By Joan Rentoul, Alan Silverman, Duncan MacDonald, David Delaunay, Donald Craig, Eric Shragge, Gary Marchant | 1986-02-01 12:00:00

Canadian Peace Alliance

On November 10, after a year of planning and consultation across the country, the Canadian Peace Alliance was formally founded in Toronto. Over 400 peace activists, representing groups from Vancouver Island and the Northwest Territories to Cape Breton joined in this important step forward.

The Alliance can trace its beginnings to the evaluation meeting of the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign, where it was suggested that a countrywide organization might be feasible. In March, 40 people representing all regions in the country, plus representatives from national peace organizations, met inVancouver and began the search for a structure that would be agreeable to everyone. At that meeting several decisions were made: to strive for consensus decision making, to accept a $25,000 government grant to defray the convention's costs, to preserve the autonomy of each group, and to maintain regional parity.

A planning committee was formed, comprising regional plus national peace organization representatives. The convention date was set for November to give groups time to discuss the idea and send in proposals. There followed the second planning meeting in Ottawa, where resolutions from local organizations were incorporated into the structure document, which was sent out to peace groups for consideration. A spirit of compromise was evident, as delegates with centralist versus decentralist points of view came to terms with what was necessary to form the Alliance.

At the founding convention in November, time was allowed on the agenda for people to meet and discuss the structure proposals and submit amendments. Fifteen of the more than 30 amendments submitted were discussed at length by the plenary session on the 10th and the rest were referred to the planning committee, which was mandated to continue as the steering committee.

At the culmination of the Sunday plenary session, delegates chose the name "Canadian Peace Alliance" and, amid cheers, founded the first countrywide network of autonomous peace groups. What is now in place is not cast in stone: It is a beginning. Peace activists are rugged individualists with many diverse points of view, so the founding of the CPA is a remarkable achievement. The process has been open and minutes are available from Toronto Disarmament Network for anyone who wishes more information. TDN will continue for three months to facilitate the next stage. The next planning meeting is arranged for Calgary in February. The structure document, already published in the August issue of this magazine, was agreed to by the founding convention of the Canadian Peace Alliance. A procedure was established for future amendments--that a 75 percent majority of non-abstaining votes will be required for amendments to pass, and notice of motion must be circulated in advance to all member groups.


OFL Convention

The Ontario Federation of Labour, the largest provincial federation in Canada--a membership of 800,000--held its annual convention in November inToronto. The convention grought together over 1600 delegates from across Ontario to formulate policy dealing with the concerns of working people. One of these concerns was peace.

Labor organizations such as the OFL have long passed resolutions in support of peace and disarmament. In recent years there has been a growing effort to make this an important issue for our membership. In 1983 the OFL convention passed a Statement on Peace and Disarmament, and in 1984 it called for the establishment of an OFL Peace and Disarmament Committee. The committee began in December 1984 and brought together activisits from across Ontario. During 1985 the committee held six meetings and undertook three tasks:

  1. A survey of labor councils and heads of unions to gauge the level fo activities in peace and disarmament issues. An educational kit was developed for labor councils.
  2. Involvement in the campaign against Canadian participation in the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars).
  3. Greater involvement in the peace movement.

At the convention, OFL President Clifford Pilkey referred to the importance of peace and disarmament to working people. The recently formed peace committee of the Windsor and District Labour Council proposed a petition calling for "No Star Wars Contracts." The petition was circulated among delegates and hundreds of signatures were collected. A number of resolutions dealing with peace and disarmament were sent to the OFL. Three of them were dealt with in convention, the remainder referred to the executive.

Two of the three resolutions dealt with called for no Canadian involvement in Star Wars. The other called for the establishment of an independent foreign policy, which included: declaring Canada a nuclear weapons free zone; working for a freeze, followed by a mutually balanced reduction of nuclear and conventional weapons; reducing the arms budget and diverting monies saved to socially useful services and projects and withdrawal from NATO and NORAD.

The delegates voted against a resolution which called on the OFL to "actively promote exchanges of trade unionists between the Soviet Union, the other socialist countries, and Canada..." Delegates recognized the desirability of worker-to-worker contact. They disagreed on what the appropriate role of a labor movement is to its own government. Such a concern is not without precedent. In 1978 the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) suspended official exchanges with the Soviet All Union Central Council of Trade Unions (AUCCTU) because of its defence of the Soviet government's treatment of those wishing to set up a free trade union and of individuals such as Anatoly Shcharansky. The resolution does not prevent individuals or unions from engaging in worker-to-worker contact and exchanges.

During 1986 the OFL, working through the Peace and Disarmament Committee, plans to

  1. continue working with its membership;
  2. establish more labor council peace and disarmament committees; and
  3. become more involved in Ontario peace activities.


Five New Nova Scotia NWFZs

This past fall, five communities in Nova Scotia became nuclear weapon free zones. The method of attaining this status varied. In Wolfville, it was by a vote of the citizens. In Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg Municipality it was by Council votes. Wolfville residents Hugh and Peggy Hope-Simpson, Russell Elliott, and other Ploughshares members launched their campaign by asking the Town Council to include a referendum in the municipal elections. During the week before the October 19 election, a car decorated with a Ploughshares banner toured the town with a loudspeaker, urging people to come out to vote. The result-- 75 percent of the 1006 who cast ballots favored the ban.

In Lunenberg County, the campaign started in September. Ploughshares members, with a strong assist from Rev. Ron Moseley of the Vets for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament, made presentations to the four Councils at their monthly meetings. In each case the Council turned down the referendum motion but voted in Council to declare their communities nuclear weapons free.

Want to make your town nuclear weapon free? For information on strategy and sample materials used by these peace groups, write or phone Peggy Hope-Simpson, Box 1248, Wolfville B0P 2C0. Phone 634-8619.

NORAD Hearings

A Parliamentary Committee ended its cross-country tour on November 28 in Halifax after hearing public opinion on the renewal of NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defence System) Agreement with the United States. A majority of the presentations favored Canada's continued participation in NORAD and close cooperation with the U.S. in continental war strategy. Archy Connors, of the IMP Group Corporation (which derives 55 percent of its business in aerospace defence contracts) argued for more and better NORAD and Star Wars cooperation with the U.S. in the interest of more business for Canadian industry. Halifax military specialist, Brian Cuthbertson disagreed, saying that commercial reasons are not sufficient; genuine Canadian defence justifications are required.

Representing the "Peace Forces" were presenters from the Veterans for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament, the Voice of Women, and the Lunenburg County Ploughshares. All three noted that, althought the Committee was ostensibly gathering evidence on whether to continue the NORAD Agreement, nine months previously, Canadian and U.S. representatives had agreed to continue NORAD for ten years, without consulting Parliament or notifying the public. (Québec Memorandum of Understanding on the Modernization of NORAD, March 18, 1985). "We are thus presented with a fait accompli and then asked for our opinion."

Professor Donna Smith (Acadia University), speaking for Voice of Women, warned that NORAD inevitably will be tied into the U.S. Star Wars strategy and that the Québec Memorandum will lead Canada into participating in American first strike plans. She recommended that Canada declare itself nuclear weapons free and align with other smaller countries toward that goal for them all. Further, if Canada is already committed to continuing with NORAD,

  1. the agreement should be for five years only or less;
  2. we should insist on international arbitration in the event of a crisis or disagreement about NORAD;
  3. the Canadian people and Parliament should be full participants in any foreign policy discussions;
  4. low level test flights now causing havoc among Native people must be prohibited.

Margery Dahn, of Lunenburg County Ploughshares, noted that the new DEW Line plans of the U.S. call for systems to intercept and destroy incoming bombers and low-flying missiles before they impact on the U.S.--i.e. over Canada. "When nuclear weapons are intercepted above ground...those with salvage fuses, when hit by anti-ballistic weapons, will produce a nuclear explosion in the air. Also, every nuclear weapon contains at least one pound of plutonium....A direct hit can vaporize the plutonium, distributing it into the atmosphere. Plutonium 239 is the most toxic carcinogenic substance known."

The Dahn brief noted that the "A" in NORAD had originally stood for air defence, but that the word had been quietly changed in the Québec Memorandum to aerospace, a clear indication that the Canadian government was agreeing to future participation in Star Wars planning and strategy.


An F-18 for Peace

October 19, 1985. Trade unionists and peace activists participated together in marches and other forms of protest across Québec on the theme of "An F-18 for Peace." They demanded that the cost of one of these fighters be allocated for conversion and other peace projects. This marked a major step forward in building a cooperative relationship between Québec trade unions, particularly the CSN (Confederation des syndicats nationaux--Confederation of National Trade Unions) and the peace movement.

The CSN became actively involved in the peace question relatively late--the summer of 1984. There were two main reasons for this. Until 1983, the leadership and most of the rank-and-file of the Québec peace movement tended to be drawn from the English-speaking community and did not move easily in the trade union milieu. Perhaps more importantly, the CSN leadership was concerned about the reaction of its members: One of its strongest federations is the metallurgical workers, with some 20,000 members--many of whose livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on the arms industry. Fearing internal divisions, the CSN did not go much beyond general, pious resolutions condemning the arms race.

Two independent initiatives relating to the Québec arms industry and eventually supported by the CSN helped to smooth the way for a more serious involvement. The first was a study of the Québec shipbuilding industry and its military component, supported by a federal employment grant. The other, which had a broad public impact, was a study of the Québec arms industry by a group of church-based activists. Both raised the issue of jobs and the arms race and began the difficult task of seeking alternatives, and examining the process of industrial conversion. Through presenting the conversion question in unions and with the initiative of trade unionists, the political arguments for the F-18 campaign were developed.

By the time the campaign got underway, the value of one F-18 (including parts, training, etc.) had skyrocketed to $62 million. A committee of prominent Québecers -- Francine Fournier, former president of the Québec Human Rights Commission, Monseigneur Adolphe Proulx, Bishop of Gatineau-Hall, and Claire Bonenfant, ex-president of the Council of the Status of Women, were selected to act as negotiators with the Federal government and to oversee the disbursement of the peace fund. It was felt that 62,000 people were needed for the October 1985 demonstration to give credibility to the demand for $62,000,000.

Turnout disappoints

October 19, 1985 saw a variety of activities across Québec. The Montréal demonstration attracted about 5000. Police and journalists estimated 12,000 (about the same as in previous years) but the official count by organizers (conducted officially for the first time) was the first figure. This turnout was disappointing, though the mood was good at the demonstration.

In Sherbrook only 250 people took part in the demonstration. However, in the days preceding it, over 6000 people took part in a popular referendum (ballot boxes were placed around the community) on the F-18 for Peace project, with 93 percent voting in favor. In Trois-Rivieres, where a committee with representatives of the CSN, CEQ and 30 popular and peace groups was established early, a demonstration of 1650 people marched through the community stopping at different landmarks.

But perhaps the most impressive action took place in the Lac St.-Jean region. Instead of the traditional demonstration, a popular referendum was conducted here the week before October 19. Thirty seven balloting locations were established, with the mayor of Chicoutimi opening the campaign. In the schools, twenty minutes were set aside. The project received broad local media coverage and support. Approximately 15,500 voted in favor of "An F-18 for Peace." Key factors here were the construction of an F-18 testing range atBagotville, which had created a strong resistance movement, as well as the good working relationships between the CSN and the local peace groups, which had been established early on.

Learning from the experience

The actual participation, then, fell far short of the 62,000 initially called for and it is therefore unlikely that negotiations with Ottawa can proceed. But some important lessons can be learnt from the experience. The successes occurred where working groups were early set up, combining trade unionists and other peace and popular groups. Moreover, as in Hull, these working groups can develop into more permanent committees. The local links forged were one of the main benefits of the campaign.

Where committees were not organized or were organized late, as in Montréal, the results were disappointing. Some federations, in particular the crucial metal workers', formed no committees. According to Robert Cadotte, the main organizer in the CSN, the union did not do its job well. The idea had been that each member bring three addtional people. He, himself, saw about 2000 members. Yet a maximum of only 1500 trade unionists came to the Montréal demonstration. Partly this reflected a demobilization and sense of powerlessness that has set in over the past few years, in the fact of government and media attacks, defeats (the last public sector common front) and the rise of unemployment.

At the same time, many peace groups, especially in Montréal, did not participate as actively as in previous years in organizing the demonstrations. In part this was because the initiative had come from the CSN and it had not found a way of drawing the peace groups actively into the process of mobilization. The committee in Montréal was established very late and was small.

The F-18 campaign of the CSN is an important attempt to bring the issue of disarmament into the labor movement. Substantial resources were committed and the campaign was well planned with original pedagogical and mobilization strategies. It made an effort to depart from the traditional union-style of centralized leadership by decentralizing its budget and devolving responsibilities to federations and to the regions. The experience gives ground for cautious optimism. The peace question is now on the union agenda.

McGill Conference on Peace and Security

The Faculty of Education , McGill University, will sponsor an international conference on Peace and Security April 21-23 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel inMontréal. Besides presenting a roster of eminent speakers, the conference will be offering an information center, where Canadian and U.S. organizations concerned with peace, disarmament, and education, can display their work and make contact with others. Booths for such organizations are available (in limited numbers) for $150. See the conference ad for details about individual participation . The Conference mailing address is: Conference on Peace and Security, GEMS Conference Services, 5003 Victoria Street, Montréal. H3W 2N2. Phone 514/735-1388.


Vancouver Centennial Peace Festival

If you're thinking about a vacation this spring, plan to be in Vancouver from April 19th to 27th. The Vancouver Centennial Peace Festival is shaping up to be the largest and most exciting peace event in Canadian history. The year 1986 is both Vancouver's Centennial Year and also the United Nations International Year of Peace. To mark the coincidence of these two important occasions, the Vancouver City Council, Centennial Commission, and various peace organizations are planning a once-in-a-lifetime nine-day festival of peace activities and events.

The festival will begin with a youth conference on the weekend of April 19-20th. Associated with that conference will be a rock concert in a 30,000 seat stadium. Later in the week, other cultural events and displays, including concerts, films, and poster displays are planned. Of particular interest is an International Festival of Films on the theme of Peace that will run throughout the entire Peace Festival.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the three-day Vancouver Centennial Peace and Disarmament Symposium. Over twenty internationally renowned experts will address the participants of the five symposium sessions in the 3000 seat Orpheum Theatre. Confirmed international speakers include John Kenneth Galbraith, (U.S.), Michael Pentz (U.K.), Paul Warnke (U.S.), Petra Kelly (Federal Republic of Germany), James Anderton (New Zealand), Georgi Arbatov (USSR), Joan Ruddock (U.K.), Gen. Gert Bastian (F.R.G.),and Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll (U.S.). Canadian speakers wil include Marion Dewar, Ambassador Stephen Lewis, Hon. Douglas Roche, Libby Davies, Bishop Remi De Roo, Rev. Lois Wilson, Kathleen Wallace-Deering, and Bob White.

Topics to be addressed include the current status of the arms race, its social and economic consequences, what individuals and governments can do. An innovative addition to the Symposium will be the drafting aof the "Vancouver Proposals." Ideas generated by the Symposium for steps that could lead to disarmament will be incorporated into a set of proposals to be drafted by three Nobel Laureates--Alfonso Garcia Robles (Mexico), Sean MacBride (Ireland), and Dorothy Hodgkin (U.K). These will be presented to the United Nations and to heads of states.

The climax of the Vancouver Centennial Peace Festival will be the annual End the Arms Race Walk for Peace on Sunday, April 27. In each of the last three years, this event has involved close to 100,000 participants. Co-sponsored by the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Walk for Peace has become North America's largest annual peace event. In 1986, the Walk for Peace will be the biggest ever. It will begin at several starting points and all the routes will converge on the 70,000 seat B.C. Place. Inside the stadium, the Peace Festival will culminate in a massive rally that will include the presentation of the Vancouver Proposals--a centennial gift to Canada and the world.

Other Projects

Accidental Nuclear War Conference

Professor Michael Wallace (U.B.C. Political Scientist) is organizing a conference on behalf of Science for Peace: "Accidental Nuclear War: A Growing Risk?" It is scheduled to take place on May 26-30, at the University of British Columbia. (Note: This conference is not connected with the Vancouver Peace Festival.)

The development of fast delivery systems raises the possibility of decapitating first strikes on command and control centers in both superpowers. Furthermore, the growing complexity of the warning computers means that false alarms in NORAD have increased at a rate of more than 32 percent per year. Alarms now occur on average four or five times per week: hence the concern about accidents.

The goals of the conference are: (a) to facilitate an exchange of data, results, and ideas among researchers and experts, and (b) to communicate accurate information on the issue to the media and the public at large. Participants will include natural and social scientists, computer researchers, defence analysts and military personnel. A registration fee of $150 covers participation in the meetings but not accommodation and meals. Contact Prof. Wallace at #472 -1866 Main Mall, Vancouver. Phone (604) 222-4237.

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1986

Peace Magazine Feb-Mar 1986, page 26. Some rights reserved.

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