Tag Archives: mayor nenshi

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau: In the name of peace.

On Saturday evening, I was invited to address the crowd gathered at Civic Plaza to commemorate the devastation that rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 71 years ago. It was an evening to share our fears and hopes for nuclear disarmament, for peace on earth, for a future free of the fear of nuclear devastation.

It rained, hard, and still the people stood and listened and watched and when the moment was right, set their lanterns onto the surface of the reflecting pool and let them float into the night.

There were moments where I wanted to cry. To scream out, Stop this! Stop this suicide wish we have with our planet. We are killing ourselves and the world as we know it. Stop it.

A nuclear disaster is a real and present danger. It continues to grow in the darkness of our desire to not acknowledge it. It continues to fester in our silent voices refusing to call out for disarmament. To not stand up and demand we free ourselves from relying on war to make peace.

While Canada does not possess nuclear weapons, we have a long history of colluding with our super-power IMG_9133neighbours in fighting for the right to arm our military with weapons of mass destruction. In the name of national security we tell the Commissions and Tribunal’s when they gather to negotiate, “Our neighbours need them to deter other not so rational nations from using their weapons of mass destruction against them.” And so, in the shadow of our big brother, we do not insist they disarm. Instead, we tell ourselves the world is safer when we stand together with the nuclear super-powers and don’t make them back down from their continued demand to keep their arms and stay in the game of improving upon their prowess as creators of mass destruction.

The current presidential campaigns do not leave me feeling that safe living in the shadow of the US. I don’t feel so confident that some of the 1500 nuclear warheads they have on call will not be used indiscriminately under the misguided belief they will teach someone on the other side of the globe a lesson.

IMG_9139Fact is, there are over 15,550 nuclear warheads co-existing with us on this planet today. When the recent coup took place in Turkey, there was great concern over the safety of the airport. It is believed by many that the US has nuclear weapons stored there.

We think we are safe from the fallout. We are not.

It would only take 100 of today’s warheads, which are 20 times more powerful than the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, to create a cloud so dense it would block the sun for years. In the nuclear winter that would ensue, all plant life on earth would die. And so would much of life.

So this is my fervent plea, to Prime Minister Trudeau, to Premier Notley, to Mayor Nenshi who as a signatory to Mayor’s for Peace is calling for the total abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020. IMG_9151

Let’s Do It!  Let us disarm, disengage, disconnect the weapons of mass destruction and decide now to take the path to peace.


Let us choose peace.


In peace and the hope for a nuclear weapon free world.


To read the full text of my speech, please click 2016 Lantern Festival

Just because I’m homeless doesn’t mean I’m bad.

Mayor Nenshi addresses the crowd
Mayor Nenshi addresses the crowd

While each of us is unique, there are no unique circumstances in homelessness. No matter who you are, or how you got there, homelessness harms everyone. It destroys dignity. Breaks down self-respect. Rips apart self-worth.

Discrimination is a common occurrence when you’re homeless. People look at you as less than, other than, something different than a ‘regular’ human being and not worthy of common decency.

People drive by and spit at you out car windows. They call you names. They cross the street to avoid walking on the same side as you are on.

When you’re homeless, instability is the foundation of your life. Will there be a bed for me tonight? Will I get robbed of my few possessions? Will I get beaten up for taking up someone else’s space I didn’t know was theirs? Will a gang of kids think it’s a cool idea to throw gasoline on me and watch me burn? Will someone decide they don’t like the way I’m looking at them and decide to teach me a lesson?

When you’re homeless, there are no written rules of engagement except the one that says, you must survive.

When you’re homeless, you don’t have the luxury of depending upon each breath following the next. You never know when the breath you just took will be your last.

I am always amazed when people in the broader community tell me they are afraid of people experiencing homelessness. “What do you think they will do?” I ask.

“They’ll attack me. Take what I’ve got because they want it more.”

“That’s unlikely to happen,” I tell them. “When did you last hear of someone iin homelessness randomly attacking someone on the street?”

“Well…” They usually pause here to search their brains for a memory of a story about such a situation. They come up blank.

It just isn’t the way it is.

What is true is that when you’re homeless, you are vulnerable. No matter the colour of your skin, your faith, your culture, homelessness is a vulnerable state of being and while someone may not be stalking ‘normal folk’ to attack, they are at risk of being attacked. Both by ‘normal folk’ and those in the homeless community.

Keeping a low profile is essential when you’re living the homeless experience. It’s important to not attract too much attention because attention gets you in trouble. Attention leaves you exposed and visible. And being visible is not a healthy state of being in homelessness.

On Friday, we held a World Homeless Awareness Day event here in Calgary. Our Mayor came and gave an impassioned speech talking about the need for affordable housing. Affordable Housing is The Key our posters read.

And it is. You can’t end homelessness without a home to go to.

The challenge is, people often don’t want people with lived experience of homelessness living in their communities.

My property value will drop, they tell me. Crime will rise. Parking will be a mess.

I show them the research. Talk to them about the right of everyone to have a home. The need for diversity in our communities.

And still, underlying it all is the fear that because that person is different than me, because they carry a label I’m unable or unwilling to see beyond, they will harm my way of life. They will want what I’ve got and take it from me.

Homelessness is not the issue. Our misconceptions, our perceptions and our judgements are.

In his speech, Mayor Nenshi stated, “Homelessness sucks!”

He’s right.

It does.

And you know what else sucks?

Our belief that those who are living in homelessness are different than, other than you and me.

The only difference between us is that their issues are on the surface. They are visible for all of us to see that life is fragile. Life is unpredictable and the only way through it is to count on one another, hold true to our belief in the dignity and majesty of the human being and celebrate our differences and our similarities.

And we can’t do that when we cross to the other side of the street to avoid walking past someone whose pain is visible on our streets.