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By Geoffrey Ondercin-Bourne

Fri., Feb. 25, 2022

The United Nations Association in Canada Hamilton Branch (UNAC HB) invites you to a special online public event on Sunday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. to mark the UN’s annual World Day of Social Justice.

The UNAC HB focuses on human rights, peace issues, environmental concerns and global interests to raise the awareness of the United Nations in our community. Our local branch of UNAC actually predates the UN, itself, having been established in the 1920s during the time of the League of Nations. We’ve been a part of the Hamilton community for a century!

Our event, entitled “Listening to the Next Generation,” features three outstanding Hamilton-area youth who will offer their perspectives on what a “just transition” should look like, identify the obstacles, as well as the means by which we can overcome those obstacles.

The inspiration for this event comes from both the United Nations Framework Conference for Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its report called “Just Transition of the Workforce and the Creation of Decent Work and Quality Jobs” (, as well as Hamilton’s own 2021 document “A Just Recovery for Hamilton” ( It is also inspired by several of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including no poverty (No. 1), reduced inequalities (No. 10), climate action (No. 13), and peace, justice and strong institutions (No. 16) (

Young people have a special interest in securing a just economy that addresses the needs of workers but within a framework that acknowledges and takes on the challenge of climate change. As if that weren’t enough of a challenge, COVID-19 has shone a light on the significant changes in the very nature of work that will force young people to better appreciate the need for a just transition than older workers who grew up in a 20th-century model of employment. For these reasons, we believe this is a timely discussion for Canadians to engage in with each other.

We have three next generation leaders who will give us three different but complementary presentations that reflect a community, global, and Indigenous interpretation of what the just transition should look like. It is essential that young people take their rightful place in any discussion about this transition, with all the environmental and economic impacts that it will have on them. To make this happen, “the transition toward inclusive green economies must be fair, maximizing opportunities for economic prosperity, social justice, rights and social protection for all, leaving no one behind.”

With that goal in mind, the International Labour Organization, an agency of the UN, prepared a report called “Is the future ready for youth? Youth employment policies for evolving labour markets,” which warns us that “the future of the planet, of work, of innovation and of equality and justice will depend on how today’s youth find their rightful place in society.” These are all challenges that will be a part of our discussion, which we hope will end on an optimistic note.

Please join us for a lively and informed discussion led by the next generation of youth leaders about their future, as well as the future of our society and the planet. For further details, visit our website at and click on the events tab.

Geoffrey Ondercin-Bourne is vice-chair of the United Nations Association of Canada, Hamilton Branch.

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

by Joy Warner, Hamilton Spectator, October 27, 2020

Recent news reports say “Canada has taken a big leap closer to meeting its promise to the NATO military alliance to spend a larger share of its economy on defence.” This is no cause for celebration. Surely this is a case of skewed priorities in a time of the global pandemic, increased demands for health research spending, and expanding youth unemployment to name just a few of the economic challenges facing Canada today.

War is big business for weapons manufacturers.

Canadian weapons exports in 2019 saw a 78 per cent increase over the prior year, rising from $2.1 billion to $3.75 billion. Saudi Arabia was the largest non-U.S. export destination, receiving approximately $2.864 billion in Canadian military exports.

American arms exports increased more than 20 per cent over the past decade and were 76 per cent higher than those of the second-largest arms exporter in the world, Russia.

At the same time, we are failing in our foreign aid commitments. When the Liberals were first elected in 2015, ODA stood at 0.28 per cent of global national income, a ratio that the Trudeau government has never surpassed. Canada is unlikely to return to being one of the world’s most generous aid donors any time soon, let alone meet its five-decades-old target of 0.7 per cent of GNI.

Peace researcher Tamara Lorincz reminds us that “The ecological footprint of war and ongoing preparations for war cannot be ignored. Militarism is a top contributor to the global climate crisis and a direct cause of lasting environmental damage. And yet military activities are often exempted from key environmental regulations, such as the Kyoto Protocol.”

According to the Political Economy Research Institute, investing in peacetime industries produces more jobs, and, in many cases, better-paying jobs, than would spending that money on the military. For example, each billion dollars of government spending invested in the military creates about 12,000 jobs. Investing it instead in health care produces 18,000 jobs, in education 25,000 jobs, and in mass transit 27,700 jobs. The average wages and benefits of the 25,000 education jobs created is significantly higher than that of the military’s 12,000 jobs.

Furthermore, according to the 2018 Global Peace Index, produced by the IEP, the global economic impact of violence is $14.76 trillion, 12 per cent of global GDP. Based on estimates from the United Nations, just $30 billion a year — 1.5 per cent of global military spending — could end hunger on earth and $11 billion a year could provide clean drinking water for all.

It is time to stop the military spending theft from health care, education, infrastructure, the environment, poverty and homelessness

It is time to restore Canada’s reputation as a global leader in peace building. It is also time to challenge the falsehoods that war is inevitable, that other people are evil, that war is in our nature and that war is noble and glorious.

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Updated: Apr 6, 2021

By Anne M Pearson and Joy Warner; printed in the Hamilton Spectator, Sat., Oct. 24, 2020

Recently the 2020 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to the UN’s World Food Program, calling attention to a worsening global hunger crisis due, in part, to the pandemic, to the need for more international response and solidarity, and to the vital role that the WFP has played over the decades in alleviating hunger and food insecurity.

The awarding of the peace prize to this UN agency allows us to reflect on the significance of the United Nations, this month marking its 75th anniversary, at a time when, yet again, it has come under fire from various quarters.

Canada has been a member of the United Nations since it was established in 1945 in the wake of the terrible consequences of the Second World War, with a primary mandate to prevent further war. Canada’s 14th prime minister, Lester Pearson (who spent part of his childhood in Hamilton) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his work helping to avert a war during the Suez Crisis, and for helping to establish the UN’s first Peacekeeping missions. Canadian legal scholar John Humphrey was the principal author of the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — a declaration which represents an extraordinary accomplishment in world history, and that has served as the basis upon which numerous human rights conventions and laws have been built. Canada was also instrumental in the establishment of the 1997 convention abolishing the production and use of landmines which have been responsible for killing or maiming hundreds of thousands of people. One of the UN’s many specialized agencies is the International Civil Aviation Organization headquartered in Montreal.

Shortly after the formation of the UN, national UN Associations were created in countries around the world to enable citizens to participate in the work of the United Nations on global issues that affect us all. The United Nations Association in Canada, based in Ottawa, was one of them. This association also has branches in many Canadian cities, including Hamilton. In fact, the Hamilton branch is one of the oldest, being originally formed as a branch of the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations. Over the decades, our Hamilton branch, whose volunteer membership is open to all, has partnered with numerous local organizations to raise awareness of such issues as climate change, food security, the status of the girl-child, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), adopted by the General Assembly in 2007. Our branch has also been instrumental in encouraging the City of Hamilton to be declared a nuclear-weapons-free zone, and to create a “peace garden” behind city hall.

One of our branch members, Hayat Rushdy-Hanna, was herself a direct beneficiary of another UN agency, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, based in Geneva. Hayat was born in Ethiopia of Egyptian parents and grew up in Burundi. Her family suffered persecution because of the fact that they are members of the Baha’i Faith, a persecution that resulted in their losing their citizenship. Eventually they were placed under the protection of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Thankfully, Hayat and her family were accepted as landed immigrants in Canada, and she went on to complete studies at the École de Droit, Université de Moncton, graduating with an LLB. Hayat’s personal experience as a convention refugee while living in Central Africa increased her determination to join others in their efforts to highlight the need to respect the rules of international law and to support the valuable work of the United Nations around the world.

Despite its flaws, the UN remains the only organization able to convene the whole world under one roof, to discuss issues of common interest to all humanity, and to sustain the norms that make peace, security, and environmental protection possible. It provides essential services and resources in some of the world’s most inaccessible and dangerous regions. As former UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold said, “The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.” On this United Nations Day 2020 we call on Canadians to continue to support the UN.

Anne M Pearson is the current president of the United Nations Association in Canada Hamilton Branch (and granddaughter of Lester Pearson). Joy Warner is justice peace and integrity of the environment co-ordinator for the Spiritans in English Speaking Canada.

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