The Tyrant’s Foe, the People’s Friend
Remembering Robert Devet — 1955-2021
The Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada expresses condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and people of Nova Scotia for the loss of Robert Devet. A memorial tribute was held in Halifax on October 14 as a celebration of his life and work.
Devet was born in Holland in 1955 to a patriotic and anti-fascist family. His sister-in-law Carolyn van Gurp informs that his parents participated in the resistance movement which heroically fought the ferocious occupation by Hitlerite Germany.
“Robert followed a path started by his grandfather who lived his social justice ideals in dramatic ways; a path his own parents followed in actively resisting Nazi oppression,” Carolyn informs.
After he emigrated to Canada he worked as a civil servant with Service Nova Scotia in information technology. In 2012 he began writing for the Halifax Media Co-op. Colleague Hilary Lindsay notes that he authored more than 300 articles between September 30, 2012 and December 19, 2015, without a doubt motivated by the anti-social, neo-liberal course of the Nova Scotia government which he observed first hand. His last series of articles for the Halifax Media Co-op supported the almost two-year-long strike of newsroom staff at the Halifax Chronicle Herald, part of the Saltwire media monopoly, which he backed up by participating on the picket line.
In January 2016 Robert founded the online news and commentary journal Nova Scotia Advocate. Calling it his “second life,” he recognized the need for an independent media which would break the silence around the working and oppressed people of Nova Scotia and stop the emergence of a police state.
“On this site we write about poverty, housing and gentrification, workers and bosses, City Hall, the environment, racism, homophobia and misogyny, refugees, people living with disabilities, prisons, the arts, and so on. We like the stories other news media overlook, and we focus on Nova Scotia and the Atlantic provinces,” Robert said.
His last story, published on September 27, 2021 was on a rally resisting colonial injustice and calling on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to stop violating Mi’kmaq treaty rights.
Colleague Tony Seed points out: “His publication provided space for political and social activists to share information, present their views on issues of importance to the society so as to smash the silence on these important matters, uphold the dignity of labour and to humanize the social and natural environment. For example, Mike Keefe of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) informs that he wrote four articles involving the struggles of postal workers for their rights against Canada Post for the Halifax Media Co-op and had 21 in the Advocate. Likewise during elections he provided space to enable the small parties including the communists to make their views known to the polity and defended the right to conscience against Islamophobia and racism.
“Robert was motivated by the high ideals of humanity which are being trampled underfoot by the warmongering big powers who are taking society in a direction opposite to that required by human beings, which is why today our security lies in the fight in defence of the rights of all. Although the purview of Nova Scotia Advocate was the province and the region, his outlook was neither narrow nor provincial. He opposed the use of force to sort out problems amongst nations and against the Indigenous Peoples within our country, opposed imperialist war preparations and the all-round militarization of Halifax, and advocated to get Canada out of NATO and NORAD and to make Halifax and Canada a zone for peace.
“Every year the Nova Scotia Advocate published in depth informative articles in support of the work of the anti-war movement spearheaded by the No Harbour for War group to expose and oppose the U.S.-organized, NATO-sponsored Halifax International Security Forum. He participated in, photographed and reported on the rallies held annually since 2009; on the successful campaign of the Mi’kmaq and their allies to eliminate the grotesque monument to the genocidaire Cornwallis; protests against the ‘visits’ of U.S. and NATO warships and the Canadian warship program; and as well published several detailed historical articles condemning the Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917 on its centenary as a war crime. Anyone can speak or write bravely about such dangers from the sidelines, after the people have gone into action to confront them, but only those with courage are there to confront the situation in broad daylight. His spirit of unity in action showed his responsibility to this important cause for the nation.”
Tony Seed writes further: “The outpouring of tributes confirms the need of the people for such a media published by Robert and the memorial rally is a very timely and fitting recognition of the principles Robert has devoted his journalism to uphold. Defence of the right to freedom of expression and the right to conscience is crucial to the fight for human rights. Recognizing that this defence is a quality some journalists uphold is also an important contribution to the fight to affirm the rights of all. The right to freedom of expression and conscience, to hold opinions, to express and practice them, is not merely an idea; it is a fundamental human right. It is a question of science and civilization, of the well-being of the people, freedom and progress, of the advance of society. It is not fortuitous that only progressive people deal with the question of conscience in a sincere, open and honest manner.
“Robert’s life and work lives on in the people’s struggle for their rights and for a new society fit for human beings.”
A Facebook page “Sharing Memories of Robert Devet” has been created in his honour, which may be visited here.