by Glenn Michalchuk
The AGM last year was held in March, less than one month after the war in Ukraine began. The war has dominated events and it is worth quoting a section from last year’s AGM report:
“The AGM of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg is held at a time of major historic shift in the world as a result of the war in and over Ukraine. It is a war over Ukraine because of the clash between the West, Europe, NATO and Russia as to what constitutes security in Europe, what are the legitimate security interests of each of the entities and the motivations of all the parties to this conflict. Thus, it is also a European war with global implications as the U.S and the West are striving to set the terms of when and how the conflict will end and peace restored to Ukraine and how the international community should align itself.
“The response internationally has been the need to stop the war through the most basic steps of conflict resolution – secure a ceasefire and negotiate a peace agreement. Opposed to this has been the rejection of peace and diplomacy by countries that helped start this conflict and now seek to prolong it.”
Opposition to the war in Ukraine has been a major focus of the work of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. During the course of the year Peace Alliance organized several rallies calling for a ceasefire and negotiations for peace. I have spoken at several on-line forums against the war, the most recent being the Chicago Area Peace Action Student – Led Peace Summit. Along with Tamara Lorincz and Saleh Waziruddin I had the opportunity to speak to St. Catharines City Council. We called for Canada to work for peace instead of escalating the war.
There is a clear and consistent message from the Canadian peace movement – Canada must stop its support for the war and work for peace — and it is increasingly having impact. The war narrative is being challenged.
This is not the message in official circles. There is unanimity amongst the political parties in Parliament to support the war. There is no questioning of the causes for the war or why official Canadian policy rejects calls for a ceasefire and negotiations. When, as the other day, the Prime Minister says Canada will back the war for as long as it takes there is no opposition to this position. In Canada, opposition to the war has been with peace, anti-war and social justice organizations and individuals who oppose the war. The opposition has been small but it has increasingly made itself heard. This is despite the complete absence in the mainstream media of any opposition to the war or any news of opposition to the war — such as in Europe.
In Europe opposition to the war has assumed a mass character. In Germany, in the space of two weeks in February, over 600,000 people signed an on-line petition calling on the German government to launch peace initiative for Ukraine. There have been large demonstrations across Europe against NATO and calling for a diplomatic settlement in Ukraine.
The question of suppressing discussion about the war has been a significant development over the past year. There is open hostility or persecution of those who speak out against the war. The mainstream media manufactures consent and participates in suppressing dissent. The Canadian state is attempting to portray calls for negotiations and peace as being an instrument of Russian propaganda. In response Peace Alliance Winnipeg has been part of the “Free Speech for Peace” actions in support of Ethnorama news which has come under attack for its presentation of views on the Ukraine war that go against the narrative so heavily promoted.
Thus, response to the war remains a major challenge for the peace movement in Canada. It has challenged the capacity of the movement and its ability to raise public consciousness against the war. This is one of the items we will discuss later in today’s AGM.
This past year Peace Alliance Winnipeg continued its activities to oppose Canada’s purchase of new fighter jets. Our participation was part of broad national campaign by many peace and anti-war organizations. This is another example of the failure of any political party in Parliament to mount opposition to Canada’s increasing militarism as part of its NATO commitments.
Peace Alliance Winnipeg organized a walk for peace during the festivities of nuit blanche. This was the first walk for peace since the pandemic prevented the annual walk for peace that was held each year in June. The new approach was very successful and we will undertake to do this again.
Peace Alliance Winnipeg again held the Lantern Ceremony to commemorate the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is organized each year in co-operation with the Manitoba Japanese community. The event attracted about 100 people and featured keynote speeches by Member of Parliament Leah Gazan and Ellen Judd on the imperative to end the escalating danger posed by militarism and nuclear weapons.
In 2022, for the first time Peace Alliance Winnipeg was able to make a significant contribution on Remembrance Day through a presentation at a local school on the issue of the importance to mark Remembrance Day as a day dedicated to working for peace. We are confident that this marks a new approach as does the white poppy campaign which emphasizes the need for peace against militarism and war.
In 2022, as we move out of the pandemic, it was again possible to hold a Peace Concert. Organized by a member of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, who is also a musician, the concert featured a number of bands and short talks presented on current issues of concern to the peace movement.
Most significantly in the past year Peace Alliance Winnipeg has grown as an organization with new members and new work. This past year there was a new concentration on use of social media to communicate our messages.
With today’s AGM we will discuss more about how we can be effective and make change possible. If you are an individual join the Peace Alliance. If you are an organization we should work on common objectives and issues.
Glenn Michalchuk is Chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. This was his address to the Peace Alliance Winnipeg Annual General Meeting on April 15, 2023.