The opening session on Friday evening asked, “What would you do with $490 billion? “ and offered hope for alternatives to war, militarism and austerity, from Idle No more, (Crystal Sinclair), CUPW, (Donald LaFleur) CPA (Kim Kerridge) and a particularly moving sharing (in light of the recent soldier suicides) by military family member Josie Forcadilla. The rest of the conference covered a broad range of peace issues with several small group workshops , morning and afternoon plenary sessions, and mealtime presentations; always with that question, “What would you do?” underlying discussions and challenging us.
“Donald Lafleur’s answer to the $490 billion question”
Throughout the conference, there was great concern expressed for our youth – the idea that they are being sold a bill of goods that suggests the false dichotomy of choosing either a minimum wage, no-escape job or joining the military; the lie that there is no money for free tuition and other educational supports while enormous amounts are freely spent on military advertising and youth-oriented programs; the lack of non-military resources for new Canadian youth; the increasing militarization of sports (“Drop pucks not bombs! Shoot basketballs not guns!”); school closures (“Close bases not schools”).
At the Saturday noon presentation, we heard from Friends of Kashmir about the “The Kashmir dispute –the longest unresolved issue facing the world. The rights of the Kashmiri people to self-determination have been denied since the problem arose in October 1947” link. The situation–amid threats and counter-threats between India and Pakistan about violations on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir – continues to deteriorate, with evidence of mass killings and unmarked graves, thousands of women gang raped, and dissenting voices silenced. Winnipeg Chapter has copies of a short video on the subject available for loan.
Tar sands, fracking and extractive resource development was a repeated reference point throughout the conference as we examined the broad and deep connections between oil and war. We learned that military drones are being used increasingly for civilian surveillance, not only for search and rescue applications in natural disaster areas; but also for policing, pipelines and mining operations for the purpose of identifying and controlling activist presence. In the Saturday afternoon caucus session on messaging we brainstormed soundbites and taglines: “Tarsands are Warsands” “No war no warming“ “Pipelines or Pipelies?” “Drop food not bombs.”
Other caucus groups came up with foundation ideas for ongoing campaigning: “One of the reasons our society is so sick is that we don’t listen to our elders,” said Donald Lafleur of CUPW. Several mentioned the need to emphasize a sense of personal responsibility for the $4billion spent on military each year; an amount that translates to $14,000 per person. “What would you do with your $14,000 share of the money?” is a more immediate, simpler question for most of us to answer.
The conference finished with a strong sense of hope, even in the face of worldwide militarization and war-making; a sense of hope in the global peace community “It takes courage to speak out. You may risk your job, your freedom, even your life. Our starting point is to give people courage to speak out by speaking out together,” said Kim Kerridge, CPA Treasurer.
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For complete agenda and adopted resolutions, please check the conference website at this link.
Mary Robinson is chair of the Manitoba Chapter of the Council of Canadians and a member of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Her report was originally posted on the Council of Canadians (Winnipeg) website.