KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The U.S.-based Halifax International Security Forum (HISF), known to the anti-war movement as the Halifax War Conference, returns to our city for the 11th year in a row from November 22 to 24.
For the 11th straight year, Haligonians will be opposing it, with two events Saturday, November 23rd: a rally at 1:00 p.m. at Halifax Peace & Freedom Park (formerly Cornwallis Park) Hollis & South Streets.; and a meeting and panel discussion at the Dalhousie University Student Union Building at 6:30 p.m., concerning the HISF and Obama’s visit to Halifax on November 13. This meeting will feature Margaret Kimberly, Senior Editor of Black Agenda Report.
“This is an important opportunity for everyone to speak in their own name against war preparations and any role for Canada in aggression and war,” says Allan Bezanson, an organizer of the Halifax events.
“Haligonians have long declared that our city is ‘No Harbour for War!’ and should not provide a venue for warmongers and war criminals, and their handmaidens, to plan further aggression against the peoples of the world. Nor do we accept that the Canadian government should be funding this U.S.-based organization with tens of millions of dollars.
“This forum has simply stolen the name of our city. It has no organic connection whatsoever with Halifax except it is staged here. That is why we say, not in our name.”
The HISF does not reflect the desire of Haligonians for friendly relations with other countries, as epitomized by the recent conference hosted at Dalhousie, “The Cuban Revolution at 60” that highlighted Nova Scotia’s friendship with Cuba for over 100 years.
Some 300 participants from 75 countries – a dramatic expansion from 17 countries in the first 2009 HISF – will be taking part in this war conference, sponsored by NATO. One of the organizers very much in the headlines is Kurt Volker, the hawkish U.S. special representative to Ukraine, a participant in the HISF since 2009 and member of its agenda working group since 2012. [i]
At the 2018 HISF the Department of National Defence was represented by 25 participants from the Army, Navy and Air Force and military colleges – along with the Canadian Security Intelligence Network, Global Affairs, Veterans Affairs and MPs. Defence minister Harjit Sajjan declared that “Canada is punching above its weight” in its participation in NATO. He echoed the U.S. demand that “Russian aggression” become the chief security concern for Canada and NATO.
Of the 34 sessions, 28 are secret and held behind closed doors where everything is discussed and decided behind the backs of the Canadian people. Only six are “on the record” with video streaming and CPAC broadcasts for propaganda purposes. The HISF is aimed at pushing the foreign and military policy of Canada to be more aggressive and to disinform Canadian people, and is thus increasingly being condemned across Canada, not just in Halifax.
Rallies are being held this year in Ontario. In Toronto, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) are uniting to protest at the NATO Association of Canada headquarters, 49 Yonge Street in the heart of the central business district.
Philip Fernandez of CPC(M-L) and an educator says, “The HISF is a matter not only for Haligonians but for all Canadians. The notion of security promoted by HISF is intrinsically linked to NATO and its aggressive agenda and demand for Canada to increase military spending by tens of billions of dollars.
“It is part of further integrating Canada into US Homeland Security, putting its people, lands, seas and harbours such as Halifax at the disposal of US imperialist aims. It is also linked to NATO’s political apparatus (of which the Canadian chapter is the NATO Association of Canada), which is pushing an agenda that opposition to NATO constitutes ‘foreign interference’ in Canadian affairs.”
“We are saying NO! to this war conference and staking our claim on Canada as a Zone for Peace!,” he affirms.
The Windsor Peace Coalition (WPC) is also raising its banner against the HISF at its weekly pickets held every Saturday from 11 to 12 p.m. in the border city.
Margaret Villamizar, co-ordinator of the WPC and a foreign affairs analyst and journalist, says they are “posting information about the HISF and the demonstrations taking place against it on our Facebook Group, indicating that our picket this week will emphasize the need to get Canada out of the US war machine, so the holding of this secretive US /NATO war conference in Canada paid for out of public funds becomes a thing of the past.”
The WPC has been holding weekly pickets since 2007 and their numbers include retired teachers and nurses, some well into their 80s. “We have been quite persistent and as a result have a definite standing in the community.”
Tamara Lorinc, a well known Halifax environmental and anti-war activist now doing a Ph.d in Ontario, has been leading the women’s group in monthly protests at the NATO branch headquarters as well as the Toronto offices of foreign minister Chrystia Freeland. She participated in organizing the inaugural protest against the first security forum in 2009.
Speaking on behalf of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace at two forums in Toronto and Windsor during the recent election organized by CPC(M-L), she gave spirited presentations entitled “Canada’s Role in NATO Must Be Ended and NATO Dismantled.” A former NDP candidate in Halifax West (finishing second to Liberal Geoff Regan), she argues that all the political parties sitting in parliament are pro-NATO. This is dangerous for Canadians and goes against their will.
The details of Canada’s military spending surprised many in attendance as to its extent. The Trudeau Liberals have worked to keep people in the dark all the while committing more than $500 billion for defence spending over the next 20 years, escalating the integration of the armed forces with the U.S. and deploying troops and warships to the Baltics, Poland, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine, Mali, the Caribbean and Asia. The government places great importance on attracting youth from a very young age to identify with and join the military; the cadet program is the single largest youth program in the country. These billions being spent for war and destruction of the planet could be better used to serve human needs, she pointed out.
Opposition against NATO is unfolding on a national and international scale. For example, demonstrations have taken place yearly at the HISF dating back to the 60th anniversary of NATO in 2009. Internationally, actions took place in Washington DC at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on the occasion of its 70th anniversary and in other Canadian and American cities this past April. Actions will be held on December 3rd In Toronto and London to protest the NATO 70th anniversary events taking place in Britain which Trudeau is attending.
The propaganda about NATO being a successful organization is a lie since all its interventions have been failures. She emphasized the importance of stepping up the organizing against NATO and its “We Are NATO” campaign. Everyone should be active in working for peace and against war, and the peace movement should take an active stand against NATO and for it to be dismantled.
See also: All out to oppose annual US-led war conference in Halifax! First of a series of investigative articles and reports to be written by Tony on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the HISF.
[i] In an October 24 press release, HISF President Peter Van Praagh stated that this year’s conference will “highlight the need for a coordinated strategic response among democratic allies to the challenge posed by China, the increasingly urgent problem of climate change, the security of our democratic systems from foreign interference, international law and order, inclusive security, and how the world is responding to American leadership.” The press release indicates that the HISF is considered a platform where the U.S. will issue its dictate. “As is customary, the conference features a delegation from the United States Congress, as well as leaders in the United States military and wider security community. Internationally, joining them from more than 75 countries are ministers, experts, chiefs of defense staff, and top media personalities.”
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