Peaceful Duo Confront Canadian Warship During Toronto Recruitment Tour
HMCS Fredericton Brass Freak at the Site of Peace Banner, and Canadian Navy shows Itself Vulnerable to the Freedom Virus
TORONTO, SEPTEMBER 16, 2006 -- The Canadian military is often the butt of jokes about its supposed firepower deficiencies. But what proved obvious to the duo who stood vigil today in front of the warship HMCS Fredericton was that the military is not lacking killing power, but rather an understanding of the "freedom and democracy" rhetoric that is used to defend their missions overseas.
The warship was in Toronto on a "Great Lakes Deployment" mission. It's part of "a period of aggressive expansion" under the military's "Operation CONNECTION," described as "an initiative ...to connect with Canadians through a broad range of coordinated community based activities in order to attract and enroll quality recruits to meet strategic intake requirements."
Any interference with the propaganda blitz -- any effort, perhaps, to question why war remains a first resort of governments around the globe, or asking if recruiters explain the War Dept.'s shabby history when it comes to treating veterans with dignity, respect, and proper compensation -- is met with panic.
Within seconds of unfurling their peace banner in front of the warship, two members of Homes not Bombs had caught the nervous attention of the ship's brass, who immediately convened an emergency meeting on the deck, cell phones at the ear, to figure out what to do with this tiny bit of freedom and democracy that had broken out on shore.
The sailor posted to greet visitors on the ground seemed to have no problem with us being there, smiling and exchanging a few words, but he was ordered from the ship not to speak with us. Given that it proved irresistible to talk with banner holder Kirsten Romaine, who continued asking questions about his life and mission. the young crew member tried responding, but again was subject to the snapped order from on board -- NO!
The visit by the warship was the latest in an ongoing military propaganda blitz that included a large presence at the Canadian National Exhibition, where uniformed soldiers lifted children into battle tanks and warplane cockpits and illustrated how to load and fire artillery pieces.
The HMCS Fredericton, whose nickname is "Stalker of the Seas," carries an impressive array of weaponry that was shown off before yet another crowd of folks in search of a "family" outing. Among the heavy-duty stuff is a Harpoon missile that can "deliver" a 227 kg warhead to a range in excess of 130 km and a "Sea Sparrow vertical launch surface-to-air missile [that] uses semi-active radar homing to deliver a 39 kg warhead at speed Mach 1.6 to a range of 15 km." In addition to torpedoes and other weaponry there is their Bofors gun, "capable of firing 2.4 kg shells at a rate of 220 rounds/min at a range of more than 17 km.
We reflect on the tragic shootings that took place in Montreal earlier this week, and wonder how we constantly express surprise that such things occur in a culture that glorifies guns. The young man involved in the shooting at Dawson College, it was reported earlier in the morning, had taken a course with the Canadian military, introducing him first-hand to the culture of violence. One of our placards quotes Canadian General Hillier, a local warlord who proudly (and very accurately) proclaims, "We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people."
And the Fredericton can kill a lot of people. No doubt a tour "highlight" is the Raytheon/General Dynamics Phalanx Mark 15 Mod 1 close-in weapon system, which fires 3,000 rounds of ammunition a minute (a new upgrade allows 4,500 rounds per minute).
It certainly has left an impression on a group of young boys who, having toured the ship, amble over to speak with us.
We posit that anything that fires 3,000 rounds of ammunition per minute is a criminal abomination.
"They told us it's 4,500 rounds a minute," one of them immediately responds.
We look up to see the brass still huddled on deck. It appears they have an idea! Suddenly, an advance shore team makes its way down the gangplank to confront us. One uniformed man introduces himself as a "Force Protection Officer." We suppose that means he is there to protect the force that his ship represents, but against...us?
"These images are disturbing," says a member of the Military Police in reference to a placard that asks "Why War?" above a series of photos of the human targets of war.
"War is disturbing," Kirsten replies.
The Military Police officer insists he is not trying to cause us any problems or difficulties, but they want us to stand far way from the ship, the bulk of which is hidden from the main roadway by the tennis club, where people play their games as if a major piece of killing machinery simply is not there. People sit in a nearby restaurant as well as if nothing is out of place on this fine afternoon.
"We're not saying you can't hold your banner," the officer insists.
"In fact, you are saying exactly that," we reply.
He pleads with us to head to the Queen's Quay, where we might be seen by some passing traffic, but our message would be set against the backdrop of a huge indoor tennis structure, and not in front of the warship. People from the road seeing our banner might conclude that we are a thoroughly confused twosome who will never convince fellow Canadians of the dastardly connections between tennis and war.
"There's nothing wrong with you being here, it's just that we want you over there," he tries again.
"If there's nothing wrong with us being here, why do we have to move?"
Frustrated, he brings things to a close.
"Well, it looks like my efforts at mediation just aren't working," he sighs, as if this concession should make us feel guilty, roll up our banner, and go away.
"Well, this isn't mediation," we point out. "Mediation means that there is a neutral party who works with two opposing groups towards a conclusion satisfactory to both parties. You're telling us what to do, and there's an implied threat that we will be physically removed if we don't comply with your orders. If that's the military's idea of mediation, no wonder it isn't working in Afghanistan."
"Look, I don't want to get political here," he says.
"It's too late -- you've already gotten political by asking us to leave."
At this point, the owner of the dockside restaurant appears. We offer him a leaflet, but he laughs and says he has no time for leaflets. Look, he says, be reasonable, we have 100 kids and their parents booked for a special promotion today that includes a tour of the ship.
"All those kids can't see this," he says, pointing to our banner. "Look, they've been promised an exciting thing for today."
"Well, if it's being advertised like that, it's a problem. War keeps getting advertised to kids as exciting, and we need to be here to show another side of war. That's what democracy is supposed to be about, isn't it?"
The restaurant owner says that he does not want to "get political" (the standard line, it seems, whenever someone just doesn't want to talk about the issues right in front of our faces!).
Meanwhile, some people take flyers, while others sneer at us with that "what right do you think you have expressing an opinion" look on their faces.
"The military seem to be able to get their message out wherever they please," Kirsten says. "So why can't we be here?"
We are asked not to "make them" do something they don't want to have to do (i.e., remove us from the facility). We point out that we are not blocking anything and, next to the huge warship, we are only a small message of peace that is causing no harm. Besides, we only planned to be there for an hour, and the amount of time we have spent discussing whether or not we should be there has kept us standing there for most of that time, getting our message out in spite of every effort to prevent us from doing so. (Note to others facing removal for "trespass": keep the dialogue going and your banner up, the message continues getting out!)
The group of young boys who approached us earlier are now killing time, hanging out while their parents continue their tour of the warship. They wander back over to ask if they can have some extra flyers to hand out to people while they wait for their parents. We're more than happy to share the leafletting load, as the dialogue with the military police and Force Protection Officer has made it difficult for our own "operation connection" to be as active as we would have liked.
At 2 pm, we fold up our banner and head to the recruiting booth where we pick up the multi-coloured, glossy cards that promise youngsters a "world of opportunities" in the military, along with CD-ROMs that advertise the "exciting" career move that may lay ahead for the new recruits.
On our way out, we run into the young boys who had helped us leaflet, who are about to leave as well. Their parents frown disapprovingly at our message, but the kids, as they clamber into the back seat of the car, wink at us, smiling, and one of them gives us the thumbs up.
Mission accomplished? Hopefully.
(report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs)
NOTE: Operation Connection continues along the Great Lakes. Peace-loving folks interested in "greeting" the navy can do so on the following days. Meantime, check the War Dept. website (www.dnd.ca) for updates on where recruiting activities will be taking place this fall in malls, schools, and other inappropriate venues for advertising the opportunities for killing.
Montreal, QC 19 &endash; 20 September 2006
Ship open to visitors: 19 Sept. 1400-1600, 20 Sept. 1530-2000.
Sept-Iles, QC 22-23 September 2006
Ship open to visitors: 22 Sept. 1330-1600, 23 Sept. 0900-1200.
UPCOMING HOMES NOT BOMBS EVENTS IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO
1. Tuesday, Oct. 3, 12 Noon to 1 pm, Join us on the 5th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan at Moss Park Armoury, Queen and Jarvis
2. Saturday, October 14, 10 am to 4 pm Training in Nonviolent Direct Action and Creative Protest, Kitchener-Waterloo
3. Saturday, October 21, 10 am to 4 pm Training in Nonviolent Direct Action and Creative Protest, Londo
4. Wed., Oct. 25, 7 pm: Innis Town Hall, U of T: Screening of Mothers Day at Wescam and The Camden 28, two films about nonviolent resistance to the war in Vietnam and Canadian military production. The Camden 28 were one of the largest groups involved in a draft board raid (part of a movement that destroyed upwards of 1 million US government draft files, seriously hampering the draft) after which they faced a potential 47 years in prison. They were eventually acquitted and recall through archival footage and re-enactments of court testimony this remarkable period. The Mothers Day film documents two days of nonviolent actions at Burlington's L-3 Wescam, the self-proclaimed #1 "defence" company in Canada, a major manufacturer of military targetting equipment for Hellfire missiles, material used to prevent refugees access to asylum, tools to repress demonstrations, and other insidious stuff. Parent company L-3 also provides torture teams for Iraq and Afghanistan. (Both films screen in Hamilton on October 19 at McMaster University)
5. Sat., Oct, 28 and Sun, Oct 29, 7 pm (call 416-651-5800 to confirm): Country Music Fans Against War welcomes the Dixie Chicks to the Air Canada Centre. Join a welcoming committee that will hand out flyers to the thousands of Dixie Chicks fans who will be coming to the concerts. The Dixie Chicks have taken a lot of heat for speaking out against the war in Iraq, including having their music banned throughout North America from radio airplay, as well as death threats, but as they say in their new CD, they are not ready to make nice. "I'm not ready to make nice, I'm not ready to back down, I'm still mad as hell and I don't have time to go round and round and round..." All people, even those who do not care for twang and twin fiddles in their music, are welcome.
6. Saturday, November 4, 10 am to 4 pm Training in Nonviolent Direct Action and Creative Protest, Hamilton
7. Tuesday, Nov. 7, 12 Noon to 1 pm, Join us for our monthly vigil and food and clothing distribution at Moss Park Armoury, Queen and Jarvis. It must be turned from a war training facility into affordable, not-for-profit housing!
8. Friday, November 10, 7 pm, Reel Activism: Screening of Conviction, a documentary about three nuns who spent over three years in jail for a symbolic act of nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons. Bloor Street United Church, Toront
9. Saturday, November 11, Training in Nonviolent Direct Action and Creative Protest, Guelph
10. Saturday, November 18, Training in Nonviolent Direct Action and Creative Protest, Toronto
11. Monday, Nov. 20, late morning: Legal Rally, Street Theatre, and Mass Nonviolent Direct Action at L-3 Wescam in Burlington, Ontario. Join affinity groups from across Ontario as we seek to transform L-3 Wescam from a war profiteer into a company that actually makes stuff to help people. Get in touch to join affinity groups preparing for the day
Information on these and more: Call Homes not Bombs at (416) 651-5800, email@example.com, www.homesnotbombs.ca
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