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Arts for Peace National Conference: Artists call for peace crusade

Margaret McBride — March 1984

One hundred and fifty artists from all areas of creative activity assembled in Toronto for the first Arts for Peace National Conference from February 4 – 5. They came from every part of Canada to give expression to the slogan “Our Theme is Life, Our Goal is Peace.”

Among the speakers who participated in the two-day dialogue were Phyliss Jane Rose, Managing Director of “Foot of the Mountain” experimental women’s theatre in Minneapolis, and two prominent cultural representatives from the Soviet Union -. Eugene Lazarev, Director of the Maykovskv Theatre in Moscow; and Edouard Batalov, Director of Philosophy at the Institute of United States and Canada Studies, Moscow.

The keynote address was delivered by George Ignatieff, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.N. and Chancellor of the University of Toronto. Other Canadian speakers included Douglas Campbell, leading Stratford Festival performer; Dora de Pedery Hunt, O.C., noted sculptor and designer; well-known actress Charmion King; Lionel Lawrence, Dean of York University Faculty of Fine Arts; John Morgan, President of the Canadian Peace Congress; Walter Pitman, Executive Director, Ontario Arts Council; Paul Siren, General Secretary, ACTRA; and James Stark, President of Operation Dismantle.

In opening the conference, Arts for Peace President Dan Ross indicated that its purpose was to examine the role that artists can play in furthering the cause of world survival. He referred to the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the need for easing East-West tensions through understanding, and stated that this related directly to the aims of the Conference.

The Conference endorsed a statement calling upon artists of all creative endeavours to “Join in a mighty crusade for peace directed toward halting the perilous course of the nuclear arms race.”

The statement condemned the accelerating threat to human survival and deplored its social cost to all countries, which could only be measured in hunger, disease, unemployment, inadequate housing and educational and cultural deprivation.

It reiterated an Arts for Peace declaration calling upon the Canadian government to . declare Canada a Nuclear Free Zone, urging all governments to implement a Nuclear Arms Freeze and rejecting the government’s decision to test the cruise missile.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s peace initiative was welcomed and all artists were urged to support his efforts to promote significant arms control negotiations among the major powers.

The Conference discussed the question of expanding activities through a broad program of peace action involving theatres, art galleries, libraries, schools and universities. It also stressed the necessity for working in cooperation with other peace groups, churches and unions.

Among the projects proposed were a national Arts for Peace day, a national peace poster competition, an annual award to the contribution for peace and children’s art exchanges.

The need for special attention to the building of Arts for Peace groups in many small communities of Canada was emphasized as being of equal importance to the establishing of chapters in the large towns and, cities.

The Conference received messages of support from many leading Canadian citizens, among them, Toronto’s Mayor Art Eggleton.