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Campaign underway for petition caravan

Hans Eisenkraft — October 1983

An Ottawa based group wants to make peace an election issue, and plans a distinctive way of presenting the matter to the Canadian public.

The Peace Petition Caravan Campaign is a program of disarmament activities which will begin with a national newspaper ad this month and continue with an educational drive and door-to-door canvassing throughout the year. The objective of the Campaign is to gather names on petitions across the country and bring them to Ottawa on a peace caravan next summer. It will provide a vehicle for public demands that Canada declare itself a nuclear weapons free zone and that it reject cruise missile testing on its territory.

“This is petitioning with a difference,” said David Langille, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

“It has a specific target — the individual member of Parliament in his or her home riding; as well as a specific time frame — the federal election campaign.”

This aspect of the program will culminate in a mass caravan converging on Ottawa from both coasts. The caravan will deliver the petitions to the MPs, demonstrating that, in Langille’s words, “there is a sizeable block of voters who want peace.”

He said that the drive to make Canada a NWFZ is “a logical extension of the cruise protest and puts it in a larger context.” Organisers of the campaign hope to follow up the Ottawa event by attending all-candidates’ meetings and holding MPs ‘accountable’ for responding to the petitions.

The Campaign is encouraging the involvement of peace groups throughout the country in provincial and local committees. Organisers see the program both as a long-term vision and as a medium-range strategy which would unite “various peace groups in a coordinated national campaign. It focuses on particular events but inspires a host of local initiatives,” said Langille.

Toronto peace groups are planning to contribute to the caravan in conjunction with their own activities. Robert Penner, a spokesperson for the Toronto Disarmament Network, said that the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign has already “broadened the movement” by communicating with other sectors, such as labour and student groups. This has increased awareness of the October 22 day of protest, which is planned on an international scale to protest the planned deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe.

Another coalition, Against Cruise Testing, will “try to combine and coordinate events” with the Campaign, but will not be participating in the petition gathering, said Angela Browning, spokesperson for the group.

The Campaign has the official sponsorship of the Canadian Labour Congress, Operation Dismantle, the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Federation of Students and the Voice of Women. Organisers hope to secure the endorsement of locally and nationally prominent Canadians on the petitions, and such well-known figures as Margaret Laurence, Patrick Watson and Dr. Donald Bates of the Physicians for Social Responsibility have already shown interest.

The Peace Petition Caravan Campaign was initiated by the Salt Spring Island Peace Group on the west coast. It started with a $12,000 grant from that group in 1982. The Campaign can be reached by calling the Project Ploughshares office in Ottawa at (613) 230-73