Peace is taking over Toronto's City Council, which on April 21--better late than never-established an International Year of Peace Committee with three members of Council and three representatives of the community. Alderman Jack Layton, the driving force behind the initiative, took plans for a Disarmament Week program, answered objections in fine peacemaking style, and won approval-a vote of 20-3.
The first event sponsored by the Committee was the vigil on Hiroshima Day, beginning with a die-in at 8:16 am, the time of the explosion of the nuclear bomb dubbed "Little Boy." About 200 people gathered during the day next to the Peace Garden in front of City Hall for music, a speech by retired General Leonard V. Johnson, and a period of silence to mark the 41st anniversary.
The IYP Committee, in endorsing projects, has discovered that many events had already been planned. The Community Centres' summer program and talent show is dedicated to the International Year of Peace. The Toronto libraries are producing resource lists and a storytellers series on peace. Even the conservative Art Gallery of Ontario will show peace films in December.
In contacting the Metro Toronto Zoo, the committee found out that Gregor, a snow leopard from Russia and Tiffany, a female of the endangered species from Detroit, have already mated and produced Sabu, one of the first snow leopards born in captivity. Now if we can get "homo sapiens" on the endangered species list...
Some projects are global. A Peal for Peace asked everyone to join in a minute of silence at noon on September 16, followed by a moment of sound-bells preferred. The first Earth Run starting the same day, International Day for Peace, has runners covering most of the countries of the world, signifying global cooperation. It's easy to endorse these initiatives-as interesting as they are ineffective. More controversial is the expenditure of tax money.
From its budget of $50,000, the IYP Committee has approved 30 grants to peace groups for separate projects, not to exceed $500 each and a total of $15,000. Most of the remaining money will go to put on the biggest "International Year of Peace Show" in North America, according to Ambassador Stephen Lewis. Everyone will be urged to
come to the Peace Garden and Council Chambers during October 14-25. The excitement will begin with an East-West Dialogue, including speakers Jan Kavan, a founding member of Charter 77, the independent Czech human rights organization, Tatyana Mamonova, exiled Soviet feminist and peace activist, Bob McGlynn of the Brooklyn Anti-nuclear Group, Norman Rubin of Energy Probe, and our own Metta Spencer.
This conference will end in time, on Sunday the 19th for the Interfaith Peace service, in which all the faiths in Toronto are invited to express the sources of their faith in peace and share information about their respective beliefs.
Monday is Children's Day on the Square. Thousands of balloons will be released over the city with children's peace messages. In the evening, in the Council Chambers, Sr. Rosalie Bertell has been invited to speak on the theme and to point out some of the radiation hazards in Toronto which will affect the health of our children for years to come.
On Tuesday a women's program is planned with peace songs on the square and a forum led by Dr. Ursula Franklin. Wednesday evening will deal with the World Court, International Law, and the United Nations. Thursday is reserved for the Veterans Against Nuclear Arms and the film, Return to Dresden, featuring C.G. Gifford, founder of the group.
All during this week the Food Arsenal Project will be taking place. This is the build-up of 60,000 cans of food to contrast with the build-up of 60,000 nuclear weapons. The growing mountain of food will be visible all week and an educational program on the huge costs of militarization will be launched. On Friday, "disarmament" will be carried out, as the "arsenal" is distributed to food depots in Toronto.
The climax of the whole celebration will be the annual peace walk from Queen's Park to the Peace Garden with a festival lasting the rest of the day. Finally, October 25 is the date of a five-continent satellite hook-up for peace, organized by Mitchell Productions, of Live-Aid fame. Toronto will be ready to be included in this global program.
If Jack Layton has his way, 1986 will be a year to remember, and to carry peace into 1986 + 1. Today peace in Toronto, tomorrow the world!