Activism

Protesters rally against 2017 Halifax International Security Forum

El Jones and Masuma Khan were among the speakers

Protesters climbed the statue to cover it.   Taryn Grant

Protesters threw a black sheet over the statue of Edward Cornwallis on Saturday  as a symbol of their opposition to the Halifax International Security Forum.

“I think it is absolutely essential in dangerous times like these to show up and demonstrate our dissent,” said Alex Khasnabish, one of the demonstrators.

About 25 people turned out to protest at Cornwallis Park, which is across the street from the Westin Nova Scotian where the forum is held.

Khasnabish, a professor of sociology and anthropology at Mount Saint Vincent University, was a speaker at Saturday’s rally. He said he hoped it would bring awareness to Haligonians and Canadians about the “racketeering” taking place at the security forum.

Alex Khasnabish said war doesn’t bring peace.   Taryn Grant

Three hundred participants from 91 democratic countries are in Halifax this weekend for the three-day security conference. Since it began in 2009, the Westin Nova Scotian has hosted the event.

No Harbour for War, a local anti-war activist group, organized Saturday’s  protest. Group spokesperson Allan Bezanson said he opposes the use of military solutions for issues like nuclear proliferation and climate change, which are on this year’s conference agenda.

“We’re shaking our fists at the Westin hotel where these NATO generals and militarists and etcetera are assembled,” he said in an  interview before the protest.

Protesters roll out signs at Cornwallis Park.   Taryn Grant

Security forum participants include NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Alphabet Inc. (Google) chairman Eric Schmidt and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman. Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is host of the conference.

Speakers at the protest included local activists El Jones and Masuma Khan. Jones, a former municipal poet laureate, read her poem “Know your Enemy.”

“Know your enemy … it is calling installing a brown face as defence minister inclusion and diversity,” Jones said into a megaphone that carried her voice around the park.

Police told protesters to leave the sheet on the statue; the city would take it down later.   Taryn Grant

Khan said to protesters she was not at the rally as a vice-president of Dalhousie Student Union, but as “Masuma Khan the Afghan woman who is a settler here.”

Khan said she disapproved of foreign military intervention in her homeland of Afghanistan, but her emphasis was on Canada and the need for reconciliation with Indigenous people.

Masuma Khan talks about her experience as an Afghan-Canadian woman.   Taryn Grant

“There has been a war here for 400 years. There has been a war, an attempt to modernize our Indigenous people and to kill them and take them away from everything that they hold close to them,” she said.

Bezanson said protesters rejected the name of Cornwallis Park during the first demonstration against the security forum nine years ago. He credited the name “Peace and Freedom Park” to Betty Peterson, the 100-year-old activist.

 

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