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Movement gathers to discuss 1984 strategy

Martin Zeilig — February 1984

Disarmament and peace groups from across Canada will be sending representatives to a national conference in Winnipeg on February 2 – 5. The conference is being organised by the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign, but is being structured so as to permit wide-ranging discussion of future directions open to the peace movement in Canada.

The history of the PPCC itself is a lesson in creativity and persistence. In January 1983, a small disarmament group on Saltspring Island in British Columbia sent out a series of proposals to a number of peace and disarmament groups across Canada. This dedicated group of activists recognised the need for a coordinated national campaign that would help stop cruise missile testing in Canada and make our country a Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

They realised that the future of the peace movement depended on the energies generated by community-based groups similar to their own. However, they were also feeling isolated and powerless vis-à-vis the decision-makers in Ottawa. It was at this point that the Islanders raised $12,000 to promote their views across the country.

In the months that followed, a steady grounds well of support was felt from peace groups nationwide. One person in particular, Don Erickson, a freelance journalist and broadcaster and former community college teacher, has been the main driving force in gathering support for what eventually became known as the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign.

Prominent people such as Patrick Watson, Margaret’ Laurence, Dr. Donald Bates and Ottawa Mayor Marion Dewar, and representatives of such national organisations as Operation Dismantle, Greenpeace, Voice of Women and the Assembly of First Nations are all enthusiastic members of the PPCC’s Caravan Committee. The PPCC also received a great boost when it attracted the active support of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Last August in Ottawa — home of the PPCC National Office — an initial conference was held with representatives from the abovementioned organisations (and others) in attendance. At the upcoming Winnipeg conference, most of those saine organisations and coalitions will be represented.

In the words of David. Langille, full-time paid Campaign Coordinator, the February conference “will provide a nationwide forum for peace activists to share their experiences and discuss strategies for the future, as well as to focus on organising the PPCC for its immediate tasks in 1984.”

According to Langille, and to the PPCC’s own literature, the Campaign’s objectives are:

1) to stop the testing of the cruise missile in Canada; 2) to have Canada officially declared a NWFZ; and 3) to re-direct wasteful spending on the arms race to fund human needs.

Hundreds of thousands of signatures will hopefully be collected on the petitions themselves. These will then be presented to the MPs in the various federal ridings encouraging them to support the Campaign objectives.

Other topics to be discussed in Winnipeg are such crucial themes as Civil Disobedience, Peace Education, Computers in the Peace Movement, and “What about the USSR?”

One of the performers and participants at the conference will be Vancouver musician Bob Bossin of the highly acclaimed group Stringband. Bossin recently returned from a much-publicised and successful tour of the Soviet Union.

Representatives of peace — and other — organisations interested in attending the Winnipeg conference should contact the PPCC National Office at 600 Bank St., Ottawa Ontario KIS 3T4, or phone (613) xxx-xxxx.