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Nova Scotians rise! – A poem by El Jones (and some photos)

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – We dropped by the Nova Scotians Rise Up! rally at Province House earlier this afternoon. Government workers, environmentalists, parents, little dogs, people on income assistance, injured workers, water protectors, and many others gathered to raise their issues and express their dissatisfaction with this government.

Later on today we will post a couple of the speeches, but we start off with this powerful poem by poet and tireless activist El Jones, published with her kind permission.

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Nova Scotians rise!

When our future in this province is being mortgaged
When education and healthcare aren’t important
When we can’t get a doctor because of the shortage
And the hospital’s a health hazard because we can’t afford it
When you can’t get mental health care without a long wait
And your hips and knees can’t get replaced
When McNeil attacks nurses and denies them their wage
When seniors are denied dignity as they age
When we work all our life, and we’re abandoned to die
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!

When schools are closing in rural locations
And buildings falling down without renovations
But new schools are built in the riding of the Minister of Education
When they shut down the school board without consultation
When kids with learning challenges can’t get assistance
And every call for help is met with resistance
When the government plays politics with the future of children
When there’s a war on teachers and the education system
When teachers are buying their own supplies
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!
When we have money for new convention centres
Giveaways to banks and tax breaks for developers
But seniors in nursing homes can’t even buy vegetables
Five dollars a day for food for nursing home residents
When affordable housing is out of reach for renters
When in cold weather people are being turned away from shelters
When people are cutting their medication in half
While politicians are scratching corporations backs
When handouts go to cronies and friends
And domestic abusers are hired again
When we’re tired of broken promises and lies
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!

When the poorest among us are being abandoned
But there’s 17 million for jail expansion
When we can’t treat addiction but buy body scanners
When we incarcerate Indigenous and Blacks instead of social programs
When they allow Alton Gas to dump brine in the river
And contracts for fracking are being delivered
When we clearcut the forests, and allow the pulp mill
When Black and Indigenous communities live beside the landfills
When they poison the water, the land and the sky
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!
When this province is being drained of its youth
When you spend a lifetime in debt from the fees for school
When you can’t get to your job because of bus routes
When our food’s insecure and we can’t afford fruit
When reserves have black mold in the housing and no clean water
When they cut funding to sexual assault centres and sacrifice our daughters
When they’re firing the workers and busting the unions
When unless we’re rich we’re not treated as human
When minimum wage can barely keep you alive
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!

When Abdoul Abdi is taken into child protection
Sent to 31 homes, abused and neglected
When nobody bothers to sign his citizenship papers
Then they order him deported for their failures
When all the government does is shrug their shoulders and sigh
What do we do? Nova Scotians rise!
When injustice affects more than your jobs and your pension
When it affects the people that you don’t want to mention
The next time Indigenous people protest and you don’t pay attention
When Black people hit the streets and you’re not in attendance
When we’re losing our lives and you don’t want to question
When you ignore us until it’s time for the election
When we’re deported, suspended, and brutalized
When we’re stopped and racially profiled
When we’re murdered and missing and colonized
Will there be hundreds of people the next time we cry?
What will you do? Nova Scotians rise!

When we call for your help will you stay home and hide?
What will you do? Nova Scotians rise!

If you want to come together and you don’t want to divide?
What will you do? Nova Scotians rise!

When we’re out here in the cold, Will you stand by our side?
What will you do? Nova Scotians rise!

What will we do? Nova Scotians rise!


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  1. I can’t wait to hear this poem again with a thousand people all doing the response. So powerful. Great to meet you El.

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