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Ontario activists gather to discuss issues and strategies

Matthew Clark — December 1984

WATERLOO ~ The first Ontario Peace Conference met in Kitchener-Waterloo on Saturday and Sunday, November 17 and 18. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the direction of the peace movement in Ontario following the completion of the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign. Over 100 delegates attended, representing peace groups and coalitions from all over Ontario.

The conference was consultative in form, and therefore no resolutions were passed, but the participants overwhelmingly favoured the formation of a decentralized national coordinating committee.

The conference agenda consisted of a mixture of presentations, floor discussions and workshops. The Saturday morning session began with a report on the Peace Petition Caravan by Lynn Connell (of Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament), co-ordinator of the Caravan. Connell described her trip with the Caravan from Victoria to Ottawa, and also on the meetings in Ottawa with the three party leaders.

Participants also heard reports on a number of issues facing the peace m9vement. Rick Caton (of Operation Dismantle) talked about the nuclear freeze; Metta Spencer (of the Canadian Disarmament Information Service) addressed a variety of issues, including nuclear weapon-free zones, NATO and NORAD, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Five Continent Peace Initiative; and Chris Ross (of Psychologists for Social Responsibility) spoke on implementation of a nuclear weaponfree zone campaign. I made a presentation on Networking. In addition, there were a number of brief presentations from the floor on other issues, including the cruise missile tests, Ontario Hydro’s planned sale of Tritium to the US for nuclear weapons production, and methods for strengthening international security through the United Nations.

Three workshop sessions were held, in which conference participants discussed issues, implementation of issues, and networking.. Reports from the workshops to the plenary session showed that the participants were interested in a wide variety of issues.

On Sunday morning, workshops were held on a number of specific subjects: Letter- Writing; Nonviolent Action; The Peace Calendar as a Resource; Talking to People about Nuclear War; Working with the Media; Fundraising, Small Town Organizing; the Greens; What Shall We Tell the Children?; From Non-activist to Activist; Women and Men in the Peace Movement; Strengthening the United Nations; and Mundialization.

The conference ended with a report from Bob Penner (of the Toronto Disarmament Network) on plans for a national conference some time. next year, and a floor discussion on the subject of a national co-ordinating committee.

The Ontario Peace Conference clearly demoristrated the impressive .growth and increased seriousness of the organized peace movement. This conference was roughly five times larger, both in number of participants and locations represented, than the first Southern Ontario Peace Network meeting, which was held just a-year earlier. Although a wide variety of views and strategies were represented, the participants were enthusiastically united in their commitment to work together for disarmament.