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Peace Parties appeal to grass roots level

Jane Davidson — June 1984

A desire to reach out to ordinary people, people who shun peace marches and yet feel quiet despair over the arms race, has led an Ottawa couple to create a grassroots-style of forum modelled after Tupperware parties.

The Peace Party Network got its start last fall when Maria and Paul Rigby of Ottawa decided to invite friends and neighbours over for an evening of discussion about nuclear war.

The party was so successful that several more were held, with an initial focus on the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign, and ,the movement spread to the Toronto area in March. Since that time, and with a broadened scope and purpose, seven peace parties have been held in Toronto and outlying areas.

Organizers and hosts who open their homes for the parties agree that ; each one has a different outcome and that none could be termed ‘failures..’

Although Tupperware parties provided the inspiration for peace parties, there is a basic difference. People attending are not pressured to go on. and hold their own peace parties.

Carolyn Spoore, a Toronto peace party organizer and host, says that even if a group never meets again and people go their separate ways afterward, something has been achieved.

“Their consciousness has been raised,” she says. “Questions get answered, and someone who has been to a party may well confront politicians at election time. They will certainly be better informed than they were before the party.”

The party format is very simple. Someone agrees to host a party and invites between eight and fifteen people, who may be friends, neighbours, relatives or co-workers. A facilitator is also invited to attend. The facilitator begins the discussion by asking each person in turn to identify themselves and say why they carne.

A free-flowing discussion of nuclear issues follows, and all points of view are welcomed. Facilitators try to maintain a non-combative, supportive environment. After a coffee break, the facilitator may ask people what further action, if any, they would like to take, and what they learned from the evening.

Some remarkable turnarounds in attitude have been reported. “often,” says Paul Rigby, “those who feel the most hopeless will argue the loudest about the futility of the peace movement. At one party, I confronted such a person and said ‘you really feel that nothing can be done. After that, he kept quiet and listened, and at the end was one of those most enthusiastic about taking further action.” ‘.

After a peace party in Bolton, Ontario, several people said they felt better informed about the reasons behind resistance to cruise missile testing in Canada. And participants in Newmarket, already committed to opposing the cruise, decided to meet again and form their own peace group.

Maria Rigby has national aspirations for the movement.

“What I really hope is that every person across the country will have a chance to get together in small groups and talk about the issue. I want a groundswell of people saying ‘no’ to war. We have to stop the U.S. and the Soviets — we have to change our government’s policy on cruise missile testing.”