Saturday 22 June 2013

Peace — The Exhibition, Ottawa

I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of Peace — The Exhibition at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Canada on May 30, 2013. The 12-part Exhibition continues until January 5, 2014, and is the first such exhibit at this Museum.

Just imagine, a Peace Exhibition in a Museum of War? That may seem to be an impossibility given that we are living in a society that tends to worship militarism and war as a given, and supports the notion 'My country right or wrong, but my country.'

The present Canadian Government, headed by Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, is striving to assert its macho powers with the purchase of F-35 super planes (costing billions of dollars) and ships with a capacity to kill rather than to work on more peaceful needs such as exploration, rescue, ice breaking, etc. If we are to survive as a human species, peace must be acknowledged as a possibility including the end of war.

Thanks to the imagination and work of Curator and Museum Historian Amber Lloydlangston and her team, this exhibit is taking place in Canada.

I met Dr. Lloydlangston (left) years ago when she was looking for old peace pictures to illustrate a small section in the Museum on peace activities during the Cold War. I was glad that the Museum chose several of my images which they still use in their permanent exhibits. We later met in October 2006 in Winnipeg, Manitoba when we both attended the Mennonite meeting on War and the Conscientious Objector.

The current Exhibition is not the one that most peace activists would mount if they had such an opportunity. Here are some ideas and exhibits they would include:
  • They would include many stories of legitimate activism for building a world without war, such as lobbying against murderous state-sponsored explosives (atomic bombs, land mines) chemical, biological and radiological warfare; and killing drones.
  • We need a comparative chart that shows the casualties of war vs. the cost of normal human life with free health care and education, adequate housing, clean water and other friendly infrastructure, culture, and innovative job training for a peaceful world.
  • Rupert Smith, the former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, in his book, The Utility  of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (2007), concludes that industrialized warfare is no longer a doable option as the conflicts become timeless and fought among the people. To meet such new challenges of conflicts in the 21st Century, we need new kinds of institutions and policy structures with capacities for war and violence prevention. We need a win-win solution.
  • We must find a way to avert the costs of the military and cyber-contractor government-industrial complexes. For example, the development of alternative energy is needed to minimize the use of fossil fuels esp. the profit from oil (which has been one of the recent major causes of wars).
  • Questioning the right of the state to wage war is a legitimate issue. Who is responsible for this crime against humanity?
  • Questioning the right of any state to occupy other states with their foreign military bases? Is it not appalling that the USA has over 1000 bases around the world?
  • What about the right of states to establish and maintain deadly missiles as shields against another state? A valid issue indeed, to prevent another human wasteful Cold War.
  • The establishment of Departments of Peace around the world as part of the parliamentary system in each country could be a step in creating the new architecture of peace so urgently needed today to support a culture of peace and assertive nonviolence in Canada and abroad.
  • Lessons from the pioneers of peace-making beginning with Lev N. Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and others should be part of our educational curriculum across the country.
  • The Center for Global Nonkilling in Hawaii provides a new way of studying war and peace. Today, under the leadership of Glenn D. Paige, the Center presents a unique way of looking at this issue with innovative research, global education and training, as well as a monitoring program measuring progress forward towards a killing-free world.
  • Domestic violence including gun control is an issue.
  • The power of cooperation, collaboration, and reconciliation are useful as preventative tools in sane human behaviour.
  • A history of the peace movement through the centuries ought to be taught in schools beginning at the high school level.
  • The role of United Nations in peacemaking should be part of every school curriculum.
  • The power of influence in waging peace in society is a challenging theme as a counterbalance to those who are addicted to waging war.

All that said, we must give credit to the Canadian War Museum for mounting a Peace Exhibition. This may be a small step for humankind on planet earth, but nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction.

My friend and colleague Dr. Ian Prattis, a retired professor of anthropology and religion, a poet and environmental activist, attended the Exhibition opening, and on June 14th, posted the following review of this event on his Pine Gate Sangha website where he is the resident Zen teacher.

Peace — The Exhibition by Ian Prattis

It is a long and winding road that led to the peace exhibition at the Canadian War Museum, which will run to January 5, 2014. The initial conversation opened a decade ago with Physicians for Global Survival, the Quakers — supported by Friends for Peace — pitching to the museum director the idea of Canadian soldiers going to war to enable peace for their families. The conversation continued with the Canadian Department of Peace group taking a lead role. They found support in a historian who liked the basic idea. The curator of “Peace — The Exhibition” is Dr. Amber Lloydlangston and she and her team did a terrific job putting it together with very diverse themes.

The exhibition is impressive and extensive with many surprises. A clock from the destruction of Hiroshima, a blue beret from the first UN peacekeeping mission, a World War I Victoria Cross medal awarded to a Canadian stretcher bearer to mention only a few.

There is a station where you can make your own Peace Buttons — a great attraction for kids. Also an art gallery of peace with a tour to see how art reflects the themes of the exhibit. A highlight for me was the attention paid to the Great Peace Law of the Iroquois Confederacy. How it came about and how it is relevant to the present day negotiation between aboriginal peoples and Canadian Institutions. Treaty 7 provides an elaborate case study.

The debate is opened up about Canada’s role as a peace keeping nation with a chart showing different options and outcomes. The mantle that Canada has worn since Lester Pearson’s days has been diminished since Mr. Harper became Prime Minister of Canada. Do we want a change? That is the question raised in a very challenging way. War is not sanitized, neither is the protest movement nor the peace keeping role. We see how Canadians throughout their history have negotiated, organized and intervened for peace. Interactive stations about Haiti, Afghanistan, the Sudan and more, plus play stations for children to grasp the issues are there to encourage them to think and reflect what they want to see in a future Canada.

I hope teachers make this exhibit a "must see" locale for school trips. The Peace Exhibition is very well put together.... Peace is a vital part of the story of Canada and it is still evolving and diverse. I encourage everyone to pay a visit — and take children. A Peace Button awaits them!

Koozma's Concluding Remarks

Eleven years ago Ian Prattis looked around the Ottawa community and saw a need for promoting the voices of sanity and peace. Out of this assessment he gave birth to the remarkable Friends of Peace Day when each year at the end of September becomes a major focal point of peace, planetary care and social justice.

This year, at the 7th Annual Ottawa Peace Festival, the highlight will be the Friends for Peace Day on Saturday September 28, 2013 to be held at the Ottawa City Hall. See reviews of the past six Peace Festivals, which have been coordinated by the Canadian Dept. of Peace Initiative, and at which Ian has held the remarkable Friends of Peace Days.

For the 2013 Annual Peace Awards, Ian and his directors have unanimously chosen two candidates: Dr. Amber Lloydlangston, an acknowledgment of 'the magnificent Peace Exhibition'; and Douglas Cardinal, the legendary architect of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Prior recipients have included Jack Layton, Marion Dewar, Grandfather Commanda, and others.

I plan to go back to the Exhibition before it closes in January 2014. Why? Because I want to have a better look at the 12 exhibit stories that attracted some 600 people on opening day. Peace is indeed a complex process requiring the attention of young and old to ensure there is hope in the world. Let us recall that the Charter of the United Nations Preamble in December 1945 began with the firm resolve 'to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.'

That suicidal miltaristic 'scourge' continues today. As responsible world citizens, it is time to stop that racket — the slavery of our times! We must acknowledge and persist that wars will stop! That waging war is the transgression of the human right to life! That peace is better than war! That nonkilling, cooperation, compassion and love have a future!

Hopefully, the Peace Exhibition at the Canadian War Museum will raise enough questions to begin the public discussion of making this hope become a reality. I embrace that hope. That is why, as a peace activist, I have been active for over 55 years. Let's get on with it, my friends. Peace is the way!

Exhibit book

Amber Lloydlangston and Kathryn Lyons. Peace — The Exhibition. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian War Museum, 2013. 112 pages, 52 images. $10.


  1. I will be visiting the exhibition tomorrow and appreciated this review. What I really like about your blog post, Koozma, is the list of 15 points of what you think SHOULD have been included.

    See you tomorrow evening at the PeaceQuest Ottawa meeting?

    Judi Wyatt

  2. An excellent report on Peace Exhibition. Tells us not only what's there but also the broader context for creating a nonkilling peace and many thoughtful suggestions about elements which could be added to strengthen the exhibit