Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Winnipeg Peace in Syria Rally

Sept. 7, 2013: Winnipeggers rallied at the Manitoba Legislature in opposition to an attack on Syria and distributed literature on Memorial Boulevard and Broadway. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Sept. 7, 2013: For the second time in a week, Winnipeggers rallied in solidarity with the people of Syria and in opposition to a US led attack. After a brief gathering on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature, the demonstrators took to the streets to hand out literature and talk with their fellow Winnipeggers.

Speaking on behalf of No War with Syria (Winnipeg), Chris Zanewich said, “ The decision to carry out a “limited” attack on Syria will carry dire consequences. If nothing is done to intervene peacefully, an increase in civilian casualties along with the displacement of millions of peaceful Syrians will undoubtedly be the harsh reality.”

Zanewich said that the appropriate remedy for those accused of chemical weapons attacks would be “ a fair democratic trial.” Elaborating on Chris’s comments, No War with Syria (Winnipeg) representative Tara Mann explained that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, hate cannot drive out hate. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, creating a destructive spiral. Peace cannot be achieved through violence, hatred, and greed; it can only be attained through truth, love and understanding.  Humanity must understand this concept. Or else. We will continue to experience separation, and we will continue to experience war with each other over money, oil, power, skin colour, and religion for the remainder of our existence on this planet.”

Manitoba Peace Council representative Cheryl-Anne Carr said that the struggle of the Syrian people for democratic rights has been “hijacked by the West” to serve Western interests. Regarding Canada’s pro-military intervention stance in this crisis, she noted that

“Canada is the third largest investor in Syria and we have some actual leverage with that country if we wanted to use it without encouraging missile strikes. A few short years ago, the Harper government had such confidence in the Assad government we in Winnipeg had to fight tooth and nail to keep a young man from being deported to torture and death in Syria. The Harper government openly said no harm would come to him, that it did not think Assad hurt his own people, that nations were sovereign and made their own rules.”

Glenn Michalchuk, of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, was the last to speak. He observed that “When we demonstrate against the threat of U.S bombing we are not blind to the suffering of the Syrian people or indifferent to their struggle against internal reaction. The Syrian people have the right to determine their future for themselves and to build their country as they see fit. But this right will not come from the bombs of the U.S. Nor will it come from the interference of the U.S., Britain, Canada, France and Saudi Arabia to fuel civil war with arms and foreign fighters. This right will not come from Russia which for decades considered Syria its client state in the Middle East to protect its interests in that region against the maneuverings of the United States.”

Complete texts of the speeches delivered by Carr and Michalchuk are available here and here, respectively.

For more, watch my video report.


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Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

By Peace Alliance Winnipeg

As the United States moves closer to a direct military strike on Syria, the world draws closer to a conflict that could spread well beyond the boundaries of that war-torn nation.

The pretext for an American strike is an allegation, as yet unproven, that Syrian government forces used sarin gas on opposition forces and civilians. A UN weapons inspection team is on site to determine if chemical weapons were used, though it has no mandate to determine who might have used them. Regardless of what the UN might say, the American government has decided to press on with “punishing” the Syrian regime. No such action is mandated by the 1925 Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons, and an attack would violate international law.

Despite the US government’s assertions of overwhelming proof, only France has said it will join the US in an attack. The British Parliament, last week, voted against military intervention. The UN Security Council has refused to authorize a strike. NATO has ruled out military action.

British MPs voted against military action because the British people were well aware of the falsified British and American intelligence reports that were used to justify attacking Iraq in 2003. That invasion caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and almost 5,000 coalition troops. Four million Iraqis became refugees, the country’s infrastructure was destroyed and Iraqi society was fragmented by sectarian violence that continues to this day.

Canada has funneled more than $5 million to opposition forces and endorsed the use of military force. PM Harper has ambiguously stated that, “at the present time the Government of Canada has no plans, we have no plans of our own, to have a Canadian military mission.” Although Canada has said that it doesn’t intend to send troops, it has provided the US government with consistent political support. We must pressure the Canadian government to reverse that support and we must express our opposition to the US war drive.

The Syrian war is widening

The people of Syria have already suffered over two years of a devastating war, with more than a hundred thousand Syrians killed and millions driven from their homes. What began as a nonviolent protest and then civil war has expanded to sectarian and even more dangerous international conflict.

Syria is a battleground where conflicts are being fought out between regional powers (Saudi Arabia and Iran) and global powers (the US and Russia). A US military attack would worsen the conflict between heavily armed and powerful forces, seriously escalating the war and further destabilizing the Middle East.

Attacking Syrian forces with cruise missiles and drones, which is what the US military is likely to do, will only add to the death toll and delay the peace negotiations that must ultimately bring this war to a close. Even if, through some miracle, the violence remains contained within Syria, the price will still be paid by the Syrian people.

Antiwar sentiment is strong and growing

Last weekend there were antiwar demonstrations around the world. Protests were held in more than 12 Canadian cities, including Winnipeg.

This attack can be prevented, but only with a huge global response. We need to show our solidarity with the people of Syria and stop the US from launching its missiles under the guise of humanitarian intervention. The lives of tens of thousands more Syrians are at stake.

What can we do, here, in Winnipeg?

There are positive, constructive steps we can take to show our support for the people of Syria. We can contact our Members of Parliament. We can insist that they reconvene Parliament and take the following constructive steps:

1. Provide genuine humanitarian aid to the victims of the civil war in the form of food, medical supplies and financial contributions to the reputable humanitarian aid groups that have been stretched to the breaking point by this crisis.

2. End all forms of material and political support to opposition forces.

3. Adopt a genuinely neutral position on the world stage and press for peace talks that involve all of the contending forces.

Parliament must be reconvened to reverse the damage that our government has done by taking sides in this civil war. Canada has to become a responsible voice for peace in the Middle East and the world. If you don’t know how to get hold of your MP, here are some phone numbers.

  • Niki Ashton (Churchill): 204-677-1333
  • Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre): 204-983-1355
  • Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar): 204-822-7440
  • James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake): 204-785-6151
  • Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South): 204-984-6787
  • Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia): 204-984-6432
  • Shelly Glover (St. Boniface): 204-983-3183
  • Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North): 204-984-1767
  • Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre): 204-984-1767
  • Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul): 204-984-6322
  • Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette): 204-848-7000
  • Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona): 204-984-2499

For more complete contact information, go here.

What else can we do?

Get educated. There are excellent sources of critical analysis on the Internet. Here are a couple:

Centre for Research on Globalization

Middle East Research and Information Project

Get involved. You can find No War With Syria (Winnipeg) on Facebook. Peace Alliance Winnipeg is also on Facebook, and on the Internet.

Please contact us. Together, we can do our part to work for peace.

Reposted from Peace Alliance Winnipeg News


Aug. 31, 2013: Winnipeggers rallied to voice opposition to foreign intervention in Syria's civil war. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Aug. 31, 2013: Winnipeggers rallied to voice opposition to foreign intervention in Syria’s civil war. Photo: Paul S. Graham

About 50 Winnipeggers rallied at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights Saturday afternoon to express their opposition to foreign military interventions in Syria. The rally, organized by Winnipeg Alternative Media, was one of many held on Saturday across Canada, and was part of an international campaign to prevent the Syrian crisis from escalating into a world war.

In this video report, organizers explain what is at stake.


August 6, 2011: Nick Ternette at Winnipeg's Annual Lanterns for Peace ceremony marking the anniversaty of the 1945 US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Photo: Paul S. Graham

August 6, 2011: Nick Ternette at Winnipeg’s Annual Lanterns for Peace ceremony marking the anniversaty of the 1945 US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Photo: Paul S. Graham

For more than 30 years, Winnipeggers have come together, in June, to march for peace. In doing so, we strive to educate our neigbours about the the roots of war and to keep alive the message that peace and social justice are inextricably interwoven.

This year, we dedicated the festival to our longtime friend and comrade in the struggle for peace and justice, Nick Ternette. Politically active in many arenas, Nick worked for social justice until the end of his life, despite the health challenges that ultimately caused his death on March 3rd, 2013.

Featured speakers at this year’s event included political activist Emily Ternette, who provided a loving tribute to her departed husband, and David Barsamian, host of the weekly American political affairs program, Alternative Radio, which has been running for 27 years.

In addition to the speeches of Emily Ternette and David Barsamian, my video report includes a brief interview with Nick, held as we marched along during the 2012 Walk for Peace.

Links:

Peace Alliance Winnipeg
Project Peacemakers


Roger-Annis 640

Roger Annis at the Feb. 24, 2013 annual meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Is the military intervention in Mali by France, with the assistance of the United States, Canada and others an example of a humanitarian intervention launched to protect a fragile democracy from the incursion of Muslim terrorists? Or is France meddling in the affairs of its former colony to protect its business interests and further the political and economic interests of its NATO partners?

Roger Annis, coordinator of the Canada-Haiti Action Network and longtime political activist, explored these questions at the Annual General Meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, held Feb. 24, 2013 in Winnipeg.

If you want to read more on this issue, Roger has published a number of thoughtful articles on his blog.


Oct. 6, 2012: A passerby reads a leaflet distributed by Peace Alliance Winnipeg in Osborne Village. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Activists in at least 6 Canadian cities joined in the International Day of Action yesterday to carry the message “Don’t attack Iran” to our fellow citizens.

In Winnipeg, Peace Alliance Winnipeg held an information picket in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, distributing hundreds of leaflets that exposed the myths that are being spread by our various governments to justify sanctions and a future war against Iran.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, Peace Alliance Winnipeg chairperson, Glenn Michalchuk, spoke about the growing war danger and the implications for Canadians. Here is my video report.


Sept. 21, 2012: Actors Gord Tanner, Sara Constible and Tricia Cooper (l-r) in performance at International Peace Day at the Free Press Cafe in Winnipeg. The evening was sponsored by Project Peacemakers. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Yesterday was International Peace Day. It’s understandable if you missed it. Peace is a rare and beautiful thing in this war-torn world.

Winnipeg’s Project Peacemakers marked International Peace Day 2012 with skits and musical performances at the Free Press Cafe. Performing sketches written by Geoff Hughes and Diane Cooper, actors Tricia Cooper, Sara Constible and Gord Tanner provided a comedic response to the Harper Government’s military spending policies in general and its decision to spend $28 million celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

With skillfully performed covers of songs by Pink Floyd, John Lennon and the Weavers, Tom Penner and Jill Cooper closed out the evening with ballads beloved by peace activists everywhere.

International Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1981 and first celebrated in September 1982. Since then it has been observed in countries around the world.

Project Peacemakers is a church-based organization that has been active in Winnipeg since 1983. It conducts educational forums, and publishes  educational materials on such issues as child soldiers, war-affected children, and violent video games and toys.

While I tend to be skeptical of international days of any kind, I’m glad I went. It was an enjoyable to be surrounded by people who care actively about world peace and the performances were great. Here is my video report.


by Peace Alliance Winnipeg

During the Vietnam war, tens of thousands of American conscientious objectors sought refuge in Canada to avoid taking part in a war they could not, in conscience, support. While the Canadian government was slow to respond in a positive way, under persistent pressure from peace, church and labour activists, they were eventually permitted to obtain immigrant status. Many remain in Canada to this day as valued members of our communities.

Fast forward 40 years – many US soldiers have sought refuge here  rather than fight in the Iraq war, a war widely recognized as a crime against humanity. Rather than be complicit in war crimes they left their homes, their families and communities and sought refuge in Canada.

Their pleas for refugee status have been thwarted at every turn by the Harper Government. In defiance of two Parliamentary resolutions calling on the federal government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, the Harper Government has continued to smear American war resisters as criminals. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has publicly labelled them as “bogus refugee claimants.” In July 2010, he issued a bulletin to all Immigration Officers requiring them to red-flag applications that involve US war resisters, labeling them as “criminally inadmissible.”

In recent news, the Harper government ordered U.S. Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera, her husband Mario and their four young children deported to the United States. Kimberly served in Iraq in 2006, and sought refuge in Canada in 2007 after making the decision that she could no longer participate in the Iraq War. She was the first female US Iraq War resister to come to Canada. Kimberly and her family live in Toronto.

If deported, she faces harsh punishment. War resisters Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, two Iraq war resisters deported by the Harper government, were court-martialed and sentenced to 15 months and 12 months respectively for speaking out against the Iraq War.

Canadian support for American war resisters is widespread. We must redouble our efforts to make the Harper government listen.

Peace Alliance Winnipeg has sent a $300 donation to cover Kimberly Rivera’s legal costs. We have written to each Manitoba MP and we will be taking our message to the Winnipeg Take Canada Back demonstration on September 17th. Here are some things you can do:

1. Write, email, fax and or call your MP. If you wish, you can use or adapt the letter sent by Peace Alliance Winnipeg (below, at the end of this message) or you may wish to adapt the letter being used by the War Resisters Support Campaign.  To get their contact information, follow the links below:

(More MP contact information can be found here.)
2. Make a financial contribution to help with Kimberly Rivera’s legal expenses. You can make a donation online, here. To donate by cheque, make it payable to War Resisters Support Campaign and send to:

War Resisters Support Campaign
Box 23
427 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
Canada

3. Write, email, phone or fax Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and ask him to let Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family stay in Canada. You can use thisonline letter, or send your own message to:

325 East Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: 613-954-1064 Fax: 613-957.2688
Email: jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, minister@cic.gc.ca

4. Join the Peace Alliance Winnipeg contingent at the Winnipeg Take Canada Back Demonstration on September 17th, 5:00 p.m., at the Manitoba Legislature. More information on this national demonstration, which coincides with the opening of Parliament, can be found here.

If Kimberly and her family are to be allowed to remain in Canada, we need to act now. Please share this message widely, and take action today.


LETTER SENT TO MANITOBA MPs FROM PEACE ALLIANCE WINNIPEG

September 13, 2012

Dear Member of Parliament for Manitoba

Re: Deportation of Kimberly Rivera , American Iraqi war resister

On behalf of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg I ask for your immediate attention and support on an urgent matter regarding the imminent deportation of Kimberly Rivera, a young American war resister, woman and mother. Her appeal to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds has been denied by the Federal government and deportation is scheduled for as early as September 20, 2012.

Kimberly has sought refuge in Canada on moral grounds, motivated by her conscience, values, and political opposition to the American military action in Iraq. Many thousands of Canadians support her and view her decision and actions as a heroic matter of conscience.

On being forced to return to he US she will face two to five years of imprisonment made all the more harsh by her separation from her young children.

There is nothing to be gained from this inhumane decision and much will be lost. Kimberly losses her freedom and her ability to parent her children; her children lose precious time with their mother; the American military gains nothing but retribution and, as Canadians, we also lose.

This is a serious and symbolic issue for us a nation. If we fail to reverse this deportation decision, and all others like it, Canada loses a significant degree of independence in determining the value of individual conscience particularly as it concerns the matter of conscientious objection. The deportation of war resisters sends the message that Canada does not value those who refuse to fight in war. It further erodes our standing in the world as peace keepers and a middle power capable of being an honest broker on the world stage.

Most troubling we will have failed our long held national values of defending legitimate moral opposition, defending the right to conscience and protecting political refugees from certain prosecution. Our once highly held principle of humanitarian consideration for refugees will be irrevocably threatened along with our national identity as a compassionate and tolerant country.

This is a costly and grave matter for Kimberly and her family and for us as Canadians. It is erroneously being framed as a criminal matter. Deportation of Kimberly and others like her will have far reaching, long term destructive consequences for us all. The real crime is a moral one in allowing this deportation to proceed unchallenged.

In June 2008 and March 2009 Parliament passed resolutions calling for a halt to the deportations of war resisters and allowing them to stay in Canada as permanent residents. Please use your position and voice as a parliamentarian to immediately stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera.

Glenn Michalchuk
Chair, Peace Alliance Winnipeg

Aug. 25, 2012: One of the messages adorning the walkways of Vimy Ridge Park. Photo: Paul S. Graham

The underlying premise of CHALK 4 Peace might best be summed up in a statement attributed to Mahatma Gandhi in 1937: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”

CHALK 4 Peace is an annual event that has spread to hundreds of communities world-wide since its inception in 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. The objectives, according to CHALK 4 Peace  are:

  • To promote the arts by coordinating assemblies of young artists of all ages to draw their vision of peace in public and private spaces with sidewalk chalk as a scheduled worldwide event;
  • To advocate for peace in a non-partisan manner such that all people may share their visions and messages of peace without regard to their nationality, ethnicity, or political beliefs;
  •  To encourage relationships between municipalities and artists so that communities around the world become united in supporting the expression of peace.

Winnipeggers celebrated their 6th annual CHALK 4 Peace on Saturday, raising funds for War Child Canada, and bringing sidewalk art, music, and laughter to Vimy Ridge Park.

Performers included Ras Tamils, the Flaming Trolleys and Lindsey White & Mitch Dorge.

Kisa MacIsaac, one of the organizers of the Winnipeg event, explains how this coming together of arts, music and people contributes to a more peaceful world.

You can find find CHALK 4 Peace Winnipeg on Facebook.

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk Photo: Jake Wright, The Canadian Press

This interview with Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff says more about the psychopathology of militarism than I would have believed could be found in a daily newspaper. Read along with me and ask yourself what kind of madness are we allowing to develop in this country.

My thoughts are in the right hand column. I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Canada’s top soldier says troops ready and eager for new overseas missions

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Free Press, July 7, 2012

CALGARY – When it comes to future missions for the Canadian Forces, Canada’s top soldier has to battle to keep his eager troops satisfied with staying out of major combat zones for now.

Our military exists, or should exist, to defend this country from aggressors while occasionally helping Torontonians dig out of blizzards and Manitobans fight floods. However, it seems that rather than guardians of national sovereignty and security we have a pack of blood thirsty attack dogs on a leash, restrained only by the herculean efforts of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end once the current training mission concludes in 2014 and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk acknowledges that’s a disappointment for many soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

If Natynczyk is correct in his assessment, we have allowed our military to become a haven for a large number of homicidal psychopaths. Is this what happens after a decade of war?

“We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” Natynczyk said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary.

These men and women need help. Failing that, they should never be allowed to own anything sharper than soup spoons.

“You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

I like it when our troops are on hand to fight floods and forest fires. I’d prefer not paying taxes to help them make their bones overseas. If they are really that eager to kill people, our American cousins seem to have an insatiable appetite for cannon fodder.

But Natynczyk is unsure about what is in store for the Canadian Forces or even himself for that matter.

If you believe that, I have some prime muskeg, suitable for agriculture, that you won’t be able to resist.

He has been on the job for four years, which is past the normal tenure for someone in his position, and if he knows what is going to happen next, he isn’t providing any details.

“I’ll just keep on sprinting in this job until I’m told to get off the playing field and recognizing that I’m living in a pretty good time to be in the military,” he said.

Ah, so many people to kill, so little time!

“I never aspired to this job. I just serve. I serve Canadians and the country and look on every day as an opportunity to make a contribution.”

If you really want to serve, Walt, there’s a Starbuck’s near you that is always looking for talent.

Natynczyk said he is telling Canadian troops to keep their “kit packed up” because the world is an unpredictable place right now.

Iran? Syria? Northern BC, if the First Nations don’t allow Enbridge to build it’s Northern Gateway Pipeline?

“The world is turbulent right now and the fact is our allies want more of Canada, more of the men and women who wear Canadian uniforms,” he said.

Our allies want us to kill more brown people who have the misfortune to be in some proximity to undeveloped fossil fuels. We happen to be good at it, I guess.

“I’ve told them all to catch up on that training that lapsed while we had this high operational tempo between Afghanistan and the Olympics and Haiti and Libya, and let’s make sure we have all qualifications and training up to date so when we’re called upon we’re ready to go.”

We’re learning new ways to kill people every day.

The general said outside of Afghanistan, Canada has a number of other smaller missions underway including in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

Oh, and guess what! We’re opening up seven new military bases on foreign soil in Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore, Kuwait, Jamaica and Singapore.

Natynczyk said he is satisfied with the success of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan and pointed out that he flew into Kabul on a commercial airliner for the first time when he visited troops in the city last month.

Let’s see now . . . at great cost to ourselves and and a much greater cost to the Afghan people, we’ve helped a gang of drug lords maintain some control of a couple of urban centres which, when NATO leaves, will undoubtedly revert to Taliban control. The good news is, however, when the dust finally settles, commercial airlines will still fly into Kabul – just like they did before we invaded.

He said the departure of Canadian and U.S. troops will give the Afghan forces the little push that they need to succeed.

“It has helped the Afghans in a sense, taking ownership of their own security. One of the real challenges was the sense that NATO and our allies were going to stay there forever. (That) actually was not helpful in terms of their own culture and own atmosphere,” he said.

Natynczyk is a master of understatement.

Natynczyk is focusing much of his efforts now in making sure more attention is being paid to injured soldiers and their families, especially those suffering from the psychological effects of war.

Shattered bodies and broken minds are the inevitable outcomes of war. Why is Natynczyk so eager to get into another one?

“It’s almost easier to handle people with physical injuries, with physical wounds. People can see it. They can understand it, whether it be shrapnel, a broken leg, even these horrific amputations,” he said.

“It’s much more difficult in the mental injury, whether it be post traumatic stress, operational stress injury, traumatic brain injury because we’re just understanding the beginning of a process of understanding the complex nature of this.”

According to The Department of National Defence, 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010. Since 1996, 187 soldiers have committed suicide. How many more suicides are we going to tolerate while the military is figuring out the “complex nature of this”?

Natynczyk said he talked about mental health on his last visit to Kabul, especially about overcoming the “stigma” of mental issues and making sure people come forward if they have a problem.

And how’s that workin’ for ya, Walt?