 1:30 p.m.

Allan Bezanson, a member of NHFW, kicked off the rally with Dr. Saney as the first speaker.

“We say war criminals are not welcome in Canada or in Halifax. We need an anti-war government,” Dr. Saney says.

He believes there is a tremendous amount of disinformation, citing the Middle East and Africa, and the forum is using it to justify imperialist aggressions by the U.S. and its allies under the guise of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Dr. Saney is opposed to NATO and wants Canada to withdraw from it.

He went on to call the “gathering of these warmongers” an insult to fundamental democratic principles, representing a flagrant violation of international law. He also says Haligonians living in “the most militarized city in Canada” uphold a proud tradition of anti-imperialist, anti-war and peace aspirations.

Dr. Saney added war is one of the biggest dangers facing humanity.

“Canadians don’t want to be responsible for war crimes and these people are gathering so-called in the name of Canadians, in the name of other peoples, and we are saying ‘no,’ we oppose this.”

He says he feels a lot of opposition exists in Canada, but people feel disempowered.

Dr. Saney concluded his speech saying, “Not in Halifax. Not in Canada. Long live the struggle for peace. Long live the struggle for a people’s government.”

Brad Fougere, another protestor, gave a speech citing the state criminalizing resistance and people of colour, particularly Arabs and Muslims. He says an explicit conversation is happening within the forum regarding the strategic importance of pipelines and energy policy.

“So it’s about this ongoing colonial project … it’s about the energy security of the world’s largest military apparatus.”

Roughly 60 people attended the rally. (Photo by Michael Lee)
Roughly 60 people attended the rally. (Photo by Michael Lee)

He added the Pentagon is the world’s largest single consumer of petroleum products.

In his closing remarks, Fougere said, “There is no alternative within the system but that the imperialist states and their various running dog institutions need to be smashed absolutely.”

Bezanson talked between speakers. He criticized McCain’s ties “with the Al-Qaeda elements” and neo-fascists in Ukraine. He also made reference to the honourary doctorate MacKay gave to McCain and the presence of Ehud Barak, former defence minister and former prime minister of what Bezanson calls “the Zionist state of Israel.”

El Jones, a peace activist, spoke last. She recited an original poem where she criticized Justin Trudeau, the NDP, the Harper government and Canada’s sentiment towards Palestine.

“It’s true though but they’re still gonna get our votes because Prime Minister Harper has this country by the throat.”

Jones believes all justice begins with peace and feels the money spent on the forum could be used at a community level or for attracting peace and justice leaders to the forum. “We see what people do with small amounts of money in our communities every day.”

Mitchell Murray heard about the rally through Halifax Media Co-op. He disagrees with the warmonger title, saying “it’s just people who want to defend their empires [and] their money.”

He is not a fan of anarchy and believes “if you want peace, you have to be peaceful first.” He says it is more important to meet people, figure out structured solutions and act on them.

Security remained across the street at the entrance of the Westin hotel. The protestors did not encounter any opposition with the exception of one man who called out, calling the logic of the rally flawed.

Bezanson is proud of those who came out, noting the dignity and honour of Haligonians and Nova Scotians.

He says because Halifax is a “quiet, out of the way place,” the participation at these rallies will not be in the hundreds of thousands. He hopes to not only increase their numbers, but to make this an everyday rather than a single-day event.

He says the rally was excellent. “For everyone here today, it’s a spike in the [HISF] coffin.”

The rally also commemorated a 96-year-old woman who has been a peace activist since World War I. She told the crowd she has “worked against every single war since then, including the coming war.”

NHFW pickets weekly at the intersection of Spring Garden Rd. and Barrington St. on Friday between 4 and 5 p.m.


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