THE UNITED NATIONS CULTURE OF PEACE AND NON-VIOLENCE PROGRAM IN CANADA: A Report to the United Nations Secretary General pursuant to General Assembly Resolution A/RES/58/11 paragraph 12 http://www.peace.ca/UNa55r047.pdf  (i.e. the Mid Term Report of the Decade of a Culture of Peace)

Prepared by Robert Stewart , Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace

March 14, 2005

 

“The General Assembly …

12. Invites civil society, including non-governmental organizations, to provide information to the Secretary-General on the observance of the Decade and the activities undertaken to promote a culture of peace and non-violence;”

 

Canada is not at peace.  We may be relatively well off.  Historically, Canada has been better than some, and not as good as others.  But we are in a state of denial about our actions and contributions to war and violence, at home and abroad.  We try to avoid conflict.  However, to quote, “We may not be interested in war, but war is interested in us.”

The vast majority of Canadians have little or no knowledge of the Culture of Peace and Non-violence Program and Decade.  The vast majority of politicians and officials in the Canadian Government have little or no knowledge of the Culture of Peace and Non-violence Program.  Little, if any, new resources (financial, informational or human) have been provided to build a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.  This is ample evidence that the Government of Canada has not rushed in to participate.  Furthermore, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO does not see its role as one of leadership. 

In short, despite what some may say, we are underachieving our potential to build a Culture of Peace and Non-violence in Canada , and in the world.  A major reason for this lack of development is that there has been a lack of motivation and action.  To those leaders who proclaim an interest in peace, the challenge as they say in the movies is, “Show me the money.”  It is not there in any significant way.  And so, it will be up to civil society to motivate our leaders to build a Culture of Peace.  For those leaders who resist change, and have a vested interest maintaining the status quo, civil society must convey that the status quo is no longer acceptable.  For those leaders who do not wish to lose their perceived ‘right’ to go to war, civil society must take away those pretenses.  Canada and mankind can not wait any longer for our Governments to respond – people are suffering now, due to violence of all sorts, and the looming specters of nuclear holocaust, weapons of mass destruction, and environmental destruction is unacceptable and unjustifiable.

From our personal experience, we had difficulty getting the information that we needed to do something to contribute to a Culture of Peace.  So we created our own: Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace, a virtual centre at http://www.peace.ca

The bottom line is that there is a lot of opportunity for improvement in building a Culture of Peace and Non-violence in Canada – a lot of opportunity for us all to make a difference. 

A raison d'être for the Culture of Peace Program (identified by the U.N. program) is "to build peace in Canada by working to change behaviours, forge values, and incite the institutional transformations that are indispensable for eliminating the deep roots of violence, exclusion and conflict." 

What we found in Canada was an information void, a leadership void, a resource void, and an educational void.  Our civil society goal has been to help fill these gaps.

Our sense is that Canadians (inside and outside of government) want a Culture of Peace and Non-violence, however they do not know what they can practically do to develop on that path.  Our civil society goal is to help raise this awareness and understanding.  We have a Canadian Peace Education Strategy with a short-term goal to get peace education on the Canadian agenda, and a longer term goal to get peace education integrated into all curricula by the end of the decade.

You will be pleased to know that in November 2004 we have successfully completed 9 days of intensive peace conferencing at McMaster University in Hamilton, involving some excellent minds, and we are happy to tell you that our deliberations have given birth to a 'Canadian Culture of Peace Program' (“CCOPP”) - a new formal institution (Note 1) with the mission to advance a Culture of Peace and Non-violence, at home and abroad.  We have a larger core group of people to carry on this important work, and a wonderful list of tasks to commence work on.  We will also enlarge our community of support and engagement through inviting the participation of all Canadians, individuals and organizations, who wish to share our mission, and follow the values of the U.N. Culture of Peace Program.  You can read about these developments, which form a part of this report, at the temporary web site at http://www.peace.ca/canadiancultureofpeaceprogram.htm .

To meet these important goals, Canadians have a lot on our Culture of Peace Agenda:

A significant item is the design paper for the CCOPP Stakeholder Web/Network concept (including CCOPP governance issues), which a smaller working group has been collaboratively developing over the past month (reference http://www.peace.ca/StakeholderWebDesign.doc ).  A Stakeholder Web/Network/Organization, as it has been described at various times, is a network of stakeholders that scrutinizes and attempts to influence Canada ’s behaviour with respect to peace and violence.  The United Nations Culture of Peace Program tells us that we need to transform all institutions from a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace.  Stakeholder webs are a powerful force for transformation.  They actively investigate, evaluate, and seek to change the behaviors of institutions (such as corporations, governments, educational institutions, religious organizations, NGOs, etc.) to achieve better alignment with the values and interests of their participants – in this case, a Culture of Peace.  Our role is one of catalyst and facilitator.  The Internet gives us the tools to build the Culture of Peace Stakeholder Web.  Discussion of this design will also help provide input for the (very important) Marketing Strategy (i.e. How to ‘Sell’ the Culture of Peace Program), and a Canadian Culture of Peace Program Handbook with a significant section on Leadership for Peace.

Significant discussion will also be required and planned with respect to:

a)      The projected relationship with the Canadian government (including Department of Peace Initiatives),

b)      Preparations for at least 3 annual national conferences (the Second Peace and Leadership Workshop, the Second Canadian Culture Of Peace Program Conference, the Fourth National Peace Education Conference), and provincial Peace Education Conferences,

c)      Development of the Canadian Culture of Peace News Network,

d)      Development of the new Peace and Governance Program at the University of Alberta , with a specialty in the Culture of Peace and Non-violence Program,

e)      research on the needs and issues related to “Educating Peace Educators” (i.e. peace pedagogy to guide the establishment of a University program to teach teachers and other potential peace educators how to teach peace),

f)        Preparation to initiate “crucial conversations” with leadership of key institutions in Canada to seek transformation as follows: government, business, media, religion, education. (We will need to refine our protocols to hold successful, difficult, crucial conversations.) We should also be preparing to initiate case studies conducting 7 Crucial Canadian Conversations to build better key relationships as follows: 

1.      the Canada/United States relationship,

2.      the Canada/United Nations relationship,

3.      the Anglophone/Francophone relationship in Canada ,

4.      the male/female relationship in Canada

5.      the aboriginal/non-aboriginal relationship in Canada ,

6.      the business/community relationship in Canada ,

7.      the military/foreign affairs/community relationship in Canada .

Our government is not yet doing this, and so we must.  In the process, Canadians have developed some significant expertise in peacebuilding, peace education and leadership.  We are pleased to offer these services to others.

In conclusion, Canadians must no longer take inaction and resource deprivation towards the Culture of Peace and Non-violence Program for granted.  At Riverside Church in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. opened his famous speech that linked poverty, racism and the Vietnam War with, "I come to this house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice." The ultimate challenge for Canadians is to stir that same spirit throughout Canada and the world to build a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.  The challenge for our leaders will be to rise to the occasion – and we must help them see that.

 

 

NOTES:

Note 1 – Many people will argue that Canada is not living a Culture of Violence.  It is granted that peace may be relative.  We view it that we live in a ‘continuum’:

 

                                                 C

                                                 a

                                                 n

                                                 a                    !

                                                 d                    !

                  I                              a                    !                                                      I

                  I--------i------i-------i------------!------------------------------------I

         Culture of                                                                               Culture of

        War & Violence                                                                Peace & Non-violence

     (high incidence of                                                               (low incidence of
direct & indirect violence)                                                    direct & indirect violence)  

   

The best test, and difficult to administer, is: “what is the effect on the lease privileged in society?”   Our assessment is that our Canadian Culture is still more predominantly one of violence than peace.  In any case, evidence points to the fact that we are significantly underachieving our potential, and far too many Canadians (and others) are suffering harm (including death) unnecessarily.  Let us look at some recent headlines and other cases:

Police crack teen plot to kill students, teachers: Air cadets accused of Columbine anniversary plan, CanWest News Service, Friday, March 18, 2005 – Saint John, New Brunswick - Officials at two high schools spent Thursday trying to calm students and parents who learned this week that three teenage boys allegedly conspired to seize control of one school and methodically murder some of its students and teachers.  … Saint John schools superintendent Susan Tipper said Thursday, "I find it very disheartening and upsetting that any young person today would be so discontent with their own lives, or the world around them, that they would consider something like this." … “I hate my life … I hate everyone” wrote one 17 year old suspect.

Bullying the Bully - 16/03/05 - So a school in Manitoba has decided to bully the bully. That's what the critics are saying.  Alexandra Paul in the Winnipeg Free Press reports: The school tried a novel approach in dealing with discipline.   It included forcing the four children caught bullying to wear hockey helmets with slogans like "Bullies are Losers," while a teacher encouraged older students to taunt and tease them. … Quoting one of the parents, "The punishment was all wrong. The boys were humiliated in front of the whole school," 

Repression of Conscience - example of coercion cited by Canadian Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott when he introduced his protection of conscience bill in the Canadian House of Commons   http://www.consciencelaws.org/Repression-Conscience/Conscience-Repression-11.html .  Also see Conscience Canada ’s action against funding military operations through taxes by “conscientious objectors”. http://members.shaw.ca/consciencecanada

Suicide rate in Manitoba increased dramatically in 2003 - The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Manitoba released its annual report for 2003, indicating an increase of 19 percent in the provincial suicide rate since 2002. The figures show that in 2003, 180 people committed suicide, a significant increase from 151 in the previous year.  An article in the Winnipeg Free Press says that some mental health advocates believe the suicide rate increase is due to underfunding of services for mental health, with services unable to keep up with demand. A government spokesperson says that the government is in the process of developing a provincial suicide-prevention strategy, and that funding for mental health services has increased by between seven and nine percent each year since 2000, but that more must be done.  See “Suicide Rate Up Dramatically in Manitoba ,” Winnipeg Free Press, January 14, 2005. The report is available from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 210-1 Wesley Avenue, Winnipeg , Manitoba , R3C 4C6 . http://www.ontario.cmha.ca/content/reading_room/mhnotes.asp?cID=5398#section5405

Four Mounties Slain in Mayerthorpe , AB

Cat killer sentenced for ‘crimes he may commit’ – Courtenay, B.C. – A man who has fantasies of murder and cannibalism has been sentenced to two years in prison for a string of offences, including decapitating two cats, but also for crimes a judge believes he’s likely to commit in the future … Court heard that one psychiatric report concluded that Dwight Barnes was virtually certain to violently offend in the future.

Mayor of community tells racist, sexist joke at local service club meeting.

Off duty, uniformed cops to patrol city nightclubs in response to Gang Violence Calgary AB.   This follows a headline a couple of days earlier that the City of Calgary is embarking on a war against gang violence.

Sex offender unrepentant: Parole board can’t stop release – Calgary, AB – Douglas Beal’s release from prison after serving nearly three years for videotaping his sexual encounters with an 11 year old girl ... psychiatric assessments rated Beal as a higher risk to reoffend, one warning he had the potential to be a dangerous offender.

Senior police officer “jokes” about putting peace activists in jail and pessimistic about ever being able to make a significant difference in reducing violence on Reserves.

The state of Canada ’s aboriginal peoples is very poor due to past colonial and racist policies, and current failure to address root causes of problems.

There is racism in Canada . Ref:

http://www.hopesite.ca/remember/history/racism_canada_1.html ; http://institute.metropolis.net/cours/005_introduction-e.pdf ; http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=30&ItemID=4994 ; http://www.crr.ca/en/Publications/Bibliography/ePub_BiblioRacismInCda.htm ; and do your own web search.

 

There is sexism in Canada . Ref:

http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/dec6/thismag.html http://web2.uwindsor.ca/flipside/vol3/apr00/00ap27b.htm http://www.vivelecanada.ca/article.php/20040601233114979 http://ginnadowler.blogspot.com/2004/12/december-6-memories.html ; and do your own web search.

Note 2 -  " 'institution' ... tucked away among the many historical meanings is: "something that enlarges and liberates" ... An institution is a gathering of persons who have accepted a common purpose, and a common discipline to guide the pursuit of that purpose, to the end that each involved person reaches higher fulfillment as a person, through serving and being served by the common venture, than would be achieved alone or in a less committed relationship."   Robert K. Greenleaf, in his book "Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness" (ref. http://www.peace.ca/servantleadership.htm )