B.C. Southern Interior Peace Coalition Conference
Written by Hannah Hadikin, member of the VOW Board of Directors
Approximately every six months for the past couple decades or longer, a dedicated group of peace activist members and supporters gather to attend the BC Southern Interior Peace Coalition (BCSIPC) Conference. This bi-annual Conference alternates between the Okanagan, Boundary and West Kootenay regions. This time around the Conference was hosted by the West Kootenay group with the MIR Centre in Castlegar serving as the venue. As usual, the excitement of seeing familiar faces and the pleasure of meeting new attendees and catching up over coffee and muffins, is the order of the day!
Folks from Kelowna, Kaslo, Grand Forks, Nelson, Castlegar and the surrounding areas all participated in creating a circle of trust, friendship, mutual respect and acceptance. Along with representing an array of diverse views, faiths, cultural traditions, experiences and peace activism, there was a strong thread that wove us together as we all envisioned a world free of wars, conflicts, inequality, poverty and violence.
The agenda was filled to the brim! Individuals from BCSIPC member groups shared their peace and social justice activities since the last conference in April. As the reporting flowed, I marveled at the dedication and creativity of the conference participants. We learned about a broad realm of social justice efforts, the strength of grassroots organizing and how working at the regional level, a bridge is built to link to the larger global network.
We were thrilled to learn that the Nobel Peace Prize 2017, was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN is a coalition of partners in a hundred and one countries. ICAN has worked tirelessly in getting the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by 122 countries. The next stage is strengthening the resolve for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It is very exciting to know that the efforts and voices of individuals and organizations all over the world were heard! And equally as exciting to hear that Setsuko Thurlow, Hiroshima survivor will be in Oslo to join ICAN executive director in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize . Setsuko was a 13-year-old schoolgirl in Hiroshima when in 1945, the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb killing thousands of people. Setsuko crawled out of the rubble of her demolished school, where some 30 other school girlfriends perished. Setsuko has dedicated her life urging nations, including Canada to abolish nuclear weapons. Now at 85 years of age, she is hoping to pass the torch to a younger generation.
`By harnessing the power of the people, we have worked to bring an end to the most destructive weapon ever created – the only weapon that poses an existential threat to all humanity.
This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.` (http://www.icanw.org/action/nobel-peace-prize-2017-2/)
Following a very enjoyable pot luck lunch and time for a bit of socializing, the afternoon focused on critical issues of the day. A presentation on the Leap Manifesto provided a vision of what Canada could be. (https://leapmanifesto.org). An overview was presented about the work of Project Ploughshares which is supported by the Canadian Council of Churches. Friends from the Baha`i community offered a lens into the Peace Education Curriculum for students at both the elementary and high school levels.
A highly informative presentation on the interaction between war and the environment by a member of Citizens Climate Lobby led to a thought-provoking discussion about the climate impacts of the military. Wars by their very nature reap horrific destruction on the environment and burn and release massive amounts of greenhouse gases. Canada`s military mobilizations are responsible for releasing huge quantities of new carbon emissions into the atmosphere
In light of Canada`s ever increasing militarization, a considerable amount of time was dedicated towards sharing up-to-date information, about Canada`s new defence policy and the `hard power` global affairs posture promoted by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. (http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/freeland-says-canada-needs-hard-power-to-support-global-order-1.3445788). There was also great concern about the governments’ ‘Operation Honour which is designed to accelerate recruitment drive with a focus on attracting young women and students.
I took the opportunity to discuss the Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) concerns that women`s voices and the voices of peace are minimized in the recent Defence Policy Review(DPR). In the description of board member Tamara Lorincz , this public consultation paper provides a masculinized and militarized perception of defence and security. VOW submitted a Gender-based, Eco-feminist, Nonviolent Approach to Canadian Defence & Security Policy Review document as a response to the invitation for public input. VOW calls for realization of gender equality, protection of human rights, adherence to the rule of law, land investment in social welfare and environmental protection, that will positively offer security for our lives.
According to Public Accounts of Canada, last year the federal government allocated a consolidated $28 billion to the Department of National Defence and only $1.5 billion to Environment Canada.
Participants held in-depth discussions about the recent record of the governments policy positions with respect to conflict zones around the world, the infringement on the sovereignty of certain nations and military intervention in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Consensus among the members expressed their deep concern and disapproval of uncritically aligning our government with the foreign policy and military actions of other countries.
Resolutions are key components along with the initiatives, strategies and actions arising from the Conference.
My inspiration comes from the shared emphasis on the value of peace, which is not just the absence of war, but the presence of justice. The energy of these shared values of respect for others and Mother Earth help to keep me grounded in the work of `valuing diversity, difference, inclusiveness and open-mindedness. Respect, acceptance and celebration of our individual and collective differences, including those based on age, race, culture, ability, sexuality, geography, religion, politics, class, education and image, among others` (Feminist Principles and Practices for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace).
Editor’s Note: this article was originally featured in Iskra Magazine.