BY SHIRLEY FARLINGER
STONEY LAKE, ONT. - The second annual conference of the Group of 78 met here, near Peterborough, September 6-8 to draft a statement addressing two issues - the continuing arms race and the crisis in Africa.
The organization was founded by the late NDP Member of Parliament, Andrew Brewin, who had invited 78 influential people to gather and provide expert information for government decision-making. Brewin's family has continued their involvement in the conference since his death.
The Group's objectives are threefold:
Maurice Strong, Executive Coordinator of the U. N. Office for Emergency Operations in Africa, was the keynote speaker. He announced that a catastrophe has been narrowly averted - the death by famine of millions of people. Some farmers have dropped even as they are weeding the first crop in five years. Even so, about half a million African children under 5 died last year, and Strong warned, "The toughest part in dealing with Africa's dilemma is still to come." The drought has depleted all reserves and the farmers are having to start again with nothing. From now on, food aid supplements must go into storage as the present crop matures.
And all the graphs in Africa go the wrong way. Population rises 3 percent per year; food production is down; the price of African commodities is down; the cost of servicing the national debt up; trade deficit up; military expenditures up.
"The 21 African countries most affected by the drought had more imports of military supplies and equipment than of food," Strong said. He recommends debt forgiveness or repayment out of export earnings. He hopes his responsibilities will soon be taken over by the UN Development Program, Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, and other UN agencies.
The participants divided up into four working groups to produce recommendations on these topics: Human Rights; Food Production; Aid and Trade; and the Impact of the Arms Race.
The Arms Race group recommended:
In addition, special projects were recommended for the U.N. Year of Peace - e.g. an interprovincial peace conference, peace courses promoted by provincial ministries of education, and a range of programs by the CBC to contribute to East/West understanding.
It was recommended that Canada ban new bank loans to South Africa, vote against IMF loans, end the export of high-technology goods to that country, support an embargo against South African oil and boycott South African products. In addition, Canada should provide emergency economic assistance to neighboring states and victims of apartheid.
For Central America the Group recommended Canada join the Contadora peace initiative, oppose outside intervention, continue aid to Nicaragua, and establish a Canadian embassy there.
The Aid and Trade group recommended that development assistance should reach .7 percent of Canadian GNP by 1990. They proposed that arms sales be stopped and African debts be restructured.
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg added two proposals - that the Group ask the government to stop the low level NATO test flights over Québec and Labrador, which are destroying the health of the Inuit people and the caribou. She also warned of a crisis in the disposal of nuclear waste. A research project in Manitoba is testing the effects of burying radioactive waste in rock formations. The possibility exists, she claimed, that the site will become a repository for international waste next year.
The conference had just adjourned for the day on Saturday, with most participants heading for a swim, when the news broke that Prime Minister Mulroney had rejected Canadian support for Star Wars. "We finally won one!" exclaimed one happy swimmer, while other long-time peace people beamed.
Having produced their general statement, the Group spent the final hours together reviewing its own future goals. It intends to keep the present name, despite the fact that its membership is now over 200. Last year's mandate to achieve equal numbers of males and females had been fulfilled, but the attempt to get more labor and business representatives had failed and native people were also underrepresented. The strongest complaint, however, came from francophones, who perceived what seemed to them a lack of tolerance for the French fact. Organizer Murray Thomson promised a better response to their concerns next year.
The Group's final document has been taken directly to External Affairs Minister Joe Clark and may inform his policy on Central America and Nicaragua especially. To obtain a copy, phone the Group of 78 in Ottawa at 613/230-0860.
BY ANNE HUME
GRINDSTONE ISLAND, ONT. - Forty-five people from across Canada representing citizens' initiatives for peace formed a communications network at the Grindstone Island Centre in mid-September.
Representatives came from Ontario, Québec, Alberta, and British Columbia. Specific twinning projects included: The Amprior Twinning Project, the Victoria Twinning Committee, and Toronto/Volgograd.
Several other participants had were able to share their first-hand experience in exchange. One was Marie-Lynn Hammond, who had toured with the folk music group, Stringband, and performed in the Soviet Union in 1984. Barrie Zwicker also attended; as a journalist he has participated in several exchange visits with Soviet members of his profession. He is now preparing to shoot a video-documentary in Canada and the USSR. Koozma Tarasoff, of Ottawa, described the "how-to" book he is writing on communicating with the Soviets. Robert and Betty Tennant, from Calgary, are organizing a letter-writing lobby. Eric Walberg represented the Canada-USSR Association in Toronto. Also, there were four representatives of the Ecumenical Forum Trip to the Soviet Union.
Participants compared notes on personal experiences - including the challenging experience of getting a citizens' group started. There was considerable discussion of how to deal with the simplistic, negative media stereotypes of the USSR which entrenches people's ignorance and hostility. Another obvious challenge is to reach the hard-core opposition to rapprochement and get beyond "fighting the old wars."
The great networking and lobbying potential of the assembled group resulted in the formation of an information depot on similar Canadian Initiatives and the start of a newsletter on exchange-related topics. The first issue is to appear very shortly. The group welcomes contributions from others who are similarly involved. The mailing address is: Bridges, 37 Castle Frank Road, Toronto M4W2Z5.
BY ARNOLD SIMONI
TORONTO - Two significant developments took place in September that may diminish the prospects for Star Wars to be realized.
The first is the report of a bi-partisan committee of the U.S. Congress which concluded that the Star Wars plans were far beyond the limits of modern technology and would merely escalate the U.S.-USSR arms race. The Chairman of the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee, Congressman Lee Aspin, expressed his opinion based on the finding of the Committee:
"What this means is that after having spent billions and billions of dollars, we could find that we have bought ourselves greater instability than the world has ever confronted in the atomic age." For those having been critical of Star Wars from the beginning, there is nothing new in this statement, but having it confirmed by official United States authorities establishes it as significant. The second important development is the Soviet proposal for international control of outer space. On September 23, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze proposed at the United Nations General Assembly the formation of a new United Nations Agency which would have its own fleet of spacecrafts. Furthermore, it would coordinate all aspects of space exploration, launch interplanetary space flights, build manned space stations, and distribute the results of space research to Third World nations. However, the main aim of such a U.N. agency would be to prevent the development and deployment of new weapons systems in outer space by its surveillance capability. The agency could observe any activity in outer space that would contravene arms control agreements, thus assuring their verifiability. The formation of such a neutral verification agency could provide the best possible safeguard against an uncontrolled arms race.
A further potential outcome of the Soviet proposal is that it would divert to peaceful purposes the energies of scientists and industries that are now engaged in the military exploitation of outer space. They would turn instead toward the exploration of outer space and toward building interplanetary space ships. (See "SOS: Save Outer Space" in the November issue of Peace Magazine.) Critics of the proposal point out that there are more urgent requirements here on earth. However, the important consideration is that it would reduce the opposition by vested interests against stopping the militarization of outer
space. Many thousands of people are now depending on this work.
The remarkable fact about the Soviet proposal is that it would make the United Nations into the chief agent of arms control and peace. Verification would be its responsibility.
A preliminary preview of the Soviet proposal was made public on August 16 by TASS in Moscow, which published a letter from Mr. Shevardnadze to Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar. Among other proposals, Mr. Shevardnadze suggested convening a representative international conference no later than 1987 to consider the question of international cooperation in the outer space and the establishment of a world space organization.
The Soviet proposal requested all states to inform the U.N. Secretary-General, not later than March 1, 1986, of their views concerning the convocation of the international conference.
Proponents of disarmament have generally been extremely favorably impressed by the Soviet suggestions - at least those who had access to proper reporting. The U.S. press generally dismissed the proposals as a public relations stunt rather than anything to be taken seriously. The Canadian press has also given minimal coverage to the Soviets' suggestions - a surprising omission, since all of those proposals are amenable to impartial, objective international control.
BY ALAN E. WILSON
GABRIOLA ISLAND, B.C.
Next January the Canadian people will have a chance to find out about the Canadian-U.S. agreement over Nanoose Bay.
The Gabriola Island Peace Association, whose members plan to organize public hearings on the subject, point out that the "Nuclear Weapon Free Zones" across Canada seem to be only symbolic: They have not cleared the country of actual nuclear weapons, which are probably carried on U.S. vessels that frequently visit the underwater weapons testing range at Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. In May the Bay was visited by the Los Angeles-class submarines USS La Jolla and USS Salt Lake City, both of which are designed to carry a dozen "Tomahawks" - sea launched cruise missiles. Each Tomahawk missile carries a warhead that is more than ten times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Moreover, the Americans are testing a nuclear weapons system at Nanoose, the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC), which can be used as either a conventional torpedo or to carry a nuclear depth bomb of one kiloton.
As this information has begun to reach the public, the Gabriola group and all the others in the area have become concerned about the implications of the test range for Canadian sovereignty; about the dangers of nuclear pollution through leaks and accidents; and about the morality of Canada's contributing to the nuclear arms race.
The Gabriola group is therefore planning a major enquiry into the situation, to be held January 18 and 19 in Nanaimo, B.C. It will examine whether the agreement between the U.S.
and Canada for use of the Nanoose Bay range should be renewed when it expires in April of 1986.
The event will bring together a number of prominent Canadians drawn from across the country to acts as moderators and panelists. These include Bishop Remi De Roo, Sister Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Terry Padgham, and retired Major General Leonard V. Johnson. The panelists will listen to and question experts and make proposals to the Canadian government. The proceedings will be published in book form.
Members of the Nanoose Conversion Campaign are already traveling around Canada publicizing this issue with a slide show presentation. They believe that the Nanoose agreement is an issue which potentially could lead to an outcry rivalling that surrounding the testing of cruise missiles. For further information, contact Alan E. Wilson at 604/247-8858.
BY VERA DE JONG
TORONTO - Sixty young people from war-torn and underdeveloped countries will tour 36 Canadian cities in November and December. An International Youth Year project is organizing their visit: It is the "International Youth for Peace and Justice Tour." The visit has two objectives: (a) to give young Canadians the opportunity to hear the painful facts about injustice and violence from people their own age, and (1))to promote solidarity among the victims of underdevelopment and inequality and generate alternative solutions to these problems.
The "tourists" will be young people who have suffered the ravages of war, foreign economic and military intervention, and poverty, as well as Canadian youths who are economically or otherwise disadvantaged, or who are active in peace and social justice movements. The project was inspired by the American Children of War Tour held in November, 1984, which visited schools, community centres, churches, and synagogues in 54 American cities.
Six groups of ten youths will visit Canada - two groups traveling in British Columbia, two in Ontario, and two in Québec. Groupings have been arranged to ensure that at least one Latin American and one South African youth will be in each group.
The tours will begin on November 25 and the regional visits will be completed by December 6. At that time, the young people will gather in Montréal for a large event on the evening of December 6 before leaving Canada.
To meet with the groups, contact Vera De Jong in Toronto at 416/537-4100, the B'nai Brith Hillel Foundation in Montréal at 514/845-9171, or John Semenoff at Box 2380, Grand Forks, British Columbia V0H 1H0, phone 614/442-8252 or 442-3523.
BY MURRAY THOMSON
BANGKOK - For perhaps the first time in the history of modern Thailand, a week devoted to peace education was held in the nation's capital, August 4-10, to mark the 4Oth year since the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The week began when 300 people took part in a 6:00 am, three mile, silent Walk for Peace through central Bangkok. Many of the walkers were barefoot, clad in simple fishermen's clothing. The Walk ended with an inter-faith service at the Centre for Religion and Peace on the campus of Chulalongkorn University. Chanting by Buddhist monks and most of the walkers was followed by the singing of Christian hymns and by Moslem prayers.
Later that day, a nine-hour concert by Thailand's leading rock musicians packed 3000 people into the auditorium at Thammasat University. The country's two most popular bands, Caravan and Carabao, performed in the concert. Their leaders are friends and share the desire "to get people thinking about problems facing society through the medium of music."
Other events included a day-long fast, video showings of Gandhi and other films, a debate on "peace and national security," poetry readings, a revue, and panel discussions on "the history of the peace movement in Thailand" and other topics. The week concluded with a candle-lighting ceremony and with resolves to continue the education work for a more peaceful, nonviolent world.
An important part of the visual displays exhibited during the Week were a series of large colored posters which had been shown in a number of schools.
The posters raised several challenging questions for viewers to ponder: "Did you know that the funds used for a single fighter aircraft could build public health facilities in 40,000 villages, that the price of one tank could build rice silos to protect 100 million kilograms of rice, and that for the price of one torpedo we could build permanent drinking water systems for 150,000 villagers?"
The peace week was organized by The Committee for Peace Year 1985, an umbrella for 60 nongovernmental organizations, including private development agencies, Buddhist, Christian, and Moslem groups, and several small Thai foundations. Its chairman was Dr. Sem Pringpuang-Keow, a former Minister of Public Health. The observances received almost daily coverage by the Thai press and electronic media, by Japanese television and both the English-language Bangkok Post and The Nation. At a press conference preceding the Week, organizers stressed their hope and concern that all of Southeast Asia would soon become a nuclear-weapon-free zone.
In a major article on its editorial page, the Post gave full coverage to the Walk for Peace. It noted that "a small ripple of consciousness (had) washed across the face of this nation last Sunday morning." And its author correctly assessed its potential for the future in this summary statement: "Thailand Peace '85 may be only a minute measure to help the call for nuclear disarmament. But if all these languid voices could be united together as one, just how thunderous the sound would be!" And that, said the Bangkok Post, "is exactly what is needed so that the superpowers will be unable to turn deafened ears to our cry.