Roy Sanders: Peace Activist

by Richard Sanders

For more than half a century, Roy was involved in a wide variety of social movements and progressive organisations.  Although over the decades most of the groups that he worked with were engaged in raising public awareness about issues of war and peace, as well as related humanitarian and civil-rights issues.  Among the influences leading Roy into his support for these activist causes were the poverty he experienced as a child and his experiences in India during WWII.  The biggest influence was his 61-year marriage to Sylvia, who often took the lead in their participation in the peace movement, especially during the years when he worked at NRC.  Roy's work in the field of physics also influenced his work in the peace movement and should not be overlooked. 

The approach and focus of Roy's involvement in peace issues during the Cold War was influenced by his career as a physicist.  For one thing, many of the peace organisations that Roy and Sylvia were active in focused much attention on atomic weapons, the threat of nuclear war and the dangers of radiation.  As a professional physicist, he was directly engaged in the scientific study of radiation and was knowledgeable about its powerful dangers.  Also important to note is that his physics career allowed him to travel to conferences in the USSR and other socialist countries.  The friendly work relations that he enjoyed with people from these so-called "enemy" nations, afforded him a special insight which influenced his peace activism during the height of the Cold War when so many around him were struck by an irrational social phobia and hatred of all things Soviet.

Here is a chronological summary of the main organisations, movements and peace-related campaigns in which Roy and Sylvia were involved.

Unitarian Service Committee (USC)
One of the first progressive organisations that Sylvia and Roy became active with was the USC.  They began volunteering for USC Canada in 1953. At that time, Lotta Hitschmanova (photo at right) was running the USC out of the basement of the Unitarian Church at the corner of Elgin and Lewis Streets in Ottawa's downtown core. The organisation was then focused on providing food, educational supplies, clothing, housing and money to help refugees in Europe whose lives had been thrown into chaos by World War II. Roy and Sylvia initially got involved in the USC by donating clothing and by joining other volunteers in packing bales of clothes for shipment to war-torn refugees in Europe.  It was through this involvement with the USC that Roy and Sylvia first learned about Unitarianism and started to attend its Ottawa church. 

First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa
Sylvia and Roy started going to Unitarian services before leaving for Britain in 1953, where Roy worked on his Ph.D in Physics.  At that time, the Unitarian church was still located downtown (See image at left). This first Unitarian church was built in 1900. Unitarians however had been meeting in Ottawa since 1877. That is when they formed the "Progressive Society of Ottawa" which they said "learnedly discussed theological, humanitarian and philosophical subjects." 

Soon after Roy and Sylvia returned to Ottawa from Britain in late 1955, they became members of this Unitarian congregation. Sylvia even taught Sunday school classes. While teens were thoughtfully introduced to a wide variety of different religious traditions, all teachings about God were strictly avoided in church classes for the younger children.  Because children were seen as being so susceptible to religious indoctrination, Ottawa Unitarians thought young people should be allowed to choose their beliefs for themselves when they were old enough to be good, critical thinkers.  This appealed to Roy and Sylvia because they were both ardent atheists.

Sylvia was on the Congregation's Board of Directors in 1967 when the Church decided to move to their current location on Cleary Avenue in Ottawa's west end.  Along with friend and fellow peace and civil rights activist, Nick Aplin, Roy was elected to the congregation's Board in 1970. Roy and Sylvia's involvement with the congregation often involved trying to move its members and ministers to become more actively involved in protesting war and promoting peace issues. This was especially difficult at times, such as during the Vietnam War, when a Minister of the Church, an American, had great difficulty bringing himself to criticise the US government. (Nick alluded to this during Roy's Memorial Service when recounting memories of their sometimes difficult efforts to work within the Unitarian Church.)

Committee Against Radiation Hazards (CARH)
Roy and Sylvia began attending protests and marches held by the CARH in 1959.  The organisation was active in raising much-needed public awareness about the hazards of nuclear fallout that were being caused by the atmospheric testing of atomic bombs. In 1957, when Richard was born, the US exploded 34 nuclear bombs yielding 346 kilotons. In the following year they blew up 75 more nuclear bombs.  Those bombs, in 1958 alone, exploded with an energy equivalent to 35,700 kilotons of TNT. The destruction of Hiroshima used a bomb yielding only 15 kilotons, while Nagasaki was 20 kilotons. All of the radioactive material from the US nuclear "testing" program went into the atmosphere and then fell to earth. Since many of most of these explosions were done in Nevada, and the prevailing winds were blowing all that radioactive fallout eastward, there were obvious and very legitimate concerns about environmental damage and negative impacts on people's health.  However, only a small number of people cared or even knew anything about what was going on.  Many still don't even know that the US exploded so many nuclear bombs within its own borders.  (See this list of 29 nuclear explosions that were part of "Operation Plumbbob" at the Nevada test site between May 28 and Oct. 7, 1957.  The image above shows one of the "Plumbbob" explosions in Nevada that took place right around the time of Richard's birth.  (See a listing of all the US atmospheric nuclear "test" explosions.)

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
In about 1962, Sylvia joined the Voice of Women (VOW).  Roy and Sylvia  -- along with hundreds of others -- sent their young children's milk teeth to VOW so that they could be tested for radioactive elements from the fallout of atomic explosions in Nevada.  These tests confirmed the presence of high levels of Strontium-90 in their teeth. It is a radioactive isotope from nuclear bombs.  The tests were done by Dr. Ursula Franklin (see right), a University of Toronto metallurgist and research physicist who later became a subscriber and strong supporter of COAT's magazine, Press for Conversion! In 2016, after receiving another donation from her, Richard wrote to say thanks and she replied: "I assure you of my deep appreciation of the unique work that you are doing...  Please let me assure again how deeply I appreciate your work; I can only hope that there will be younger people to provide some of the assistance and fellowship that is so needed."  She was 95 and died the following year. 

In 1987, a "half-life" ago, when Richard was exactly half the age he is now, he went on a much-needed "holiday" to Los Vegas, Nevada.  Skipping all the casinos he headed straight for the nearby nuclear weapons testing range where he joined a desert "peace camp." For a week Richard joined thousands of other protesters who camped there to resist America's ongoing underground nuclear bomb testing program. He was arrested twice in the Nevada desert, once with about 1000 others when they all simultaneously climbed the fence to enter the nuclear test site, and a second time with a smaller group that was apprehended on the site by forces who descended upon them by helicopter!

Canadian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament - Ottawa (CCND-Ottawa)
During the early 1960s, Sylvia and Roy were involved in the Ottawa chapter of the CCND.  This organisation was on the forefront in actively opposing the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.  It also tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the deployment of US nuclear weapons to Canada.  Unfortunately however, as soon as he took power in 1963, the winner of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, happily welcomed American nuclear missiles into Canada. These Bomarc missiles armed with US nuclear warheads were stationed in BC and Quebec.  Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had been strongly opposed to this and was ousted largely because of his refusal to concede to US demands that Canada base their weapons here.  During their 60 years of peace activism, Roy and Sylvia only ever met one Canadian Minister of Defence.  That was the Diefenbaker government's Howard Green.

The CCND also had a campaign against war toys.  The CCND poster at left is in Richard's collection of Sylvia and Roy's peace-related documents. Richard recalls how upset he was at an early age that he was not allowed to have a toy water pistol.  Sylvia explained to him that even just pretending to shoot people should not be a source of fun.  Thirty years later, in the 1990s, Sylvia, Roy and Richard created a roving "War Toy Recycling Depot" which they set up at various book stores, churches and pre-schools in Ottawa.  This was one of many projects they worked together on through the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade. (See down at the bottom of this list.)

New Democratic Party - The Waffle Movement
Sylvia and Roy were involved in the NDP since its creation in 1961.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sylvia was very active in the Waffle movement and was a Waffle delegate at the 1969 NDP convention in Winnipeg. Roy was fully supportive of her efforts with The Waffle which was trying to work within the NDP to get it to, for instance, endorse policies that opposed imperialism and war, and were more independent from US foreign policies. The Waffle was formerly called the Movement for an Independent Socialist Canada (Click link to read its manifesto.) Sylvia was a "Waffle delegate" to the NDP convention in Winnipeg in 1969. She remained active in the Waffle until it was expelled from the NDP in 1972.  This was a blow to both Sylvia and Roy which led them to pull back from their very active involvement within the NDP. During elections in the 1970s, Roy took on the task of making lawn signs in their garage using the silk-screen process.  During various elections Roy and Sylvia did door-to-door canvassing and Roy coordinated the distribution of NDP lawn signs throughout the Ottawa riding of Carleton East in some elections in the 1980s. They did continue to support the NDP throughout their lives, especially when those on the party's left took more progressive positions on various peace issues.

World Federalists
In the early 1960s, Roy and Sylvia were also briefly engaged with some efforts of the World Federalists in Ottawa.  That was when it used to be involved in producing and presenting some reports and briefs to the government which opposed war.  In particular, Roy and Sylvia were involved when this group took some steps to criticise the Vietnam War.  Roy recalled using the Gestetner machine in the World Federalist office to run off copies of various documents.

Ottawa Committee for Human Rights (OCHR)
In the mid-1960s, Sylvia and Roy were active in Ottawa-based solidarity work to support civil rights activists who were on the front line in nonviolent struggles against the brutal apartheid system in the U.S.  For example, between 1964 and 1966, Sylvia was deeply involved in helping to bring the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Freedom Singers to Ottawa.  This included organising fundraising events which allowed these SNCC representatives to visit Ottawa two or three times.  Sylvia arranged media interviews for these American activists and transported them to their various appointments, meetings and other activities.  Roy also supported Sylvia in her efforts to bring Julian Bond to Ottawa.  Bond had helped found SNCC and, as its communications director, edited its newsletter (Student Voice).  (See photo above of Bond with SNCC Atlanta office staff in 1963.) Learn more about Bond and SNCC here and here.  (Gary Schofield, when speaking at Roy's memorial service, recalled being at the Sanders' home when Bond showed up.)  In 1965, Sylvia and Roy worked with OCHR and the Student Union for Peace Action to help organise the largest Ottawa demonstration of its time.  That protest was held when racist police violence was brought down upon peaceful civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama.  Roy and Sylvia's friend, Nick Aplin, remembers calling Sylvia from Toronto to ask her to help arrange billets in Ottawa for several hundred people who would be protesting there in two days. She and an Anglican priest (from All Saints) quickly spread the word through Ottawa's activist community to accommodate the Torontonians.

Ottawa Committee for
Medical Aid to Vietnam Citizens

In the late 1960s, Sylvia played a leading role in the Ottawa peace movement's opposition to the Vietnam War.  Roy was a stalwart supporter of her efforts, their home was a hub of antiwar activity and their mailing address was used publicly to funnel medical aid -- at least in part -- to the Viet Cong. On February 17, 1967, her picture appeared on the front page of the Ottawa Journal. (See left.)  The Journal article focused on her efforts to raise money through the sale of personal items donated by such people as Prime Minister Lester Pearson, Olive Diefenbaker (ie the former PM's wife), NDP MPs Tommy Douglas, Stanley Knowles and David Lewis.  The reporter wanted to know if these people knew they were giving money to the Viet Cong. Sylvia said yes. Tommy said absolutely, and Olive didn't seem to know. Sylvia was the main organiser of this auction, held at the former Unitarian church downtown.  It aided civilian victims of the US war and was funnelled through the Canadian Friends' Service Committee (Quakers), Red Cross organisations of North and South Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front (NLF). The NLF was the proper name of the Viet Cong, a mass political organization in South Vietnam.  Besides being antiImperialist and communist it also had its own army that was fighting against the US military. The Ottawa Citizen's page 2 article, which did not mention the Viet Cong angle, reported that the auction raised $790.84.  That is the equivalent of $5,884.39 in 2018 dollars.

More than a year later, Sylvia was still was at the centre of these controversial fundraising efforts. This time Ottawa peace activists  were holding a "tag day." On May 24, 1968, the Ottawa Citizen reported that organisers had 100 volunteers to collect money at 16 Ottawa shopping centres. To announce their fundraising campaign the Committee took out an ad in the Citizen. (See image, right). This ad included a list of about 250 "local citizens" who had "lent their names as public sponsors" of the appeal. (Read the list of names here that appeared below the text, at right.) The sponsors were divided into 11 categories: "Clergy" (30), "Science, Engineering, Technology" (19); "Community Organisations" (5); "Education" (73); "Wives and Mothers" (28); "The Arts" (14); "Students" (4); "Labour" (9);  "Business and Management" (9); "Professions" (39); and "Communications (Press, Radio, TV, other)" (15).  This list is a who's who of Ottawa's anti-war movement in the late 1960s.  These were household names in the Sanders' home because many were Roy and Sylvia's friends and fellow activists.  Roy's name was listed among the sponsors as were some of his colleagues at the National Research Council. The ad used the Sanders' home phone number and their address saying "Ottawa Committee for Medical Aid for Vietnam Citizens, c/o Mrs. Sylvia Sanders." (See image at right) This committee was created by the Ottawa Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Ottawa Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

AntiApartheid Protests
The early 1970s were also a time when Sylvia and Roy were involved in demonstrations against South Africa's apartheid regime.  Roy as usual was involved as a supporter and volunteer, while Sylvia was actively engaged in organising protests and other events. Their work focused on exposing the involvement of Canadian corporations and the Canadian government in South Africa's racist system. For example, in 1970, there was a protest on Parliament Hill to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the March 20, 1960, Sharpeville massacre.  South African police had open fired on Black protesters wounding 180 and killing 69 (including 8 women and 10 children). In Ottawa, a procession of 100 protesters carried 30 black coffins through the rain, wet snow and rush-hour traffic from Parliament Hill to the South African Embassy.  Activists then placed the coffins around the embassy's walls and lit candles.  This 10th anniversary event was used to tell Canada to sever diplomatic ties with South Africa and divest from apartheid.  (These were the same demands when Richard was involved in antiApartheid actions about 20 years later.) Roy and Sylvia saved an Ottawa Citizen article (March 21, 1970) which features the photo at left.  In it a woman can be seen wearing a white, Inuit-style coat among the protesters and their coffins.  This is likely Sylvia as she wore an identical coat in those days.  (Read the Citizen article here.)

Ottawa Committee for
Peace and Liberation

In the early 1970s, Sylvia and Roy were involved in various OCPL events.  While Sylvia took the lead on this work, Roy as usual was a keen supporter and volunteer.  In December 1970, the OCPL brought world-famous paediatrician and antiwar activist Dr. Benjamin Spock to Ottawa for a speaking event.  This event, entitled "Dissent and Social Change," was attended by about 350 people at Glebe Collegiate.  Issues discussed included Trudeau's recently passed War Measures Act and the Black Panther's who Spock said had a right to have weapons to defend themselves against heavily-armed  racists.  (Read the newspaper article about this event.) Roy and Sylvia were responsible for driving Dr. Spock around Ottawa to various media interviews, meetings and events.  In a handwritten note to Sylvia and Roy, Ben Spock said "I still feel very grateful to you for driving me all over Ottawa up to midnight and then keeping me company -- so faithfully and delightfully -- for another hour."  Sylvia was the main organiser of a dinner at First Unitarian Congregation whose purpose was to allow Ottawa activists from the OCPL to meet with Dr. Spock.

Operation Dismantle, Gloucester
From the late 1970s and to the mid 1980s, Roy and Sylvia were very active in opposing the Canadian government's Cold War policies.  This included NATO support for the first use of nuclear weapons. As part of their activism, they became key activists in the Gloucester Committee of a national group called Operation Dismantle.  Through this work they organised numerous events and campaigns to raise the public awareness and to pressure the government on the need for nuclear disarmament. They collected names on a petition to pressure the Gloucester City Council to have a referendum on nuclear disarmament during the November 1982 municipal elections.  For this purpose they attended three Gloucester Council meetings. (In  this 1982 photo, Roy wears a toque and light coat, centre left, while Sylvia holds banner which she made, at right. That's Dorothy Funke in the Centre.)

Gloucester Peace Group (GPC)
Roy and Sylvia were instrumental in forming the Gloucester Peace Group in the early 1980s.  Among other things, it supported Operation Dismantle campaigns. One of the efforts which their local group engaged in was to raise public awareness about nuclear weapons issues by pushing city authorities to declare Ottawa a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.  Dorothy Funke, Blodwyn Piercy, Pam Mayhew and many other Ottawa-east friends of Roy and Sylvia, were actively involved in this group which often met at the Sanders' home.  The GPC also collected signatures for the Peace Petition Caravan Campaign which, starting in BC, brought more than 430,000 signatures, from over 200 communities, to Ottawa.  It raised public awareness by urging the government to declare Canada a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

Educating for Peace (EfP)
Roy was active in getting this group started in the early 1980s.  It focused on providing educational resources on a variety of peace issues that teachers across Ontario could use.  It was also engaged in lobbying government authorities and Boards of Education on the curricula that could be used to teach peace issues to students at various levels.  The key activists and organisers within EfP included several people who were Roy and Sylvia's friends and fellow peace activists.  These activist friends who were central to EfP included Dorothy Funke, Blodwyn Piercy and Penny Sanger.

Veterans Against Nuclear Arms (VANA)
Science for Peace
During the 1980s and 1990s, Roy was a member and supporter of SfP and VANA

Peace Resource Centre (PRC)
Sylvia was on the Board of Directors between 1983 until 1986. Although Roy was not on its board, he was involved as a volunteer. Roy played a support role helping Sylvia with various PRC programs and events. The Centre was located in the basement of the former Unitarian Church at 142 Lewis Street in Ottawa.  To honour and recognise their contribution to the PRC, Roy and Sylvia jointly received a special certificate of thanks from the organisation.  Richard worked for the PRC and was its coordinator (1984-1985) and as its Media Producer (1985-1986).  In that capacity, he began producing a weekly, one-hour radio program of interviews with local activists called "Peace Network" at CHUO FM (a community station based at the University of Ottawa).  This lead to his fortnightly show "Voice for Peace" at CKCU FM (a community station based at Carleton University) which he continued producing until the late 1990s, long after leaving the PRC.

Alliance for Nonviolent Action (ANVA)
Between 1984 and 1989, Roy and Sylvia were active with their son Richard in ANVA.  All three, for example, took part in a civil disobedience campaign in which they joined 56 other activists from across Ontario and Quebec to block traffic outside the main entrance to Canada's Department of War. (See picture at left).  This took place on November 12, 1987, the day after Remembrance Day.  When arrested, both Roy and Sylvia were wearing their military medals. (Before Dunkirk, Sylvia had served in the British Army's Auxiliary Territorial Service in the Orderly Room of a Machine Gun Training Room. She then served as a clerk in Army's War Office Records. Read about Roy's two years of service as a RADAR technician in India.)

During the ANVA action, seen at left, when Roy and Sylvia were seated blocking traffic, a policeman snapped at Richard saying something like "It's because of veterans like them that you can even be here to protest!"  "That's right," I replied, "they're my parents." This action drew attention to NATO pilot training and low-level warplane test flights over Nitassinan, the still unceded Innu land in so-called Labrador and Quebec. Indigenous people there were being arrested for nonviolent, civil disobedience actions that blocked military runways. Although Roy was only arrested this once, he also helped with the planning and logistics for many other ANVA actions in Ottawa throughout the late-1980s.  Roy also played important support roles for Sylvia when she was arrested at two other ANVA actions.  Those "sit downs" were to "Say a Real No to Star Wars" (Nov. 1985) and to block entrances to the ARMX weapons bazaar (May 1989).  Roy recalled that when Richard and Sylvia were arrested at External Affair during the 1985 action, the police dragged Sylvia to the side of the street and left her there.  She then got up and walked back to rejoin the blockade!  She did not give up easily.  In 1989, when ANVA brought well-known antiwar resister Phil Berrigan to speak in Ottawa, he stayed with Sylvia and Roy at their home.

"Adventure Peace Tour" to the USSR
In 1985, Roy, Sylvia and Richard took part in a three-week trip to the USSR.  In the months leading up to this tour, they took part is a series of public events called "Living Room Discussions on East-West Relations." These were organised in preparation for the trip.  These discussions and the trip itself were organised and led by Koozma Tarasoff, a Doukhobour-Canadian writer, photographer and peace activist who was then president of the Ottawa chapter of the Canada-USSR Association.  The 35 Canadian participants in this trip visited about ten cities in what are now four countries: Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. There they visited many sites of interest, like museums and galleries, historical sites and the mass graves of millions of Sviet citizens who died in the fighting against Nazism.  Tour participants also met with activists from Soviet peace, womens' and veterans' organisations. Thanks to the rabid, mainstream paranoia that characterised the social phobias of the Cold War, CJOH TV aired a libellous news story about peace activists involved in the tour. Roy and Sylvia were instrumental in trying to obtain a retraction and apology from the station.  They found a lawyer who represented the group pro bono in a legal case. Roy wrote letters about the issue to various politicians and media authorities. Learn more about the "Peace Tour" itself in the "Travels with Roy and Sylvia" section, and about their efforts to oppose CJOH's defamatory "fake news" story

The Summit Response Coalition
In 1987, when President Reagan came to Canada for the "Irish Eyes" summit meeting with Prime Minister Mulroney, Ottawa activists came together to educate the public about a wide variety of issues from peace and the environment, to Free Trade. On April 5, 1987, a mass demonstration was held on Parliament Hill with many thousands of supporters.  Richard represented COAT on the Steering Committee of the Summit Response Coalition which organised the protest and other activities.  Roy and Sylvia were also involved, of course.  On April 4, Roy's image made it onto the front page of the Ottawa Citizen.  (Read the article here.) The newspaper however was improperly informed and mistakenly recorded Roy's name as Ken Hancock, an activist with ANVA.  The photo shows Roy with two latex political puppets created by son Richard.  Roy was holding the Ronald Reagan puppet, while Brian Mulroney puppet was held by Richard, although the photo cropped him out.  (Roy contributed to the mechanics of the puppets by inventing an ingenious system -- using table tennis balls -- so puppeteers could move the eyes back and forth.) Richard performed a ten-minute show using recorded voices and a musical sound track to animate these puppets. There was an uproarious response at the huge rally on Parliament Hill.  As a result, photos and descriptions of the puppet show found their way into about 20 major newspapers across Canada and the US.

Demonstrating against ARMX '87
Roy took part in protesting the first appearance of ARMX in Ottawa in June 1987.  The photo at right shows Roy and Richard engaged in a quiet discussion with a military participant who stopped to talk.  He was interested to know that Roy was a veteran and listened intently to Roy's opposition to to ARMX.  The protest was held outside the main entrance to Ottawa's Lansdowne Park, where Canada's largest military trade show was being held.

In 1983 and 1985, this biennial government-run weapons exhibition had been held at a military base in Quebec. When it was privatised, they moved the show to City-owned, public property Ottawa.  Richard learned, from a fellow ANVA activist in Montreal, that ARMX was coming to "The Glebe," a quiet downtown residential neighbourhood in Ottawa.  In response, Richard used his press credentials to arrange to attend the ARMX trade show and interview its main organiser, Wolfgang Schmidt.  This was aired on the "Voice for Peace" radio program which Richard produced and hosted from 1985 until the late 1990s.  The show was on CKCU FM, a community radio station based at Carleton University.  Richard also alerted activists who came together for a protest that attracted about 50 people.  The key organiser of this protest was Ottawa Quaker Murray Thomson, a long time Sanders friend, peace activist, and later, Roy's tennis partner. Murray drew on his connections in the pacifist churches to draw about 50 people to the protest. The photo above, by Doukhobour Koozma Tarasoff, appeared with a front page article in the Mennonite Reporter on June 22, 1987.  (See the article here.)

Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)
COAT COAT was brought together to expose and oppose the 1989 return to Ottawa of ARMX, Canada's largest international arms bazaar. Sylvia and Roy were driving forces within COAT from its formation by their son Richard in late 1988.  The three were central to organising COAT's first protest march which rallied three or  four thousand people to the gates of ARMX in May 1989.  (That first campaign led to Ottawa City Council's 20-year ban on hosting arms trade shows on municipal property.) For many years, Roy was COAT's recording secretary and took the minutes at its monthly meetings.  Together Roy and Sylvia worked with COAT to promote conversion, oppose the weapons trade and to protest Canadian complicity in various US/NATO-led wars.  They were also very involved in COAT's successful campaign to stop the Department of National Defence from demolishing a heritage building on Rideau Street called Wallis House. Another COAT "conversion" campaign raised awareness about violent games by establishing a roving "War Toys Recycling Depot." (See the entry on CCND - Ottawa above.)

Besides organizing peace rallies, marches, vigils, panel discussions, and conferences, Roy and Sylvia also helped COAT to plan and organise large social events to build community within Ottawa's peace movement.  These events included large fundraising dinners at which special COAT supporters and activists were "roasted."  COAT's roastees included former mayor Marion Dewar, "Labour Jim" MacDonald from the Canadian Labour Congress, and well-known Quaker peace activist Murray Thomson.  Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Roy and Sylvia were deeply engaged in making all these COAT events happen. But as well as helping to make these events happen, Roy and Sylvia also did much behind-the-scenes work on COAT's national campaigns and helped with its magazine, Press for Conversion!  (Sylvia solicited ads, while Roy masterminded the complex procedure that was initially required by Canada Post to sort our big mailings.) In 1996, to honour their special role in the organisation, COAT organised a large "Potluck Dinner Party" to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. (Click here for more information about that event.) Roy and Sylvia remained central to COAT's work until 2002 when Sylvia suffered a stroke and Roy became her primary care giver at home. It was the end of an era for COAT, and for the peace movement in general. (Read a newspaper article, "A Family that Protests Together..." about the peace activism of Roy, Sylvia and Richard.)

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa (UUFO)
Roy and Sylvia Sanders became founding members of the UUFO when it was formed in 1996.  Rev. Fred Cappuccino (who spoke at Roy's memorial service) was instrumental to this process.  Roy and Sylvia had initially met Child Haven founders Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino through peace movement work in the early 1990s. The Cappuccinos then joined with Roy, Sylvia, Richard, and others on COAT's Steering Committee, to organise many large peace-related events.  Over the decades, other Unitarian activists/friends of Roy and Sylvia, within the UUFO and the First Unitarian Congregation, were also involved in COAT's work.  Roy's 90th birthday party (2014) and his memorial service (2018), were both held at the UUFO's meeting place on McArthur Road, and were attended by many Unitarians.

Even into his final years,
Roy remained committed to standing up for the peace issues, even if he had to use his walker!  In what was to be his final public stance on peace issues, Roy made a statement at an official government-sponsored event in 2015.  His statement at that event summed up some of the peace issues that had motivated his activism for many decades. This final public statement came when the government was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Canada's maple-leaf flag.  The ceremony was held at the National Research Council (NRC) where Roy had worked for almost 30 years (1950-1979).  The event's purpose was to commemorate NRC's work to stabilize and define the exact colour for Canada's new flag in 1965. (The photo at left shows NRC friends, colleagues and fellow retirees: Ron Burton, Roy Sanders and Clarence Dodd.)

At this ceremony, after being honoured for his part in that scientific process, Roy was asked to say a few words.  One of Roy's NRC colleagues, Alan Robertson, recalled this memory at Roy's "Celebration of Life" Service:

"After receiving a plaque commemorating the work, Roy was photographed in front of the flag and asked about his feelings. His main comment in response was that he hoped that the flag would never be used to march behind into war."

This was classic Roy.  With a few quiet words he captured his opposition to blindly following a symbol of nationalism into the horrors of militarism and war.

Roy will always be remembered as a gentle, quiet, humble and soft-spoken man, who was reticent and nervous about public speaking.  But, while always reluctant to voice his opposition to war and injustice in an outspoken public way, he was willing to stand up (or even sit down) for the peace issues in which he so strongly believed.  He was also a prolific letter writer who was ready to confront politicians at all levels on a diverse array of peace-related subjects.  For decades he lent his support to the peace movement and often worked hard behind the scenes to help plan and carry out large events and campaigns.  While generally avoiding the spotlight, he focused his efforts on doing many much-needed, practical, logistical tasks for peace.  However, if needed, he was not afraid to express his beliefs, even if they ran counter to the official mainstream narrative. 

His support, commitment and dedication to the peace movement over many decades are sorely missed but he will not be forgotten.

Have something to add?
If you have any further information or photos that you could share regarding Roy six decades of involvement in peace-related efforts, please let me know.  Many thanks!
Richard Sanders  <>