activism

Security forum has no place in Halifax, says anti-war group

No Harbour for War opposes Halifax’s role as ‘a vector for war’

Some 50 protesters, armed with banners and flags, gathered in Cornwallis Park outside the Westin Nova Scotian on Saturday to protest the Halifax International Security Forum. The group chanted slogans like “Yes to peace” and “Down with NATO.”

The Halifax International Security Forum has been held annually in Halifax since 2009. World leaders and thinkers gather and discuss international security topics ranging from terrorism to global warming. This year’s agenda includes panels with security experts from Canada, the United States, Ukraine and others. The forum also welcomed the Peace With Women Fellowship, a group of high-ranking women in the military from around the world.

Opposing the forum is the Halifax-based No Harbour for War. For spokesperson Allan Bezanson, the forum is nothing more than a gathering for what he calls “warmongers.” He views the event as an opportunity for world leaders and decision makers to get together and plot future military interventions in foreign countries.

“We don’t like our city being used as a vector for war. We want it to be a vector for peace,” Bezanson said.

No Harbour for War has been protesting the forum since 2009. They oppose Canada’s involvement with NATO, which they sees as a negative force of military interventionism.

Another aim, according to No Harbour For War’s Facebook page, is to “make Canada a zone for peace.” For protester Marrie Berkelaar, Canada has the potential to be a role model for other nations in this regard.

“People have a lot of respect for Canada. They may not know all the ins and outs of Canada not being quite as perfect as we’d like to present ourselves, but I think it would be really important if Canada took a firm stand,” said Berkelaar.

Marrie Berkelaar has been protesting the International Security Forum since 2009   Sam Fraser

The group also rallies against the role Halifax plays in international security — not only as the location of the forum, but as a port city for warships. Bezanson cited the deaths of working class Nova Scotians in the Halifax Explosion of 1917 as a consequence of a “war based economy.”

Speakers at the protest included Montreal-based author Yves Engler and former Halifax poet laureate El Jones. Jones recited an untitled poem that spoke against Canadian and American military interventionism, as well as systemic racism in both nations.

“Hooray for the capitalist war party. We came, we saw, we got paid. Hooray for the invasions disguised as foreign aid,” read Jones.

El Jones reads her poem as Allan Bezanson holds the megaphone.   Sam Fraser

There was one thing that was different this year, compared to previous years: the absence of the statue of Halifax’s founder, Edward Cornwallis, in the park. The statue was removed in January.

No Harbour for War used to cover the statue with a sheet in protest. The group argued Cornwallis and his actions towards the Mi’kmaq were rooted imperialism and warmongering, the same ideas they’re protesting.

“With a lot of effort you can make change,” said Berkelaar about the removal.