Ottawa Peace Festival Provides Hope for an Ailing World

1st Ottawa Peace Festival 2007 Review
By Koozma J. Tarasoff,. October 3, 2007

The Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI), together with the United Nations Association of Canada and other local peace groups launched the first Ottawa Peace Festival, 12-days of events Canada’s capital Ottawa. This period began corresponded with the UN’s proclaimed International Days of Peace, beginning on the 21st September and ending on Gandhi’s birthday, 2nd October. Its theme ‘Peace, Unity and Harmony’ inspired individuals and groups concerned with peace and justice in our global community.

The Festival comprised of the City’s proclamation of the UN’s International Day of Peace, peace walks, talks, forums, a breakfast meeting, school presentations, lectures, spirit-painting workshops, a book display at the central Public Library, a circle of all nations peace concert at Victoria Island, and a commemoration of Gandhi’s birthday on the final day.

As peace activist, I attended several of the events including a one-minute silence on Parliament Hill. Organizer Bill Bhaneja and Co-Chairman of CDPI presented a petition on Disarmament and Peace to NDP Member of Parliament Paul Dewar. Mr. Dewar agreed to bring up a Private Members Bill in the Canadian House of Commons. (See www.departmentofpeace.ca for the details of a ten-part agenda for the proposed Canadian Department of Peace. In brief, the proposal presents alternative mechanisms to war such as diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-building.).

At the final event held in the Quaker House in Ottawa, Paul Dewar as keynote speaker underlined the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi when he did not give up to talk about peace and nonviolence in time of war. ‘Nor is it an option for us today,’ said Dewar.

‘Let’s look at our own behaviour. Let’s become models of good actions,’ he said. As Canadians we must stop pointing our fingers at others and take responsibility for our own actions. Dewar gave an example of how Canada Pensions are invested in stocks supporting such repressive regimes as that of Burma.
   
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Paul Dewar (right), Member of Parliament in Canada, receives a petition from concerned activists. Left to right: Bill Bhaneja, organizer of the Festival and Co-Chairman of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative; Murray Thomson, prominent peace activist and Member of the Order of Canada; and Vesna Scott of the Workshop on Creative Visioning.

Paul Dewar concluded his talk by underlying the need for global citizenship.  Here he recommended Michael Byers’ latest book Intent for a Nation (Douglas & McIntyre, 2007) which outlines concrete steps to reshape Canadian foreign policy in favour of a global system based on cooperation and the rule of law. Dr. Byers heads Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

The Ottawa Peace Festival was part of a larger effort around the world to organize people to solve world problems without resorting to mass killings as we have done in the twentieth century when over 150 million people were killed violently. In 2001 the United Nations proclaimed September 21st as the International Day of Peace to raise global awareness of peacebuilding work and conflict prevention. Stories of events taking place around the world on this day can be found at www.peoplebuildingpeace.org.
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Also see: Straight Talk: War toys to become art on Gandhi's birthday, by Gurpreet Singh, September 27, 2007. 'The campaign against toys of violence was originally launched by Sam Fillipoff, a retired Vancouver teacher with roots in the pacifist Doukhobor community. Fillipoff defined a war toy as any imitation of a weapon that would be used to harm another person, and a toy that reinforces the culture of war.'

Ottawa Peace Festival Blog
Ottawa Peace Festival — Archive and History
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