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Grassroots peace effort

Nicole de Montbrun — October 1983

The peace movement is going door-to-door in Toronto this month. I f you happen to reside in an Etobicoke lakeshore duplex, a condominium in the Davenport area, a 2-storey brownstone at Broadview and Greenwood, or a bungalow nestled somewhere in High Park, you will probably be personally asked to walk for peace on October 22.

The door-to-door canvass is part of Toronto’s October 22 Campaign, which has been in preparation since May of this year. The canvassing is designed to tug at the grassroots level — to ensure a quantifiable turnout for the demonstration.

According to Campaign organiser Robert Penner, It we first targetted the areas with the highest voter turnout, as well as other areas we thought likely to give us the most support.” Penner feels that voter turnout is a good indicator of political commitment.

The next stage was to solidify support — the planning of canvassing strategy and the recruiting of volunteers, who attended orientation meetings over the month of September.

Then the volunteers hit the streets.

When a volunteer canvasser knocks on the Smiths’ door, he or she will be stressing the importance of the issues and of the demonstration. The campaign organisers are printing hundreds of thousands

of brochures that explain the motivation for the protest, and the canvasser will leave this literature with the resident, who will be encouraged to attend the march. If a particular individual wants to become involved, they are encouraged to contact the Campaign office for help in organising a neighbourhood October 22 committee of their own. They are also offered the chance to buy a peace button and to sign a petition against cruise testing and in favour of a nuclear weapon free zone.

Of course, the cruise is a controversial issue, and canvassers can expect to encounter some hostile canvasses. Because of limited resources (volunteers, time and materials), canvassers are discouraged from engaging in prolonged debate. Disinterested or hostile residents will simply receive some literature, and the canvasser will continue on to the next home. The organisers are promoting the “Knock and Drop” routine in order to hit as many homes as possible in the targetted ridings.

Matthew Clark, of the Toronto Disarmament Network, sees the canvass as an important step toward the creation of a massive popular peace movement. “We’ve gotten the media attention, but we need to go further,” he says. .“Last April’s nationwide protest was very strong but there are millions more people out there that don’t appear at demonstrations, yet feel threatened by the implications of cruise testing. The canvassers are the connection between the full-time peace activists and the public as a whole. The canvassers demonstrate to the average Toronto resident that the only difference between a disarmament supporter and a peace activist is the amount of time each puts in.”

Starting with the original 150 volunteers, organisers hope to obtain over 500 canvassers by the. time the campaign reaches full swing. David Craft of the Toronto October 22 Campaign speculates that the growing number of canvassers should be able to move on from the areas initially targetted and cover much of Metropolitan Toronto.

Many of the volunteers are involved in some of Metro’s many peace groups, such as Parkdale for Peace, the Lakeshore Disarmament Group and Hillcrest for Peace. Virtually every peace group in the city is organising to support the demonstration. The canvassers represent a good cross-section of the Toronto community, from various occupations, some retired and some students. All will brave the weather as. well as the indifferent or hostile reactions — in order to push for peace.

. Organisers hope that, by October 22, many of Toronto’s majority who have indicated their half-hearted concern about the cruise will be full-fledged, committed peace activists.

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