Canadian Peace Congress Convention a Big Success

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Canadian Peace Congress held its 2018 Convention at the Steelworkers Hall in Toronto on November 24 and 25. The first day was primarily devoted to a series of guest speakers; the second, to the organizational business of the CPCon. Joan Phillip, a B.C. indigenous leader, kicked off the convention with a welcome and land recognition statement, and spoke of her participation in native, environmental and peace struggles. Her uplifting remarks ended with the observation that the indigenous peoples have
learned from their own experience that peace and social justice are indivisible.

Next to speak was Canadian Peace Congress Acting President Miguel Figueroa, whose wideranging comments addressed a number of alarming developments that have aggravated international tensions, including the acceleration of military spending and war preparations, the imperialist-sponsored wars of aggression against Syria and Yemen, the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and ‘regime change’ operations orchestrated from Washington against the peoples and governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and elsewhere. He sharply condemned the foreign and defence polices of the Trudeau government and domestic politics, which are contributing to the dangerous drift toward a new ‘cold war’. He noted the increased activity and influence of the Peace Congress, and gave a warm welcome to delegates, especially those from four new peace councils – in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax – that have been formed over the past year alone. Figueroa stressed that the main challenge facing the peace movement was how to build and broaden its ranks in order to effectively respond to the growing danger. The Peace Congress will be reaching out through its “Unity Appeal” to other peace, solidarity and other labour & progressive forces to discuss ways to achieve this objective.

The Congress will also campaign on a number of critical issues in the coming year, including: opposing the arms deal with Saudi Arabia; campaigning to withdraw Canada from NATO and to dissolve this aggressive military alliance, including sending people to Washington for anti-NATO demonstrations next April; and to put peace on the agenda during the run-up to the federal elections next year.

Bahman Azad, Organizational Secretary of the US Peace Council and a member of the Secretariat of the World Peace Council, presented greetings from both organizations. He spoke of the divide in the world peace movement, around the issue of imperialism. Broad opposition to foreign military bases has proved to be a unifying issue. A just-concluded conference in Dublin, with both streams participating, set opposition to bases as the core of united action. This includes a global effort during the NATO summit next April, and action on bases in Okinawa and Guantanamo in May.

The Convention honoured the lifelong contribution of former Peace Congress president John Hanley Morgan, and presented a posthumous award which was accepted by his widow, Jeanette. Morgan served as CPCon president from 1972-86, and Vice-President of the World Peace Council from 1983-87. Ms. Morgan spoke of their life together in the peace movement, citing some of the main challenges during those years, and the continuing relevance of the organizing and political tactics employed by the peace forces in the 70s and 80s.

International criminal lawyer, writer, and blogger Christopher Black accused the USA and its NATO allies, including Canada, of war crimes by launching aggression and wars of occupation against a number of countries in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and other covenants of international law. Mr. Black spoke particularly strongly against the so-called “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine which, he said, has no basis in international law, but rather serves as a pretext conjured up by the imperialist powers to justify their unilateral and illegal actions. This doctrine, he said, “returns us to the law of the jungle, where the powerful do as they wish, and the victims suffer what they

The imperialist powers are using NATO as their primary instrument for enforce world domination. Through a series of actions, including the militarization of outer space, the USA
and NATO allies are preparing for nuclear war, a war that they expect to win. Chairing the Saturday afternoon session began with presentation of greetings from the mayor of
Grand Forks, BC, read by Laura Savinkoff, convenor of the BC Southern Interior Peace Coalition. Independent Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett drew mainly from the example of the US-led war on Syria to illustrate the gross misrepresentations and lies spewed out by the western mainstream media which mostly repeat the propaganda handed out by the imperialist powers. Ms. Bartlett cited many instances in which reliable testimony she gathered from people on the ground in Syria directly contradicted the official positions reflected in commercial media.

Eva Bartlett was followed by Tamara Lorincz, a member of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and of the Global Network against Nuclear Power and Weapons in Space. A doctoral student on environmental issues. Ms. Lorincz spoke on the environmental impact of the military, noting that the fossil fuel emissions of the military industrial complex are excluded from calculations of countries’ ‘carbon footprint’, and are routinely ignored in media coverage dealing with the deepening crisis of climate change, even though the military is the single greatest contributor to this global problem.

Adrien Welsh, General Secretary of the Young Communist League and an activist in the Mouvement québécois pour la paix, was the last of the featured guest speakers. He spoke of the actions of young people in support of anti-war struggles around the world, and the need to engage in the ‘battle of ideas’ to counter pro-imperialist propaganda to help draw more young people into the peace movement across Canada. Mr. Welsh also addressed the activity of the Mouvement québécois pour la paix, with examples of its recent successes.

The Sunday session of the convention turned delegates’ attention to internal organizing matters. Miguel Figueroa also presented an organizational report highlighting the work of CPCon over the past few years, which has resulted in the establishment of several new local chapters, and the possibility of additional Peace Councils in Kingston, Kitchener, Nanaimo, and New Brunswick in 2019.

The convention also dealt with a number of internal matters, such as updating its constitution, and reviewing its finances. It received reports about its international activities, which included travels to China (at the invitation of the Chinese Peoples Association for Peace & Development), to the Hemispheric peace conference in the Dominican Republic, and to Damascus, Syria for the executive meeting of the World Peace Council.

The delegates also discussed the contents of a “Peace Alternative” program which will be released shortly by the incoming executive. While the precise wording of the new program is not yet finalized, it will surely include “a call for massive cuts in the arms budget, opposition to any Canadian participation in ballistic missile defence, cancellation of the Saudi arms deal, ending Ottawa’s collusion in ‘regime change’ operations in Latin America and around the world, and getting Canada out of NATO and NORAD”, Figueroa noted.

The Convention also approved a “Plan of Action” for the coming year, which will include mobilizing – together with other peace forces in the US and Canada – to oppose the 70th
anniversary celebrations for NATO in April 2019, and campaigning to ensure that peace becomes a major issue in the coming federal elections which will be held on October 21, 2019.

The final act of the Convention was to elect a new Executive of eleven, with Miguel Figueroa as President. The new Executive is gender-balanced, youthful, and includes several people of colour, drawn from across the country.

An Urgent Appeal for Unity against the Growing Danger of War
Canadian Peace Congress
December 14, 2018

To all those who share our sense of urgency about the worsening international situation, and the grave danger that war poses for the world today, we issue this Appeal for a united and powerful response.
At this critical moment, ending militarism, aggression and war, averting climate catastrophe, and tackling poverty, social disparity and related global problems should be humanity’s top priorities. Instead, political elites, especially in the countries of the NATO alliance including Canada, are pushing the world in the opposite direction.
We are witnessing the emergence of a 'new cold war' atmosphere, and the deliberate cultivation of Russophobia and Sino-phobia, along with other forms of fear-mongering and demonization. In North America, rearmament, bullying tactics and glorification of militarism seem the order of the day. While US President Donald Trump has been particularly shrill in his attacks against peace, his Democratic Party rivals frequently attempt to out-flank him with their hawkish rhetoric.
The principles of international law – respect for the full equality and sovereignty of all countries, non-interference, and the resolution of disputes through peaceful negotiation, not threats and aggression – are being increasingly violated. Important agreements such as the Iran Nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces/INF treaty are being unilaterally cancelled.
The arms race is accelerating, and weapons systems relentlessly "modernized". Globally, military spending is now over a trillion dollars a year, with the expanding US military budget leading the way. Foreign military bases are spreading like a metastasizing cancer, and the world's armed forces are now the largest single global source of carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption.
As regional and international flashpoints sharpen, the danger of global war – involving the main nuclear powers – looms ever larger. The NATO encirclement of the Russian Federation is tightening, and economic and military pressures, as well as propaganda attacks against the People’s Republic of China are growing. Backed by Washington, Israel's rulers are escalating their repressive, apartheid policies against the Palestinian people in besieged Gaza and the Occupied West Bank. Imperialist "regime change” campaigns are targeting several countries around the world. The US occupation of Afghanistan is now entering its 18th year, with no end in sight. Canada's arms sales are helping the Saudi regime conduct a vicious war against the people of Yemen. Even the hopeful signs of progress on the Korean peninsula towards a peaceful resolution of that longstanding conflict are being undermined by hawkish forces inside the US Administration and the military-industrial complex.
The widespread advance of racist, national chauvinist, and neo-fascist movements is adding to global instability. The deepening economic crisis of capitalism is fuelling increased rivalries, trade and tariff wars, even predictions of another global economic meltdown. The crisis of climate change is already bringing destructive weather systems, droughts, rising ocean levels, and other dire consequences.

Canada’s Role

In the face of this rapidly deteriorating situation, Canada should and must be a voice of reason and restraint, and a principled advocate for peace and disarmament. Instead, however, Ottawa has become one of the most bellicose voices marching to the ‘drums of war’. Under the current Liberal government of Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland, Canada has adopted foreign and defence policies which squander valuable resources which would be better spent on socially useful purposes. Any hope that this government would slash carbon emissions, or prioritize the needs of workers, Indigenous peoples, the poor and marginalized, seniors and youth, has vanished. Instead, Canadian military spending is skyrocketing, from the current levels of $20 billion, to a projected $36 billion by the middle of the next decade.
Across Canada, a number of useful and important peace & solidarity initiatives are taking place. But we must face the reality that overall, the peace movement in Canada and internationally today is too weak and divided to address these many dangerous and interrelated threats. Unlike earlier periods – the 1980s with its huge mobilizations against the danger of nuclear war, or the early 2000s when millions protested the invasion of Iraq – the anti-war movement today is far smaller. The doctrine of "responsibility to protect", which the imperialist powers use as a pretext for their geopolitical agenda, has disoriented and neutralized popular resistance.
Today it is more urgent than ever to foster greater cooperation, and unity of action among all of the forces for peace, solidarity and social justice. In the view of the Canadian Peace Congress, the absolutely imperative task of our times is to build powerful mass mobilizations for a decisive shift in Canadian and global politics, away from confrontation and militarism, towards peace and disarmament. Only such a change can give the human race a realistic chance to save the planet from war and environmental disaster, and to improve the lives of billions of people.
But success requires far more than well-meaning phrases. Common action to transform Canadian foreign and defence polices toward peace and disarmament is needed now! We call upon all the diverse forces in our movement to set aside differences, unite around our shared concerns, and build campaigns to push back the threat of war and militarism, before it is too late!
The Canadian Peace Congress stands committed to this urgent and decisive goal, and welcomes dialogue and joint action with any and all peace and solidarity groups and movements to help work for its realization.

This Appeal is issued by the Canadian Peace Congress. For more information about this initiative, or regarding the policies and activities of the CPCon in general, please contact
us at [email protected].