Thursday, June 26, 2014

Contemporary Peace Movement: Conference Notes

On June 20, I was one of the featured speakers during a session of the Alberta Labour History Institute's conference Uniting in the Cause: Labour and Social Movements.

The session in which I took part was a "story circle" on the topic of peace. It was a panel of different speakers who talked for five or so minutes, and then the floor was opened up for questions and discussion. My role was to talk about the contemporary peace movement in Edmonton, which for me is approximately from the time of the Iraq War through Afghanistan to the present day.

The session was videoed and will appear on the ALHI's website at a future date. In the meantime, here are my notes from which I spoke.

Contemporary Peace Movement

1) Me - Introduction
- Part of the Edmonton Coalition Against War & Racism (ECAWAR)
- Trade unionist by choice: member of Unifor Local 2040 (Freelance Union of Canada)

2) About ECAWAR:
- Got together in late 2002 to organize against Canada going to war in Iraq
- Resulted in two largest peace marches in Edmonton's history early the following year

3) My involvement with ECAWAR
- Started in 2005
- Always been interested in issues of peace and human rights
- Attributed to my personality and not some major event
- However, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan played constantly in the home as a child!

4) Afghanistan
- Issue when I joined ECAWAR was Afghanistan
- Continued for the next 9 or so years.

5) ECAWAR: Unifying Points
- We all believe war is wrong; peace is good
- Opinions on fine points and how to achieve differ
- Rallying cry: Canada Needs and Anti-War Government
- Most recently: rallies, pickets against Harper government
- ECAWAR supports the right to self-determination for all countries, without western interference (imperialism) eg. Syria

6) Palestine
- Am Alberta representative on national Steering Committee of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV): grassroots group of Canadian Jews who oppose the occupation in Israel/Palestine
- Come from different social, economic, etc. backgrounds but all believe occupation is wrong
- Again, differing opinions on specific issues (eg. one or two-state solution)

7) Communication in the Peace Movement
- A major change in the peace movement is how we communicate
- Still use posters, phone, but now a lot of organizing is done via email and social media
- This is perhaps where Labour organizing has changed as well
- Brings in younger people
- Makes people feel more involved and informed (can post essays and links to information when questions arise, as opposed to leaving everything for in-person meetings)
- In-person meetings still important but now momentum can keep going

8) Documentation and History
- Since this is a conference about labour history
- A major role I take in the community is photographing and filming events, posting to my own blog and social media
- Keeps an historical record of events
- In the beginning it was just me, but now the technology is more common (eg. phones that record and from which you can post instantly)
- Labour can employ these methods as well (and I have done the same things at labour events I attend)

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