Musings on the CANSEC 2019 Arms Bazaar in Ottawa

(Photos of the CANSEC 2019 protest)

There were about 50 of us out in the Ottawa boonies today (May 29, 2019) at Canada's biggest war show. We were wielding our signs and banners, hurling our songs and chants, and chatting -- as peaceniks are always wont to do at such events. For a couple of hours, we walked and talked slowly back and forth. Our words and our bodies crossed the arms-show entrance. Our goal in being there was -- in part -- to hinder their car traffic and their arms traffic as well.

By slowing down their entry into CANSEC we put ourselves in the way of their eager desire to browse the flashy weapons exhibits. Some of them were perhaps eager to get to their companies' weapons-display tables in the hopes of drumming up some new business. Others maybe just wanted to hear Canada's Minister of Defence give a delicious talk over breakfast about how great Canada is, how we always stand tall for peace and democracy, and how we (as a proud nation based on genocide, imperialism, God and land plunder) are the best thing since motherhood, sliced bread and all things equally wondrous. (Actually I doubt he mentioned the genocide thing.)

*** Gatekeepers: The Media, the Police and Protesters

Of course, like last year, there were no reporters in sight. They perhaps were too busy inside the arms bazaar, lapping up the beautiful displays of weapons and all the official propaganda that was being dished out over bacon and eggs. The media, being the important gatekeepers of information in our society, were not there with us at the gates of CANSEC to hear our message. We only had coffee, donuts and an ignorable version of the truth. Who needs the truth when you have so many weapons?

The police on hand were friendly enough, although they had a rather loud and ferocious dog ready in a van nearby. That seemed slightly uncalled for to me but maybe (though not likely) it was on hand to keep the warprofiteers in line. We know how they get when they go without breakfast.

The police managed the process by which we blocked the CANSEC entrance for 20 seconds and then allowed cars to come in for the next 20 seconds. This caused big delays and hundreds of cars to get caught up in huge lineups. They were probably not terribly amused by our impact on their very important day.

*** Delaying Vehicles, the Traffic in Arms, and Life

The delay they experienced was nothing compared to the delays in life experienced by those who have suffered the onslaught of endless US wars facilitated by Canada's multibillion-per-year export of weapons systems to the US. Every US war waged, every invasion and occupation, every regime change inflicted by the American military, and every "humanitarian" bombing sortie that they've launched in the name of the UN's so-called "responsibility-to-protect" doctrine, all of these horrors only happened thanks to the myriad of essential military components exported to the US from Canada and assembled there into major weapons systems. Bravo Canada! Not to mention the complete weapons systems built so craftily in Canada that our government gladly allows to be sold to the US and spread elsewhere around the world to other warmongers and relentless abusers of human rights. All this of course in the endless greedy search for more profit.

It really does throw a big wrench into your day, and slows things down in your life, when bombs start dropping, when missiles hit your street or local bridge, not to mention your family at home or your kids in their school, or your mosque, power plant, water treatment facility or any of the many other civilian targets that Canada's arms exports have helped to blow to smithereens.

With all that mayhem in mind, slowing down these CANSEC participants and delaying their traffic, in and out of an arms bazaar, was the very least thing we could do.

*** Men in cars should watch where they're going

The people in the cars (mostly men of course) generally wore nice suits and ties. Many of their vehicles had tinted windows. Some had chauffeurs. Most of those secure in their little bubbles of steel and glass were quite well behaved, but a few were a tad rude. Only about one in a hundred of them would lower themselves, or their windows, to take a leaflet from us. Some would lower their window as if to take a pamphlet and then do it up quickly as a kind of a joke. At least these ones had a sense of humour.

All in all they were not terribly open to learning what we stand for, or stand against, or what we stand in the way of, including our standing in the way them trying get on with their day of war business as usual.

Although these CANSEC participants were stuck in their cars waiting and had plenty of time to look out at the world around them and see our banners and signs, they generally didn't bother. Instead many just stared straight ahead, with rather glum and expressionless faces, and seemed to prefer looking away from us, very symbolically -- I thought -- thus turning a blind eye to our messages, and to our very existence.

By avoiding even looking at us they could perhaps avoid looking at themselves and seeing what they are doing and the roles they are playing in the war business. Their ignoring of us was however nothing compared to their ignoring of the victims of their glorious industry. If only we could transport them to the war zones where they could see for themselves the gory craterous impacts of their monetary and political successes.

*** Mr. Jaguar vs. Councillor Menard

One guy in a slick Jaguar got quite aggressive about trying to get through our picket line. When he got huffy and agitated he tried using his car as a weapon of sorts. This prompted one of our folks to make a very particular point about standing his ground, and he stood right in front of the car and refusing to budge out of the way. Mr Jaguar then actually drove forward a bit right into this protester and we all shouted and the police were called over and we suggested telling Mr. Jag that driving into people was not generally considered acceptable behaviour, although selling weapons and just killing people straight out is okay, and worth billions in government subsidies, especially if those people in our target sights are -- like the elected Venezuelan govt -- somehow hindering nice big corporations from making a bloody killing, or are -- god forbid -- damned communists.

It turns out that this stand-your-ground, potential-roadkill protester is Shawn Menard, an Ottawa City Councillor! (That's him in picture #2.)

*** On Speeches, Chats and Rants

Later, when we all gathered around a warm megaphone, Shawn was called upon to say a few words. Turns out he not only walks the walk, he talks the talk too! After he was done, I was kindly asked to say as few words as possible (see picture #3) and I so told our little crowd about how City Council had banned arms shows from municipal property 30 years ago, how thousands had rallied against the weapons bazaar back in 1989 and how 150 resisters were arrested for peacefully blocking the gates of ARMX. Shawn came over to me after that and we had a nice chat.

Actually those informal chats at protests are one of the most important functions of these events. Making contacts with others, socialising, sharing a laugh at the expense of the warmongers and ourselves -- these are all very valuable experiences that help us to survive the many stresses of opposing war, day after day, decade after decade. How else can we expect to cope with all the struggles and stresses that we encounter when dealing with duplicitous politicians, unrepentant capitalists and all the other rather annoying people and institutions, big and small, that thwart our efforts to build towards a more peaceful and just world?

There ends my rant for the day,

Richard Sanders,
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) founder/coordinator

See also:
Personal reflections on ARMX 89 by Richard Sanders
Trials & Tribulations of a Stressfully Successful anti-Arms Trade Campaign

More about ARMX 89       More about ARMX protests

Photos from the past decade of CANSEC protests: StopCANSEC

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