Conference Call

With over 1000 peace groups in Canada meeting monthly and organizing national and international conferences the level of activity reaches a state of perpetual motion. Three conferences sharply contrast participants and subjects. Veterans Against Nuclear Arms held its annual meeting in Ottawa. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War made some significant decisions in Stockholm. And a formal dinner was held at Victoria College to commemorate a peace conference organized by Agnes McPhail, impassioned peace activist and first woman M.P.

By Joanna Santa Barbara, Shirley Farlinger, Marion Frank | 1991-09-01 12:00:00

Physicians in Stockholm

By Joanna Santa Barbara

At the congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the sixty or so elected international councillors made a momentous decision for the organization. IPPNW expanded its mandate from prevention of nuclear war to the prevention of all war and promotion of nonviolent conflict resolution. The IPPNW will also concern itself with negative ecological effects of war and militarism.

The congress was attended by 1600 health workers from about 70 countries. Four hundred delegates from cash-poor countries were subsidized by others, to ensure a strong Third World voice. Because of efforts towards gender parity, more women took the podium than in the nine previous congresses. Vases of Swedish wild-flowers in every meeting room and music interwoven with hard intellectual work kept us connected with the beauty of the earth, and the beauty generated by people together.

The themes of the learning part of the congress were Communications, Development, and Disarmament. Basic and Advanced Core Curricula were available for people relatively new to the issues.

U.S. cardiologist Bernard Lown, one of the founders of IPPNW, surveyed the organization's agenda. Work towards achievement of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has remained a global priority. Despite the intransigence of the U.S. and U.K., work will continue on a Comprehensive Test Ban, with a view to resumption of the Amending Conference to achieve this. A Global Commission on the health effects of the manufacture and testing of nuclear weapons has revealed a litany of deceptions about numerous radioactive health hazards in the U.S. and elsewhere.

IPPNW also sponsored a satellite communication program to connect health workers in remote or impoverished areas to up-to-date medical information. This is now working effectively, to the great pleasure of some of the Third World delegates.

IPPNW made a strenuous attempt to contribute to averting the Gulf War, and has since worked to reveal to a technology-bedazzled western public the horrible and ongoing human costs of the war.

Another IPPNW project is the promotion of dialogue in regional conflicts, especially in nuclearized areas such as the Middle East and India/Pakistan.

IPPNW is growing in numbers of health workers involved and also in numbers of affiliate countries. It comprises a network of people supporting each other in a global community creatively working for peace. Next year we will come together in regional meetings-Latin America, Middle East, Asia-Pacific etc., and in 1993 in Mexico city, the first IPPNW congress in the Third World.

Dinner for Agnes

By Shirley Farlinger

Agnes Macphail was Canada's first woman M.P. and a strong advocate of peace and disarmament. On June 13 at Victoria College at the University of Toronto 84 women and men gathered to commemorate a conference that Agnes had organized at the same place 60 years before. The dinner began with lemonade at the entrance to Burwash Hall and everyone had time to read all the old Globe and New York Times newspaper accounts of the four-day gathering of May 29 to June 2,1931.

It was thanks to Dr. Eva Kushner, president of Victoria University, that the commemoration took place. After dinner she welcomed everyone to the event, then five speakers summarized the work of women for peace from the time of the conference until today.

Thomas Socknat, professor of history at Erindale College at the University of Toronto, described the historical significance of the 1931 conference. He had provided the picture of the women delegates and appreciated the audience's identification of another two of them.

The first winner of the Agnes Macphail Award, Vi Thompson, read a series of quotes from Aggie's speeches over the years. Aggie was one of the most popular speakers on the North American circuit which included orators such as Winston Churchill.

Then we had a surprise guest-Aggie herself! A tape of a speech Macphail had made for the CBC was played. Unfortunately it was hard to understand but her energy was unmistakeable.

The next speaker was the second winner of the Macphail Award, Kay Macpherson. She spoke of her 30 years of work for peace, beginning with the founding of Voice of Women in Canada. She praised the work of professor Ursula Franklin in helping bring about the Partial Test Ban Treaty to end above ground nuclear testing: Franklin had urged women across Canada to collect baby teeth to prove that strontium 90 from the tests was entering the bones of our children.

Shirley Farlinger spoke about the peace movement today in light of the Gulf War. She named those things which would appall Agnes: the devastation of the war, the poverty of the Third World, especially that of women, and the slow progress that women have made in being elected to Ottawa since her time. Women make up 56 percent of fulltime college students in Canada today, but only 14 percent of Federal MPs. It was pointed out how much women today owe to Agnes: their old age pensions, Medicare and the improvement of legal and economic status for all women.

The final speaker, Karen Hamilton, a young mother and doctoral candidate at Emmanuel College, spoke of the future using the theme 'peace is not quiet'

For anyone wishing to hold an Agnes Macphail event all the displays and a tape of the speeches are available from Shirley Farlinger. The date of Macphail's birth, March 24 (1890) her death on Feb.13 (1954), or Dec.6, (1921), the date of her election to parliament, would be good opportunities to hold a remembrance. We were unable to find anyone who had attended the original conference but if any of our readers knows of one of the delegates it would be much appreciated if she could be contacted for an interview.

We need to reclaim our history and to teach young people about the struggles we have waged to try to end war and all forms of discrimination and injustice.

Contact Shirley Farlinger, 11 Thornwood Rd., Toronto, Ont., M4W 2R8.

Veterans in Ottawa

By Marion Frank, President of VANA Toronto Branch.

Meeting at Ottawa University on June 5-7, 85 members of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA) from across Canada went on record opposing bill C-6 which would allow the sale of automatic weapons and armored vehicles to foreign countries.

VANA also agreed to support the elimination of all primarily offensive weapons. It called on the Canadian government to work for a total ban in Canada of such weapons and an international agreement under the U.N. banning their manufacture and/or use.

VANA called on the Canadian government join with the overwhelming majority of the United Nations in demanding that the major nuclear powers implement a comprehensive test ban immediately; that the U.N. Security Council undertake leadership for shaping the form and content of a security system for the Middle East; that deployment of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) internationally be under U.N. command; and that other CAF be used strictly for defensive purposes on Canadian territory.

Members warmly applauded U.S. guest Gil Ott, who said: "We were not all victims of yellow ribbon mania. It was hard to be openly critical, but we did it. We marched, picketed, and debated with traditional groups. We lost some friends but made new links. It felt good to speak out against the war."

Guest Murray Frankland, Ex-Services CND Great Britain said: " I have become a committed person against nuclear weapons and against warfare. Remember there are persons in the regular service who can come to their senses."

VFP is the fastest growing vets group in the U.S., increasing by 50 percent in the last year.

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1991, page 18. Some rights reserved.

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