VIGIL FOR PEACE IN OTTAWA SAYS NO TO WAR, BUT YES TO
By Koozma J. Tarasoff
This report was being written on October 7th the day the USA launched its
attack on Afghanistan on a mission to destroy Osama bin Ladenıs network and
the Taiban which allegedly caused the horrific events of September 11th and
the killed some 6,000 in New York and Washington.
Yet, on October 6th, over 600 concerned peace and anti-globalization
activists met on Parliament Hill in a silent vigil with a united bid to end
wars and instead bring reason and nonviolence to human affairs. In the
shadow of the NATO forum in Ottawa (which was meeting the same weekend to
refocus its attention on the wake of the US attacks) the peace activists
then walked to the First United Church for a sharing of views on the grave
concerns facing our civilization.
Richard Sanders, Coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade
which sponsored this event, led off the afternoon discussion with a plea
for nonviolence. He exclaimed that "war is terrorism" as witnessed by US
involvement in Vietnam, Columbia, the Middle East and the Balkans. He
suggested that the current "war on terrorism" was a cloak for an increase
in spending for military armaments.
David Morgan of Veterans Against Nuclear Arms pointed out that the United
Nations has been marginalized. Instead the nations of the world ought to
respect the UN Charter and its mission to get rid of the scourge of war.
He led a moment of silence for the millions of people who have died during
the past wars.
Carolyn Langdon of Voice of Women for Peace reacted to the statement in the
local paper that "we are all Americans." If so, she continued, "we are all
Iraqis, Cambodians, Aghanies, and so forth". She said that the US exports
more weapons around the world than any other country. What is needed are
"alternatives to war and violence." "We strongly believe that war is not
the answer... We need to stop terrorism, but also we need to deal with
disease, malnutrition, and homelessness." Carolyn ended her talk with these
words: "We know how to grow terrorists, but we do not know how to grow
peacemakers." She suggested that instead of spending millions to support
cadet programs, "we need these millions to build peacemakers."
Laurel Smith is an organizer with Homes Not Bombs, an Ontario-wide network
that organizes nonviolent civil disobedience actions spoke next. Laurel
presented the statistics that Canada spends billions of dollars for war,
but only a pittance for housing. This spending must stop because we will
continue to widen the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots."
Mel Watkins, a political economist and current president of Science for
Peace, pleaded for tolerance of Arab and Moslem Canadians. "We plead for
the right to dissent. Those who preach war, lack tolerance of those who
preach peace." He spoke of "the stupidity and absurdity" of spending
billions for security in space.
"We share a common hope for peace and social justice. We must all act
actively for all of these," urged Dr. Watkins.
Theresa Wolfwood is a Board Member of the Vancouver Island Public Interest
Research Group. Thanks to grass roots activists like Theresa from
Victoria, BC, the NATO meetings were kicked out of that city and moved to
According to Theresa, the only option to terrorism and war is "the creation
of a culture of peace and justice for all. It is time to seize the moment.
It is time to stand up and build a coalition, a resistance to
evil....Resistance will give shape and meaning to our lives."
Lazar Puhalo, Archbishop of the Canadian Orthodox Archdioces of the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church, received a standing ovation following his talk.
He spoke to the inner part of all of us which urgently needs fundamental
"I wonder how many of us will act when our conscience tells us to act? What
good is it for us when we allow billions to be spent on star wars....We
need to examine ourselves. We need a peace force, not a police force....We
need to make a substantial change in the way business of life is carried
out." Lazar continued: "We can stand here because we have a voice. But
many others have no voices. All their children are dying. Donıt just come
here with speeches, and go away without action. We need to get
parliamentarians to deal not just with sovereignty, but they need to become
more human. If we stick together we will have an impact on Canada, on the
hearts and conscience of the people."
Michael Chossudovsky, is professor of economics at the University of
Ottawa, and author of The Globalization of Poverty. He began his talk by
stating that the main justification for waging this war "is totally
Why? According to Dr. Chossudovsky, bin Laden is being used by the CIA "as
a pretext for a fabrication to wage war....Yet, today there is absolutely
no evidence that bin Laden was responsible for the Sepember 11th event."
Dr. Chossudovsky documented his statement by revealing a 1997
Congressional US Report, which supported insurgencies and wars in
Yugoslavia all on the excuse of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
Radmila Swann is a retired federal public servant and founding member and
current president of the Ottawa Serbian Heritage Society. As an outspoken
proponent of peace, she said that while we must empathize with the
September 11th terrorist attack on New York and Washington, we need to
continually rethink our position on the value of life.
"What is the difference of the strike on the TV tower in Belgrade and that
of the World Trade Towers in New York? Many lives were lost in both. We
need to reach the point where see the American life as being the same as
Serbian life and that Palestinian life is the same as the Israeli one."
In replacing violence with justice, Radmila raised the following question:
"We cannot have million dollar salaries on one side of the globe and
starvation on the other."
Speaking for the Canadian Federation of Students (representing more than
400,000 students), Jen Anthony noted a significant change on university
campuses since September 11th. ³There has been an incredible rise of
radicalism along with a clampdown on free speech and travel. Vigils,
teachins, and debates have increased and these are an indication of an
incredible revitalization of the student movement. What we need now is to
build peace, social justice, equality, and freedom. These are the issues
we need to be raising to our leaders."
Two long distance phone hook-ups provided an international link to the
meeting. Dr. Helen Caldicott of Sidney, Australia, spoke of the potential
disastrous effects of terrorist actions on nuclear power plants in the US.
To prevent this, we need to seek nonviolent solutions rather than the
violent attacks as instituted by the US administration. Many are familiar
with Dr. Caldicott from the classic NFB film that was banned in the United
States, called "If You Love this Planet."
Arun Gandhi, founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence,
reinforced the need for a nonviolent approach to peace. He is following
the tradition of nonviolence that was taught to the world by his
grandfather Mahatma Gandhi. He urged people to examine their own hearts
and share their personal searches for ways to see what love might do in a
world that badly needs healing.
Singer and songwriter Ian Tamblyn performed and urged the audience to speak
to their children and get them to act for peace. Concerned people,
including young and old, are required to ensure the survival of our
As a writer, I have found that these peace activists provide an oasis of
sanity in the midst of a society in crisis. They are also a source of
inspiration and encouragement that there is an alternative to violence.
Today we must support this effort and stand up and be counted.