(Edmonton, March 16, 2004.)
While Tooker was always described, first and foremost, as an environmentalist – and that was the arena for many, if not most, of his public interventions – Tooker was very much a person who most definitely had “the big picture” and understood how it all fit together. I have been asked to speak on behalf of the Edmonton peace community and, in that capacity, I want to acknowledge, celebrate, and highlight his contributions and commitment to the peace movement.
It was primarily during the first Persian Gulf war that I worked with Tooker and Angela – and really developed a sense of that tenacity for which Tooker was so well known. The Peace Camp that Tooker established in front of Canada Place on Jasper Avenue was the embodiment of his spirit – no half measure, not content to just show up for the marches or the megaphone or the media attention, the Peace Camp was a full-time commitment in the dead of an Edmonton winter – to provide public witness against the war. That camp, and Tooker’s ability to be the bridge that linked the more staid, traditional, grey-haired peace activists (like me) and the younger EcoCity crowd – was a huge contribution during those difficult and troubled times.
Tooker had that “in your face”, upfront style. Unfortunately too many people – primarily those who never worked with him – would focus on his style and overlook the substance. Obviously, it was far easier to do that and stay in denial than to pay attention to the message and face up to doing what we knew needed to be done.
Regarding the peace issues, he didn’t just parachute in for the Persian Gulf war. He understood the issues and was an articulate voice for peace. I always remember one interview during the Gulf War that Tooker and I did on CBC one afternoon. The host (who shall remain nameless!) asked some convoluted, involved and totally unclear question – all I could think of was that I hope he asked Tooker to respond first or I was going to be in big trouble! Fortunately he did – and Tooker gave this totally insightful and articulate response which gave me enough to go on so that I could then respond. He had the depth and understanding of the issue – no question about it.
If we are to heal our planet, we know that our efforts will have to reflect not only environmental concerns, but also the struggle for social justice and peace in our world. And although Tooker was known more as an environmentalist, it is clear to me that he was well aware and extremely well-informed and committed to the integration of issues that is so necessary if we are to reclaim our planet.
A huge debt of gratitude that I owe to Tooker – aside from all the obvious contributions – is the fact that he was always out there at the cutting edge – no compromises, no b.s. – do it right – do it 100%. For those of us who certainly care about the issues but aren’t as strong and steadfast, Tooker was out there, taking the flak and often times the ridicule, so that lesser folks like me could come along and sound more mainstream and semi-acceptable. He followed the difficult path while many of us just followed in his footsteps.
It’s tough being an activist in this province – I know what anger and frustrations I feel – so I can’t imagine how trying and difficult it was for Tooker. He was a visionary; he was prophetic. He was right–but what a dreadful toll it has taken – on him, on Angela, his family – and what a loss for all of us.
Tooker gave us so much – and obviously, at the very least, we have a responsibility to him to continue the work with renewed energy and determination. That goes without saying.
But with that commitment also goes a caution. We know that we are working on “long haul” issues. For the kind of social, political and economic revolutions that we want to see, it’s going to take generations to achieve.
We are just that proverbial dot on the landscape – not necessarily seeing lots of successes, not sensing great progress. It’s tough – and so I would ask that, as part of our recommitment to the activist agenda, that we acknowledge how important it is for us to support and care for one another. This is essential if we are all going to meet our commitment to Tooker. He gave us all so much – and this is our gift in return – to love and care for one another on the one hand – while on the other, we continue to raise hell until we achieve our vision.
Thank you, Tooker.