Like other groups of adult peace workers, we in the Gabriola Island Peace Association (GIPA) have often despaired at the absence of young people from our public events. Participants invariably are a mixture of the Old Left and left-over 60s people. To show the need for peace education curriculum, we planned an even for parents, teachers, and students. The four students, members of Students Against Global Extermination (SAGE), who were touring Canada, agreed to join our forum.
In past events we have relied on expert speakers, often from the universities. This time, however, we wanted to demonstrate the broad scope of social activism and introduce some of the key local activists, so we invited representatives of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA), the unions, and Global Village. Moreover, we wanted to show the interrelatedness of peace, environmental, human rights, and other issues.
On May 2, nearly 300 educators, activists, parents, and students came to Malaspina College to participate in the conference entitled, "Hope in the Nuclear Age -- Saying YES to Peace." Over half of those present were high school students. The conference consisted of talks and workshops, an effective mix of information and exchange which helped to promote active participation. The highlight of the day, however, was the presentation by the four SAGES: Alison Carpenter, Max Faille, Seth Klein, and Desiree McGraw. Prior to their talk, the audience was told of the crises afflicting the globe including the dangers of nuclear weapons and environmental degradation, how government has vainly sought security through weaponry, and the effects of despair felt by young people in the face of nuclear threat. Then, standing against a banner proclaiming "Hope," the four youths outlined the origins of their cross-country odyssey and the changes demanded by their ideals. They extolled the power of democratic activism, presenting an inspiring model of youthful energy and optimism. Youth can make a difference, was the message.
The atmosphere was deeply moving, especially to veteran peace workers, and the young people in attendance were clearly emboldened. Indeed, after the event a large number of local students formed a peace group, and then set to work on the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone issue. The students lobbied Nanaimo city councillors and made a presentation to Council on the night of the vote, all of which clearly helped to secure the victory that adult peace workers had long despaired of achieving. Nanaimo now joins some 70 other B.C. municipalities as a NWFZ. Organizers in GPIA have plans to extend this new activism with a peace course at the college this fall, and there are plans for an academic credit course in peace studies the following year. We are also urging the Nanaimo School Board to incorporate peace education as part of the school system. We in the peace movement have a new, fresh reason for hope, as young people across the country, in the wake of the SAGE tour, have begun saying YES to Peace in a big way.
The National Film Board is producing a film about the SAGE tour. It is directed by Seth Klein's mother, Bonnie Klein. We'll keep you posted about the date of its release.
In the February -- March issue of PEACE, Matthew Speier listed post-secondary peace studies courses across Canada. John Abbott College in Montréal was omitted. Alan Silverman, who coordinates that program, reminds us that about sixty students have signed up for it. It has been operating two years and already has produced thirteen graduates. Last term, John Abbott offered thirty-five courses that count for peace studies. Contact Silverman at (514) 482-2810.
The Kootenay Centre for a Sustainable Future presents a summer program in Nelson, B.C. focusing on Peace, Global Justice, and Environmental issues. The initial program lists twenty workshops on such topics as apartheid, nonviolence, ethical investment, ecology, cooperative games, land sharing, the real causes of hunger and famine. Contact Bryon Wiley (352-9495) or Sean Dwyer (352-5887).
A.F.K. Barker is interested in meeting other science teachers to develop an informal peace network and aim for a conference later: 61 Overton Cres. Don Mills, Ont. M3B 2V4. Another Ontario science project was the Award for Peace and Human Potential presented by Project Ploughshares Niagara to students who had prepared outstanding projects for the Niagara Regional Science and Engineering Fair in Welland. Science fairs offer chances for other peace groups to promote peace projects.
Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1987, page 46. Some rights reserved.
Search for other articles by Alan Wilson here