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Groups give advice on Institute to committee

Roy McFarlane — July 1984

OTTAWA – Representatives of different Canadian peace groups are reserving judgement on the federal government’s proposed institute for Peace and Security.

On May 17, Members of Parliament ended debate on the second reading of Bill C-32, a bill which, when passed, would create the Canadian Institute for Peace and Security (See The Peace Calendar, May 1984). The bill was referred to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence for further debate and to receive submissions from interested organizations on the nature of the institute.

During the committee hearings, representatives from the Voice of Women, Science for Peace, Project. Ploughshares, End the Arms Race (Vancouver), the Toronto Disarmament Network and Operation Dismantle presented their proposals for the direction they believed the new institute should take.

An underlying concern for some was the possibility that the institute would be a way for the government to address the concerns of Canadians, without taking substantive action in the field of disarmament.

James Stark, President of Operation. Dismantle, told the committee that “there were not 100,000 people in the streets of British Columbia, of Vancouver, carrying placards that said ‘Study the Arms Race’. What happened was..that there were 100,000 people in the streets of Vancouver saying ‘Stop the Arms Race’, a quite different message.”

Frank Kennedy, President of Vancouver’s End the Arms Race, said that, although he wondered if the creation of the institute may be a political move on the part of the. government, his group was willing to co-operate with the formation of the institute. He stressed, however, that the institute should be dedicated towards peace and disarmament and not spend its time evaluating the different kinds of weapons that exist.

In the view of Bob Penner, an organizer with the Toronto Disarmament Network, “If the institute engages in not only technical research, but popular education, and if it makes the resources available to other kinds of peace groups across the country, then it’s valuable. If it’s set up as another strategic studies institute, and if it’s going to be a way of pacifying the peace movement, then it won’t be successful, and nobody will take it seriously.”

Peace organizers acknowledge that the committee and the government are earnestly trying to steer the bill through the committee and then third reading in order to allow its passage before the current season of Parliament ends and before an expected federal election is called.