by Ed Lehman
On the weekend of May 2nd in Regina there was a festival of 10 walking tours as part of the 2015 180 city Jane’s Walk. The walks, honouring activist and writer Jane Jacobs, are devoted to architecture and heritage. However, some consider local culture, social history, and planning issues facing residents as well. This is the 8th year that Jane’s Walks have been held in Regina and the first time one of Regina’s walks had a theme of peace and marked locations in Regina’s downtown that have peace significance.
Florence Stratton, a peace leader with Making Peace Vigil and PeaceQuest Regina, welcomed the 17 walkers who had assembled in front of City Hall and called their attention to the fact that every step of the walk was taking place on Treaty Four territory. Speaking about the horror of violence and the power of peace, she also urged the walkers to remember the genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples of Canada’s first Prime Minister John A. McDonald, whose statue we would be passing during the walk. She also asked the non-Indigenous walkers to remind themselves of the on-going violence against Indigenous peoples in Canada today.
Bob Hughes, a long-time social justice and anti-racism advocate, spoke at the Peace Fountain in front of city hall. Hughes recalled the efforts of the late council member, Joe McKeown, and others, including the building’s architect, the late Joseph Pettick, to have the Peace Fountain officially dedicated. Hughes also listed off some of Joe McKeown’s efforts for peace during his 18 years on city council including his opposition to the war in Iraq in 2003.
Ed Lehman spoke at Huston House at 2138 McIntyre Street. Lehman pointed out that it was established as a home for groups doing development, social justice, and peace work 40 years ago not long after the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation, the Regina Group for A Non-Nuclear Society and Briarpatch magazine were founded. He also observed that the Regina Coalition For Peace and Disarmament had an office there in the mid ‘80s.
Lehman paid tribute to a group of peace activists who had connections to the downtown: the anti-uranium author, Bill Harding, who helped establish Huston House; Jim Harding, a founder of the Student Union For Peace Action in 1964, who has been involved with anti-nuclear research for many decades; Mabel Hanway, long-time Regina social and political activist, who helped found the Regina and Saskatchewan Peace Councils; Dorothy Morrision, teacher and peace educator, who was one of the top signature collectors on the Ban the Bomb campaigns of the 1950s; Bill Beeching, who led the first successful campaign against military training in Regina schools and fought for Canada to have a foreign policy based on peace; Ann Lapchuk, a leader of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, who worked tirelessly for peace and understanding between different cultural groups; Evelyn Cherry, one of Canada’s great film makers who supported the Voice of Women; and Norah Jarbeau, winner of the first YMCA Peace Medal in 1994 and long-time leader of the Regina Peace Council.
Bob Ivanochko was the first of two speakers at Knox-Metropolitan Church. He gave some of Knox-Met’s history and pointed out that many of Canada’s early peace leaders were church leaders; for example, J.S. Woodsworth. He mentioned the church’s continuing work for peace and justice, including the work of the downtown chaplaincy, the work of the late Reverand Bob Gay, and the plans to have a peace garden at the church.
Emilie Kossman also spoke at Knox-Metropolitan Church. She talked about the Mennonite Church as one of the historic peace churches and how Mennonites, as conscientious objectors, have worked as medics and road workers during times of war and have done pioneering work in the area of conflict resolution. She stressed that the Mennonites support having a federal Department of Peace.
William Stahl spoke at the cenotaph which he explained was built in 1926 to commemorate the dead of the First World War. “People understood the nature of war better than they seem to today. Their motto then was ‘Never Forget and Never Again’. Contrast that with the Globe & Mail’s Centennial Series ‘Canadian Identity: Forged in Battle’ which is nothing but the big lie. Far from being ‘forged in battle,’ Canada was almost destroyed by that war.”
Stahl reminded the walkers that the enthusiasm for World War 1 did not last long and that over 24,000 Canadians were killed in one battle, at the Somme, alone. He pointed out that the right to vote was taken away from Doukhobors and Mennonites due to their pacifist beliefs, how over 8,000 Ukrainians were imprisoned, and how there was a conscription crisis in 1917. He concluded by saying a legacy of World War 1 was the use of English troops to put down French Canadians, which gave rise to Quebec separatism.
Stephen Moore, spoke at the Canadian Legion Building. Stephen opened his remarks by stating: “On today’s Peace Walk, we pause for a moment in front of the Legion Hall to remember the cost to those sent on military missions abroad and the responsibility we and our governments have to take for the full cost of war.”
Quoting Chaucer’s comments about many who call for war know nothing about it he spoke about the cost of war in terms of broken lives and mental health problems and the treatment veterans receive at the hands of the Canadian government. Stephen recounted how a Global Television story called “Invisible Wounds” recently reported that the government is increasing its budget to memorialize veterans from wars past even as it cuts services to help those with real needs today. He observed that over 160 Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan have committed suicide– more than the number killed in action on the battlefields. Stephen also dealt with the question of lost economic opportunities resulting from the military spending that could have been allocated for health, education, and infrastructure replacement.
Florence Stratton was the final speaker of the peace walk at the statue of Gandhi at City Hall. Florence noted that Gandhi was the preeminent leader in the Indian anti-colonial struggle. She reminded the walkers that Canada is directly involved in two international wars, Iraq and Ukraine, and that Canada is the 12th largest arms exporter in the world. She urged the walkers to follow Gandhi’s lead and to work for peace and justice and to engage in the anti-colonial struggle in Canada.
The walkers felt their ninety minute walk had been very informative and inspiring. The walk was organized by PeaceQuest Regina which is devoted to building a culture of peace.
The Regina Jane’s Walk Festival was organized by Regina Urban Ecology.