- Krista Leger
- A scene from Occupy Nova Scotia’s fall sit-in, just before the police came.
Let's say you're that kid with the Noam Chomsky shelf in your bookcase. You're new to Halifax, you don't give a shit about Harbour Hopping, and you've spent nights wondering who let in all this colonial, let's drink-it-all-away propaganda anyway.
Guess what? Before this was Halifax, this was K'jipuktuk. We're guests on unceeded Mi'kmaq territory, and like any good guest, we could at the very least learn a few words of the local language. Your first lesson in protest is to head down to the Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre (2158 Gottingen Street, 420-1576) for free language lessons.
Are you at the Friendship Centre yet? Good. Look up at the street sign on the corner and read what it says. It says C-O-R-N-W-A-L-L-I-S. Cornwallis issued a scalping proclamation against the Mi'kmaq in 1749, and got a street, and a park, and a church and a river named after him. Your second lesson in protest is to organize a letter-writing campaign to your local Member of Legislative Assembly. Demand that the government appropriately rename all of these things and let Cornwallis finally fade from memory.
You'll need to stay healthy if you want to take on the state, which brings us to our third lesson in protest. The best place to get your bodily necessities, and keep your purchasing power local, is from the local farmers and artisans who are gracious enough to bring their wares to market, just for smart kids like you. The HRM has a wealth of farmers' markets (Historic Farmers' Market, 1496 Lower Water Street; Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, 1209 Marginal Road; Dartmouth Farmers' Market, Alderney Landing, 2 Ochterloney Street), so put down the chips, take a local cooking class (lesson four; try Local Source at 5783 Charles Street, localsourcemarket.com) and keep yourself out of the nasty box stores. And while you're at it, get active with a community garden (Halifax includes the SeeMore Green at 1411 Seymour Street and Common Roots Urban Farm at Quinpool and Robie Streets)---lesson five.
You're going to need a fitness regimen too. Lesson six is to head down to Bike Again! located in the Bloomfield Community Centre (2786 Bloomfield Street). Refurbish yourself a bike with the help of the knowledgeable on-site mechanics and hit the streets.
What's that you say? Where are all the bike lanes? That, friends, is lesson seven. Halifax is a sadly under-serviced metropolis when it comes to bike accessibility (Blame it on the ridiculous way the HRM is set up, where off-peninsula municipal councillors outnumber on-peninsula ones and scrap anything that might upset their suburban-and-two-cars constituencies---lesson eight). At this point in the never-ending municipal hen-cluck for proper bike lanes, you might want to get some white paint and lay down some bike lanes for yourself---lesson nine?
So now you're fit, fed, mobile and ready to hit the streets in righteous defiance of all that is wrong.
You should know, however, that this is a long, long way from Wall Street and Montreal. And while there are definite advantages to that---the fact remains that the protester needs a community, and sometimes that community can seem pretty sparse in toe-the-line Halifax.
Your final lesson is to do a bit of research. Find those groups in town that are carrying the torch of social justice, and take in a meeting at the Halifax Peace Coalition (hfxpeace.chebucto.org) and Occupy Nova Scotia (facebook.com/OccupyNS). Visit the Ecology Action Centre (2705 Fern Lane) and NSPIRG (Dalhousie SUB, 6136 University Avenue) for resources and other ideas on how to become engaged and involved. Become a citizen journalist.
Of course, if you really feel the need to bang your head against the wall just to see if it's still there, grab a tent and pitch it in any municipal park in the HRM. See how long it takes the Halifax police to beat you down, throw away your gear and toss you in jail for the weekend.
Stay strong and smart, and don't forget where you are. Have a good school year.