We Must Embrace Nonviolence

Police, firefighters and emergency personnel line Garland Avenue in Burnside as the body of RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson is transported on Sunday evening. - Eric Wynne

By Kathrin Winkler, April 21, 2020

From The ChronicleHerald

Waking up in Halifax today is waking up to another new reality.

I was blissfully watching trending Cape Bretoner Mary Janet baking butterscotch pie while a massacre was taking place just outside of the virtual kitchen. There was a shooter on the loose in rural areas of the province.

The photo of the young and beaming RCMP officer holding the hands of two children, leading a classroom of kids flashes across the screen. Slowly the extent of the shooting spreads like the blood of the victims, spilling across our consciousness.

How can we fathom what is happening? How can we place this senseless act of violence beside the caregiving surrounding us so compassionately? Was it another incident of femicide? Exposing yet another ongoing pandemic on this beloved planet? Was it yet another act of white supremacy? Who is developing the vaccine against the continuum of violence moving from neglect of love, to bullying through mass shootings to genocide?

Our questions might look different, but question, we must. As the day continues and families mourn, media searches, politicians respond and communities worry, what did you do? I felt lost, but finally got busy. I had missed my first assignment for an online course offered by World Beyond War. The question I had to answer was: “What arguments do you find compelling for nonviolent resistance as a pragmatic alternative to violence?”

This is what I wrote: Practical peace and justice is the essence of nonviolent resistance. Let’s start where we are. I want to acknowledge that I am writing from the unceded ancestral territory of the Mi’kmaq people rooted in the ongoing relationship between nations in peace and friendship.

Yesterday, here in Nova Scotia, the largest mass shooting in Canadian history took place and at least 18 humans died violently. My argument for nonviolent resistance speaks for itself. It speaks because of the tools it requires — heart, voice and language. The tools of violence do not open up this space. Violence silences the conversation. There is no space for dialogue at the end of a gun or, for that matter, at the receiving end of a street check. Carrying a gun, a nuclear bomb, a riot stick, whatever it is, oversteps the moment of possible change. There is no space for negotiation, feminist perspectives and “all voices at the table.”

Nonviolent resistance does not take, it gives. The violence inflicted on this Earth ball that delights, gives life, teaches and sustains us — that violence threatens to take away, to erase and to smother the dreams of our children.

Nonviolence is reciprocity that does not end in failure. Acts of violence are acts of failure. Here, the man who killed randomly layered sorrow and confusion on the space of caring sprouting in our communities of isolation.

Nonviolence is an act of the imagination — violence an expression of human limitation.

Nonviolent resistance evolves, finding new forms of resistance. The Guardian illustrates how the pandemic is spurring us on to widening the range of activism. These new forms of resistance widen the front of action and the range of mobilization. Violence is elite — sitting in the darkened halls of patriotism and militarization scheming greedily for power — truly a hungry ghost system.

What is the alternative to nonviolent actions? What are we choosing if we do not embrace nonviolence? This is the key. The alternative to a world of nonviolence and justice sits huddled in a refugee camp, alone and cold and frightened. The alternative to nonviolence dies on the streets of a quiet town with a flash of her children’s faces before her eyes dimmed forever. The alternative swims with the last thrust of a dorsal fin in the tailing ponds beside the gold mines and tar sands.

As Gorbachev wisely wrote, “War is a failure” and, like femicide and oppression, it harbours the violence that continues to fan the restless winds of despair.


Kathrin Winkler, Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace, lives in Halifax.

2 Responses

  1. Thank You for the thoughtful and insightful response to this monstrosity. As an U.S. citizen, Nova Scotia has been my source of peace of mind and my sanctuary from the thoroughly corrupted state of affairs here. I spend half my time in the deeply beautiful southwest of the province. I cannot bear this news as I always imagined this type of thing impossible in Canada. Heartbreaking as this event it is and will be, your story illuminates the sources of violence and of peace and makes the choice of how one lives and sees the world more stark.

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