Big Success In A Small Town

By Nadia Bhabha, Stephen Dankowich

The success of the annual Oakville Peace Festival can be repeated in small communities throughout the country. The fifth of these events was celebrated on June 2, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Oakville is a conservative place, represented federally by Otto Jelinek, the Minister of GST and a Cold Warrior. Nevertheless, persistent local peace activists are working hard to build a peaceful future. The community newspaper, The Beaver, reported the attendance of 3000 people-the most ever.

This year's theme, "Building Peace in Our Community: Connections" is a reminder that, while global peace is the ultimate goal, we need to work together at the local level too. Our communities suffer from such social problems as poverty, racial intolerance, sexual and other forms of violence, pollution, and crime, and we have to learn to deal with conflict in the home.

Preparations began in November, when we discovered that several past organizers could give less time than before. They were studying, having children, moving away, or were burned out. Nevertheless, preparations became exemplary. Space was given to new festival organizers. Lots of people were willing to help.

In April and May we produced two issues of an 8-page newspaper, with computer design by Dave Unger, distributing 10,000 copies of each issue to over 50 stores, community centres, and teachers. People became journalists. Pam Budniak, a Grade 11 student, designed a beautiful poster, which was distributed to all schools and commercial outlets.

For the fifth straight year, the weather was great! Mayor Anne Mulvale opened the day, and was followed all afternoon with a variety of local entertainers. First came the Oakville Suzuki Association, which teaches musical instruments to children aged 3 to sixteen. Other local bands, who ranged from folk to alternative, included Lucid Dream, Mary Jane's Garage Band, Looking Glass, Steppin' Out, Aunt Jonathan's Band, Moderation, S & R, and Mr. Toad's Wild Band. They often had the crowd up on their feet and dancing-especially in the grand finale, when the crowd piled onto the stage to sing, "With a Little Help From My Friends," by the Beatles.

There were four speakers. Paul Bennett, from the Halton Sexual Abuse Centre, described how violence in the home can lead to violence between countries. Joy Warner related the history of Voice of Women, and expressed her concern about violence against women. Dr. Robert Chase, of the Gulf Peace Team, told us how we can support the victims of the Gulf War through human rights groups. Sally Gaidezheyongar and Jackie Alton, of Toronto's Women's Resource Centre, talked about unity and read a traditional native prayer for peace. Over 30 groups participated in sharing their vision and campaigns, even to those who were just strolling through the park.

Food tables provided the crowd with hamburgers, hot dogs, vegetarian pizza, and cold drinks. Gwen Reaume of the Zonta Group of Oakville sold homemade pies and ice tea. The Halton Islamic Association sold cookies, cakes, and baklava.

Many members of this year's festival committee are now working to establish a peace centre in Oakville. To contact the committee or to receive a directory of participating groups or our news tabloid, write to Oakville Peace Festival Committee, P.O. Box 43, Oakville, Ont. L6H 4Z5.

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991, page 30. Some rights reserved.

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