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Each town extends unique welcome for Peace Petition Caravan

Lynn Connell — November 1984

OTTAWA — Two Peace Petition caravans travelling from the east and west coasts came together at a gala welcoming ceremony at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, on Saturday, October 20. They were laden with over 400,000 disarmament petitions to mark the culmination, of the eight month long Peace Petition Caravan Campaign.

The east and west caravans left St. John’s, Nfld. and Victoria, B.C., respectively, on Saturday, September 29 to begin their 9,000 kilometer, three week trek across Canada. Stops were made at over 70 towns along the way to pick up the peace petitions.

This reporter flew to Victoria from Toronto to join Art and Lou Rumsey and Mary Williamson from Salt Spring Island, and Clarence White from Duncan, B.C. for the west to east caravan route. The Rumseys donated their large camper trailer as the “official vehicle” and Ms. Williamson and Mr: White followed behind in their decorated cars as the caravan wove eastward from Victoria to Ottawa collecting a total of 300,000 signatures. Stephanie Sydiaha joined the caravan in Saskatoon and Brennain Lloyd in North Bay.

Sally and Charles Davis travelled the east to west route from St. Johns, Nfld. to Ottawa in their official caravan truck accompanied by Bob Penner, an organizer with the Toronto Disarmament Network and Andrew Seccord, a Peddler for Peace, who joined them in Quebec for the last week of their journey. The east coast caravan collected over 125,000 signatures from the 30 towns they visited.

At each town along the route, the caravans were greeted enthusiastically by peace groups working in conjunction with labour, women’s, native, church, performing artists, youth, and athletic associations who have spent the last eight months gathering petitions door to door, at country fairs, shopping plazas and on street corners. Each signature represents an outreach program of its own. In many cases, the conversations with the canvassers about disarmament and the threat of nuclear war were the first that the community had ever participated in.

The formal presentations of the petitions to the caravan were accompanied by a variety of unique welcoming events organized to celebrate the occasion. In some cases the caravans were met outside town by a cavalcade of decorated vehicles who accompanied them into town led by a police escort, horns honking and lights on. The caravan met with local mayors, authors, federal, provincial and municipal politicians, church leaders and many peace activists, and were fed wonderful home cooked meals at every stop. Local folk singers and bands entertained the group in many communities. Television, radio and newspaper reporters were present to record the event. After providing accommodation for the caravaners, local communities waved them off with good wishes to their next stop.

Lynn Connell is the national coordinator of the Caravans and an organizer with Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament (PAND)

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