My name is Max Silverman. I’m a youth activist with a number of groups, including the NDP and a number of Jewish Peace Groups.
I stand before you amazed at the outpouring of community and solidarity in the wake of the passing of a dear friend. For me, Tooker had many roles. Friend. Ally. Co-conspirator. And Mentor.
When Tooker ran for mayor back in 2000, I, as a 14 year old grade 9 student was inspired by his adventurism and creativity, as well as his commitment to what he believed in. I tuned in every night to local news to see what fun, inspiring, and usually wacky stunt Tooker was up to recently. Soon after the election, I contacted Tooker and Angela, and was swept up by his passion. I became involved in a number of his campaigns. We also became very good friends.
One of Tooker’s strongest qualities was that he had a vision of social justice that transcended particular issues or partisan lines. While on a Monday you’d see him with Green Party members working on environmental issues, on Tuesday he would be with the NDP protesting the war. On Wednesday he’d be at an Israeli-Palestinian peace event, and on Thursday he’d be on the street with OCAP fighting for affordable housing.
Indeed there are very few movements that Tooker was uninvolved with, and very few movements that he didn’t have an impact on. I never would have become involved in any sort of politics or activism if it wasn’t for Tooker. Truly, he defined my involvement.
When you ask most people involved with any sort of social justice issue what they thought of Tooker, the words I mentioned before, friend, ally, inspiration, always come up.
However, in recent years, Tooker wasn’t around as much. As you all know by now, Tooker was diagnosed with depression a few years ago. When he went through his first big bout of depression, 2 years ago, I would call him on a regular basis. The good days were when he would pick up the phone and want to talk. In the worst times, I couldn’t even speak to him.
He overcame his depression and jumped back into the fire, including the anti-war events leading up to the invasion of Iraq. He, of course, got arrested protesting the war, in 2 countries even. He also got arrested for locking himself into Ralph Klein’s office. Our old Tooker was back.
He moved to Halifax with Angela keen at the prospect of a new city. A new place to cause trouble. And indeed, that is what he did. Excitedly I read his updates of what creative and fun actions he was up to, inspiring a whole new group of activists, and leading the fight for environmental rights.
Then, Tooker was struck down again by his depression. Of course, he had his friends. For those of us here, we contacted him. Wished him well. We sent our support. But, despite all the wonderful intentions of his friends, his disease proved too much for him to handle.
Perhaps his experience is a message to all of us. While we try and fight for what we want the world to look like, we must remember ourselves and each other. Of course, there is nothing more that we could have done to stop Tooker from doing what he did. That is the nature of mental illness. But, let us all come away from this tragic loss with two messages:
Firstly, to quote Tooker, “take care of yourselves and each other”. This means supporting one another. This means knowing when to offer yourself to do a task, and when you need to pull away and take a breather. Know when to identify the signs of a mental illness in a friend, and know that you have people and resources to turn to for help. To the credit of the organizers of tonight’s event, we’ve offered resources on how to get help. Please, don’t be afraid to seek help. There is no weakness in knowing your own self.
Secondly, keep Tooker’s passion alive. Keep creativity, openness, and inspiration in whatever issue you are involved with.
We have indeed lost a dear, dear friend. Tooker will be greatly missed by everyone in this room and more. But, please come away from tonight inspired to keep his memory alive, and to keep fighting for what you believe in.
Thank you all for being here.