Towering above all was our impressive Tower of Victory and Peace, the iconic ‘Peace Tower. ’
I asked myself, shouldn’t the Peace Tower represent ‘peace’ as it did 50 years ago?
In the 1950s PM Lester B. Pearson showcased Canada as a ‘nation esteemed thorough the world for its policies of neutrality, peacekeeping, and honest brokering.’(1)
In contrast, today PM Stephen Harper is determined to display Canada as a military nation.
In this same spot during the 2014 Canada Day celebrations, Harper referred to Canada as 'a courageous warrior…as the best country in the world.' (2). For the past ten years he supported the Afghanistan war, and recently assisted the NATO blockade of Russia, to attract local Ukrainian-Canadian votes. Purchasing very expensive F-35 fighter jets is debated as more important than practical search and rescue planes.
In this decade Canada is spending $120 million to commemorate wars for PR and tourism.(3) Schools are encouraged to ‘celebrate’ the upcoming 100th year anniversary of World War I, and the cadet program costing $5 million a year continues.
A permanent impact on education was changing the name of the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the Canadian Museum of History and refocusing it narrower to Canadian history, with the same Director (Mark 'Neill) for the nearby Canadian War Museum. The Director was appointed by the PM.
Absent from the Parliament Hill area are peace statues. The only one in the area is Reconciliation: The Peacekeeping Monument. No streets or bridges are named for peace in Ottawa. Only Winnipeg has a Mahatma Gandhi Way, (220 m. long) leading to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Compare to UK, England, where a statue of Nelson Mandela in their Parliament Square was unveiled in 2007, and a statue of Mahatma Gandhi will be installed next year.
If Canada is to showcase peace to other countries, statues of these world moral leaders must be in the centre of Canada's capital to complement our Peace Tower and offset all the war monuments and statues.
The Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) hopes to create a cabinet level department to transform military spending to a peace culture. A Private Members Bill was tabled in 2011, three years ago. While lobbying for CDPI progress, citizens are also working their public relations.
Peace Tower Movement
Rededicating the Peace Tower as a public icon that promotes peace and good governance is a project led by PeaceQuest — ‘to underline the importance of peace … as a basic Canadian value.’(4)
To recast this national logo, the Ottawa Peace Festival — a coalition of 20 peace groups in the Ottawa area — will open its festival on Sunday September 21 on Parliament Hill for its 8th year, but this time to rededicate the tower.
The festival theme: ‘Peacing Together the Canada We Want’ will launch from the Peace Tower for 12 days at 17 locations around the capital. 29 events, hosted by 20 groups are free and open to the public — art exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, films, peace walks, music, food, and lots of education. Related topics cover domestic violence, PSTD, history, pollution and climate change.
I say let’s celebrate peace, but mourn war.
- Dan Gardner. ‘Lester Pearson Would Not be Impressed.’ Ottawa Citizen, 11 Aug. 2006, p. A15.
- Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on Canada Day, ugnayan, 4 July 2014.
- Dennis Gruending. PeaceQuest wants Peace Tower rededicated, group promotes 'counter narrative' to militarism, dennisgruending.ca, 11 July 2014.
- Let’s rededicate the Peace Tower … to peace, PeaceQuest.ca, 23 October 2013.