The Motherpeace Action: Building the Circle

By Laurie MacBride

EIGHT WOMEN WERE ARRESTED ON SUNDAY, August 3, when the island housing the high-security control centre of the Nanoose naval weapons testing range became the site of the Nanoose Motherpeace Action.

Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, is the location of the sophisticated installation known as the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR). Under a joint-use agreement between Canada and the U.S., this has been the site of underwater weapons systems testing and development for the past twenty years. They agreement was renewed in June to give the U.S. another ten years of free use of the range, but the campaign to end all weapons testing here and convert the area to peaceful purposes continues. If anything its momentum has grown.

The Motherpeace action began on August 2, when we set up our tipis on the shores of Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. The Nanoose Peace Camp existed again, if only for the weekend. A month before, we had taken the camp down after a 466-day vigil at Nanoose, rather than fight the landowner in an impending court case. Since then, our vigil has been aboard a 42-foot junk moored in the bay. which, though very good symbolically, has limited our contact with people. So it was fine to get the tipis up again (on different land this time) and hear the honks of support from passing motorists.

That evening everyone-C.D'ers, witnesses, and support people-met in a circle after dinner to prepare for the next day. The fifty or so participants had come from various places, including Cortes Island, 75 miles to the north, Victoria, 100 miles south, and even Portland, Oregon, 250 miles away. Roles included witnesses and camp supporters, who cooked, provided child care and rides, and numerous other services during the weekend.

The next morning, three large sailboats, a kayak, three canoes and a small speedboat left from nearby marinas and headed out to Winchelsea Island-which the military calls the "heart of the range." The Island houses a computer control and command data centre (all equipment U.S.-owned) and is strictly off-limits to the public.

Working against a 15-knot wind and choppy sea, the "landing party" transferred into four small dinghies, and with the witnesses watching, rowed to the Island for a symbolic "picnic." We were arrested as soon as we stepped ashore, but we carried on with our ceremony; we shared food and sang, and only when we had finished were the military personnel able to begin processing us. Meanwhile, the boats of witnesses waited just offshore. We were charged with trespassing on Defence Establishment property (an offence that carries a maximum sentence of twelve months or $1000), told to be in court October 2, and released. The military police officer in charge seemed impressed that we got back into the same flimsy dinghies and rowed out into the two-foot swell. Once we were safely on board the sailboats again, everyone headed back to Nanoose Bay in high spirits.

WE HAD CHOSEN A PICNIC AS AN appropriate symbolic act, since breaking bread together has always been important to communities committed to a joint concern. Moreover, we are working to make "bread, not bombs" a reality for everyone. We hope that some years from now. after the conversion of Nanoose to peaceful uses, we'll be able to come to Winchelsea Island for another picnic, bringing our children with us, and not having to break any laws to do so.

The landing party was exclusively women because we wanted the Motherpeace Action to express our concern for our children and the planet. U.S. nuclear submarines and their nuclear weapons are not welcome at Nanoose. While political discussions and arms control negotiations are dominated by men and make little headway, we women are creating our own avenues to bring attention to the urgency of the nuclear issue.

FINALLY, THIS WAS A WOMEN'S ACTION because we wanted to carry it out together as women. For the things we couldn't do alone, we asked for and received help. We were blessed with tremendous support throughout. In the end we feel that our double circle has become much stronger-our women's circle and the larger spiral of which it forms a part. a

Contact: Nanoose Conversion Campaign, #225-285 Prideaux Street, Nanaimo, B.D. V9R 2N2. Telephone 604/754-3815.

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986

Peace Magazine Oct-Nov 1986, page 44. Some rights reserved.

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