At this meeting, conference delegates discussed reports on the work of the Regina Peace Council, the Edmonton Peace Council the Saskatchewan Peace News, and Congress participation in the International Conference Against Foreign Military Bases and the Secretariat of the World Peace Council in Havana, Cuba in November 2005. The Canadian Peace Congress renewed its membership in the World Peace Council at the Havana meeting and resumed its seat on the Executive Committee of the WPC.
Delegates discussed Peace Congress support for the concentration tasks of the World Peace Council, namely the struggle for nuclear disarmament, the abolition of foreign military bases, resisting the imperialist attacks on the UN Charter and to promote international solidarity with global anti-imperialist struggles.
The delegates agreed to make their immediate concentration task full support for and participation in the World Peace Forum in Vancouver from June 23-28, 2006. The World Peace Forum is a global peace gathering with participation of more than 175 Canadian and international peace groups, religious groups, trade unions and peace personalities from all continents representing a broad spectrum of movements for global peace and justice. For more information, see: www.worldpeaceforum.ca.
The delegates to the Peace Congress meeting also agreed to apply for membership in the Canadian Peace Alliance, a national coalition of peace organizations. Follow the activities of the Peace Congress at their new website: www.peacecongress.ca. Below is an exchange between myself and Canadian Peace Congress activist, Darrell Rankin.
JW: Why is it so important that the Canadian Peace Congress be re-constituted? In other words what special contribution to the cause of peace can it make?
Darrell Rankin: We want to play a role in blocking imperialism's growing aggressions and give leadership for the new and growing movements that are resisting imperialism in one way or another. Canadians live next to the world's leading imperialist power, and we see that humanity has never been in as much danger as it is today. So, it's mainly the current political situation that brings us together.
The Peace Congress was a founding member of the World Peace Council in 1949, and played a leading role in peace, disarmament and anti-imperialist struggles for more than 40 years. We think that many people will recall the positive contribution we made. I believe that our history, unifying approach and clear understanding of imperialism will help strengthen the broader peace movement, as before.
JW: The Peace Congress press release describes Canada under the Tory government as a "junior partner" to US imperialism. Can you discuss that further in the context of the goals and activities of the Congress?
DR: The election of the Harper Tory government earlier this year is alarming to many peace activists. Under Harper, the Defence budget will grow in five years from $11.6 billion Cdn to $25 billion Cdn, higher than the $20 billion Cdn planned in last year's Liberal-NDP budget. This new spending has the aim of increasing Canada's ability to carry out aggressions, such as in Iraq, Iran, Sudan and so on. Harper wants Canada to join U.S. Missile Defense (also known as weapons in space).
The Tories are the most openly imperialist party in Parliament, and they wrongly expect the U.S. to share more of the loot from plundering and dominating the world. This is shameful and misguided, but Canada is itself an imperialist country. The problem is opposition M.P.s aren't putting up much of a fight and regularly make large concessions and agreements with the Tories on a number of important issues. Our challenge and the challenge for the broader movement generally is to "close the gap" between how people and Parliament see things - public opinion heavily favours a more peaceful and independent foreign policy. We know Parliament must change or be changed. To get there, we need to make foreign policy a crucial issue by the time of the next election, including Canada's role in Afghanistan, military spending, and Missile Defense.
JW: In your view, what are some important ways North American peace activists can work together to stop the Bush/Harper agenda of endless war, imperialist control of natural resources, and intervention in the internal affairs of other countries? What are the key points of struggle we share?
DR: The possibilities for working together are endless. We have to do everything we can to make this beautiful continent a beacon for humanity, and not the nightmare it is becoming. Common statements by peace and other people's movements on a new vision and foreign policy will help to mobilize and unite the continent's many nations in friendship and solidarity (Aboriginal, French, Spanish and English). In my view, the key challenge for us is the U.S.-led war on terror. It is a false war. It is an excuse for global domination, attacking the civil rights of people in our countries, and denying them education, jobs and social programs. It is an excuse for expensive, wasteful military budgets, to crush the resistance of people world wide, and to deny the need for disarmament. It is an excuse that fools people into thinking our own governments are not engaged in terrorism by occupying other countries and developing weapons that can destroy the earth several times over.
JW: Can you talk a little about the World Peace Forum being held in Vancouver this June?
DR: The initiative by last year's Vancouver City Council to host the world peace forum has the support of a large number of peace groups in Canada and internationally, including the World Peace Council. Last year's visit to Vancouver by WPC president Orlando Fundora resulted in a decision by the WPC to include the forum on its list of activities this year. We are looking forward to about 25 WPC member groups attending. The Forum will host other important delegations, such as the joint International Association of Peace Messenger Cities and Mayors for Peace conference.
I'm sure people will find a wide range of views and a lot of information. The Forum will be useful if people come away with a better understanding of the source of the war danger and today's many imposed global injustices. The WPC's forum on imperialism will help tremendously. Reactionaries from several quarters have done their best to derail the Forum, without success.
One of the first attacks came in August of last year. The Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy called the Forum a "spin-off from Durban... regarded in the Jewish community as an anti-Semetic hate fest." This groundless smear against Durban and Vancouver can only backfire, and cause the Forum to re-affirm the positions of the broader peace movement that demand Israel respect international law concerning the unjust occupation of Palestinian territories.
JW: How can readers follow the activities of the Peace Congress?
DR: The Congress has set up a website and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The site lists several mailing addresses, including the Saskatchewan Peace News, published by the Regina Peace Council. This publication is a good way to keep in touch with the work of the Congress. 46 Williston Dr. Regina SK S4X 1C4 Phone: 306-949-1222. Subscriptions cost "a donation."
--Joel Wendland is managing editor of Political Affairs and will be door-knocking and phone-banking this fall to bring down the corrupt Republican Congress.