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PPCC coalition begins long trek to Ottawa

Lynn Connell — October 1984

Two Peace Petition Caravans were simultaneously launched on Friday September 28 from Vancouver Island and Newfoundland, commencing the 7,000 km trek across Canada scheduled to arrive in Ottawa on October 20. Hundreds of thousands of Peace Petitions will be collected from over 60 towns along the eastern and western routes during the next three weeks.

The Peace Petition Caravan Campaign (PPCC) is calling for a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney when the caravans arrive in Ottawa.

Twenty-five peace groups from Vancouver Island kicked off the “west-to-east” caravan with a gala send-off celebration in Victoria on Saturday in front of the Legislative Buildings. Mayor Pollen welcomed thousands of supporters of the PPCC, some of whom had arrived that morning as part of an extravagantly decorated boat flotilla sailing across from Saltspring and the Gulf Islands. With the crowd chanting in a “count upwards,” the 50,000 petitions (bundled into packages of 1,000) were loaded into the ‘official van.’ When the van was loaded, children from across the Island released hundreds of Helium-filled balloons with paper cranes attached. A police-escorted parade of over 200 decorated vehicles then accompanied the official van to the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to bid the caravan farewell on its 4736 km journey eastward.

The official east-to-west caravan is being driven by Louise and Art Rumsey/. from Salts pring Island, where the PPCC originated last year. Their large camper trailer has recently been painted with the PPCC dove logo, and outfitted with a sound system which will “belt out peace songs along the way.” Mr. Rumsey is, war veteran who spent three years in Germany and France with the non-combatant Canadian Signal Corps. The Rumseys then believed that that war would indeed be “the war to end all wars,” but now they fear for the future of their four daughters and eight grandchildren.

“For us to do this trip is an absolute necessity. If we don’t try to do something towards nuclear disarmament, they just won’t have the same chance that we did to build their lives. We will do anything we have to do.”

St. John’s, Newfoundland, coincided their kick-off with a mid-afternoon celebration rally at the Avalon Mall on September 28. The deputy mayor of St. John’s wished the caravan good luck, and well-known folk singer Jim Payne entertained the crowd. Up to ten thousand petitions were loaded into the east-to-west official van, which will be driven by Sally and Charles Davis more than 2200 km to Ottawa.

The Davis’ have been active in the peace movement for over 30 years. Mrs. Davis, a retired librarian and grandmother of two, helped fundraise during the Spanish Civil War. Mr. Davis, a professor of aquatic ecology, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, will take time off his work because he is determined to see this project through to the end.

Both are enthusiastic about the success of the PPCC in Newfoundland. “We are achieving here more than we ever dreamt. During this campaign we have built up a huge base, right across the province. So many people are now taking part, and with these new forces we just don’t want to lose the momentum. We’re already talking about what we can do next. “

Exciting and imaginative events have been locally organized in 68 towns across the country to welcome the two halves of the caravan. Many communities plan to meet the caravan on the outskirts of their cities with their own decorated vehicles accompanied by high school bands which will lead the procession into town.

Events vary from large to small, indoors and outdoors, and include folk singers, local politicians, puppets, pot luck socials, speakers, films, workshops, theatrical skits, clowns, jazz bands, dancing and variety shows. Each community promises a well-publicized and highly visual event complete with’ balloons and banners.

Accomodation and meals are being provided for caravan travellers at every stop along the route. Individuals wishing to join the caravan for any distance should contact the community scheduled nearest to them to advise them of their plans as soon as possible.

Participating communities with PPCC petitions off the caravan route should contact and join the town scheduled closest for their welcoming event.