When Canada started its pullout of Afghanistan this summer it opened a window of opportunity, a chance to return to its lost days as an international model of peacekeeping.
Wednesday (Sept. 21) is the International Day of Peace, as established by the United Nations in 1981. From where Dr. Saul Arbess sits, it’s also a chance for Canada to re-establish itself as a world leader in peacekeeping.
“A major study released this year said peace is practical, its pragmatic,” said Arbess, a retired cultural anthropologist living in Fairfield.
“This is the country that invented peacekeeping. We were leaders with 90,000 Canadian peacekeepers around the world. These are soldiers trained to promote cease-fire and resolutions to set the stage for diplomatic (negotiations). Now Canada has so few peacekeepers they could fit on a school bus.”
A McGill grad who ended his instructing career with 10 years at Camosun College, Arbess is a founding member of the campaign to establish a Canadian Department of Peace.
The initiative started in Victoria in 2003 and soon grew to Ottawa and other cities. Arbess also chairs the international Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments for Peace.
Currently, the big push for Arbess and his fellow volunteers is the reintroduction of Bill C-447, a proposition to establish a department of peace in the Canadian government. It would support a culture of peace and assert non-violence in Canada and the world.
In 2009, Bill C-447 was read in the House of Commons by New Democrat MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) and seconded by Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt). The next step for
Siksay was motion M-463 but a dissolved parliament ended his term.
“We knew (initially) it wouldn’t succeed in being passed but it brings tremendous awareness,” Arbess said.
In July Arbess received word that MP Alex Atamanenko (B.C. Southern Interior) is researching and redrafting Bill C-447 as a private member’s bill that could be read as soon as this fall.
September is a busy time for peace planners, as Arbess attends the Canadian Department of Peace’s annual general meeting of its 12 active chapters in Edmonton this weekend.
From Sept. 29 to Oct. 6 he’ll be in Cape Town, South Africa for a global departments of peace conference.