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Doug Roche reconvenes consultative arms group

Beth Richards — December 1984

OTTAWA — When Douglas Roche was appointed Ambassador for Disarmament he didn’t waste any time in re-defining the function behind the title. One of his first moves was to re-vamp the Consultative Group on Arms Control and Disarmament. Invitations went out to about sixty individuals asking them to attend a conference in Ottawa on November 9 and 10.

Organized by the Canadian Centre for, Arms Control and Disarmament, the conference drew together a wide range of opinion on a numberofsubjects, including workshops on Influence with Washington and with the Soviets; Influence in NATO and on the UN; The Militarization of Space; Non-proliferation; Verification; and The Linkage between Disarmament and Development.

Under the previous ambassador, the Consultative Group had twenty members, primarily academics and specialists. This time, however, an effort was made to draw grassroots organizers and activists into the dialogue.

It was the first time that many of the participants had the opportunity to exchange views with representatives from External Affairs and the Department of National Defense. Obviously, there were differences of opinion on a number of issues including definitions of defense, security and even “reality.” Nevertheless, there was a positive air of open dialogue and a desire to continue the initiative.

On the last day of the conference, participants discussed the future role of the Consultative Group.

It was generally agreed that broad representation from the peace community is necessary if the process is to be truly consultative: In addition, peace movement representatives felt the agenda had been too cumbersome to allow sufficient time for discussion of specific issues, pertinent to Canada, such as the cruise missile testing.

The conference was organized at last minute notice and, for this reason, many participants did not see the agenda until a few days before. Prior to the next meeting of the Consultative Group, it is hoped that representatives will have the opportunity to discuss the agenda and make recommendations before it is firmly set.

Ambassador Roche made it clear that he intends to meet with peace groups as much as possible in the coming months. He cautioned that moving the bureaucracy is no easy task and stressed an “inch-by-inch” approach. Although Roche is undoubtedly sincere and committed, time will tell if the government is prepared to move forward even an inch. It has displayed a willingness to listen, however, and that is a positive sign.

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