Peace Alliance Winnipeg Chairperson Glenn Michalchuk says it’s been a busy, productive year for PAW.
Reporting to PAW’s annual meeting, Nov. 16, Michalchuk highlighted an increased organizational capacity and profile that he attributed to
- a revamped email newsletter and a redesigned and expanded website
- stronger links with such organizations as Project Peacemakers, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Centre for Professional and Applied ethics
- PAW’s focus on the war in Afghanistan and the growing militarization of Canadian life
- dedicated fundraising efforts.
Here are the highlights of the past 12 months.
National and International Campaigns
War in Afghanistan
On March 13, PAW held an information picket in Osborne Village to draw attention to the Parliamentary vote to extend Canada’s military intervention in Afghanistan.
PAW organized demonstrations in support of Canadian Peace Alliance National Days of Action on March 15 and October 18.
For the October 18th Day of Action, the Peace Alliance joined with the Canadian Federation of Students to have Steven Staples, Director of the Rideau Institute, address the march and speak at a public forum afterwards. The October 18 event and the visit of Steven Staples also saw our continued relationship with the University of Manitoba and the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics who hosted a meeting with Steven Staples on the issue of the war.
Opposition to the war in Afghanistan was also the theme of the annual Walk for Peace in June. MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis was the keynote speaker for the Walk for Peace addressing the issue for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan. Howard Davidson talked about the need to develop resistance against the growing militarization of Canadian life.
On Sept. 2, PAW greeted Stephan Dion at a Liberal Party town hall meeting at the Crescentwood Community Centre in Winnipeg.
Peace Alliance Winnipeg joined with the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba, the University Women’s Club of Winnipeg and the Council of Women to host an all-candidates forum in the constituency of Kildonan St-Paul.
War Resisters in Canada
PAW supported the right of war resisters to stay in Canada. The Peace Alliance participated jointly in a number of actions to develop local support for war resisters, including demonstrations at the constituency office of MPs Rod Bruinooge, Joy Smith and Tory candidate Trevor Kennerd , a vigil at the Manitoba Legislature and a rally held in Memorial Park in September. In June, PAW issued a statement in support of war resisters that received local media coverage.
PAW supported campaigns for the repatriation of Omar Khadr, including two calls by Lawyers Against the War — a Vancouver based organization working to free him.
PAW suported a campaign for the reinstatement of suspended Afghan MP Malalai Joya. Joya was suspended from the Afghan Parliament May 21, 2007 for three years. Her crime: speaking out about the record of human rights abuses by members of the warlord dominated Afghan Parliament.
PAW supported the organizing of a boycott and divestment campaign aimed at pressuring the state of Israel to recognized the rights of the Palestinian people, and supported a local al-Nakba commemoration in May of this year.
International Peace and Disarmament
Each year in August, the Peace Alliance Winnipeg, Project Peacemakers and the Japanese community in Winnipeg commemorate the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a Lanterns for Peace Ceremony. Over 100 people attended this year’s event and for the first time a ceremony was held in Brandon. Representatives of the City and Provincial governments attended and spoke on the significance of the struggle for world peace.
Opposition to promotion of the war
In February, the Manitoba Government endorsed a province wide yellow ribbon campaign. The Peace Alliance Winnipeg responded with a statement on the question. The Peace Alliance Chair appeared on an open line radio show (CJOB) to debate the position. In August, PAW issued an open letter to Premier Gary Doer, insisting that he cease provincial support for yellow ribbon campaigns and a planned red shirt “rally.” Glenn Michalchuk was interviewed on the day of the Red Shirt Rally by CBC’s Lori Hoogstraten.
Opposition to military recruitment
This has been a concern particularly around Remembrance Day Ceremonies in the schools. In 2007, and now 2008, members of the Peace Alliance have had direct experience with this through Remembrance Day ceremonies they have attended with their children. There are also indications that students are beginning to get involved on this issue. As a resource the Peace Alliance Winnipeg has a link on its web site to “Operation Objection.”
Alternative Remembrance Day Ceremonies
For the first time the Peace Alliance issued a Remembrance Day Statement and supported the holding of alternative Remembrance Day observances.
Networking with local activists
On October 19 a successful meeting was held with local activists and Steven Staples to discuss the nature of organizing campaigns with politicians and others and developing organizational capability.