Waging peace in Hamilton - a new book chronicles the continuing journey
By Mark McNeil
The Hamilton Spectator
Most people in Hamilton know about the annual Gandhi Peace Festival each fall and the statue of the Indian independence movement leader on the grounds of Hamilton City Hall.
But those are only higher profiled pieces of a vast network of peace and nonviolence activism across the city with ties to local labour, McMaster University and representation from all walks of life.
A new book called "Waging Peace in Hamilton" delves into the players in local peace and justice organizations, describing their histories, activities and presenting a forum for "local peace champions."
Most cities have peace groups devoted to nonviolence and social justice. But Anne M. Pearson, one of the three editors of the book, says Hamilton has had a particularly rich history with a wide variety of groups and individuals taking part.
"Hamilton has been historically a manufacturing city with a very strong union movement, and awareness of social justice in terms of workers' rights," said Pearson, who is a granddaughter of former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for peacekeeping.
"I think all this has percolated over the years. NDP MPs and MPPs are often elected, and that speaks to that strong labour emphasis in the city."
Longtime Hamilton peace activist Graeme MacQueen says, "There are people of many social classes. You have a strong labour component, and the usual middle-class peace activists.
"We've all tried to work together," he says. "We have been relatively coherent and we re proud of that."
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger in the preface of the book praised local events - such as the Gandhi Peace Festival - that "mark the spirit of peace and reconciliation." He noted the city declared itself a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s and calls itself a "City of Peace."
But he acknowledged the city has had some very regrettable incidents in the past.
"There was a time when KKK riders paraded on our streets and when some Hamiltonians were not permitted to live in certain neighbourhoods in our city due to colour, ethnicity and religion," he wrote.
Eisenberger was recalling racist restrictive covenants that prevented Jews and "foreign born" from purchasing homes in neighbourhoods such as Westdale. The covenants were part of many housing developments and were eventually overturned.
The Ku Klux Klan operated in Hamilton. An oft-cited photo from circa 1930 shows eight Klansman in white hoods riding horses on James Street.
Pearson said the idea for a book evolved out of marking last year's 25th anniversary of the Gandhi Peace Festival. Pearson, with Khursheed Ahmed and Joy Warner, decided to become co-editors for a book that not only celebrated the festival but Hamilton's wider history of peacemaking.
"Over the last many decades there has been an extraordinary range of efforts by groups, organizations and individuals to promote a culture of peace, nonviolence and justice in our city. These efforts make us proud. Yet, there had been no systematic attempt to gather together a record of these activities," the book says.
The venture received $6,000 in grant money from various sources, most notably from the Community Fund for Canada's 150th, a joint fund between the federal government and the Hamilton Community Foundation and others.
- The book classifies peace groups as being dedicated either to "negative peace," (devoted to stopping ongoing armed conflicts) or "positive peace" (devoted to a long-term holistic approach of fostering a sustainable peace).
Negative peace examples
• Hamilton Disarmament Coalition
•Voice of Women
•Physicians for Global Survival
•Coalition to Stop the War
•Burlington's Association for Nuclear Disarmament
Positive peace examples
•The Gandhi Peace Festival
•Hamilton Culture of Peace
•The Children's International Learning Centre
•Hamilton Interfaith Group
•Peace Research Institute Dundas
Quotes from the book
"Life on Earth probably started many times only to flicker out again, until some primitive cells were persistent enough to stay with it and not give up. Everything depends on patience and persistence and continued effort even if it seems hopeless. Let us keep peace growing, in order to keep life on Earth going."
"One of the very best aspects of involvement in peace work and peace studies has been the privilege of working with the best, the most altruistic people in the world. I treasure my friendships with these smart, creative, deeply moral people. Jewels in the tapestry of life."
- Joanna Santa Barbara
"War and deception have always gone hand in hand. Let us, please, commit ourselves not only to peace, but to its inseparable companion, truth."