Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for November, 2015


Posted by strattof on November 26, 2015

From November 30 – December 11, world leaders will be gathering in Paris for the 21st UN conference on climate change, formally known as Conference of the Parties 21 or COP21.

The science is clear: To avoid catastrophic climate change, nations must come to a legally binding agreement to drastically reduce carbon (CO2) emissions.

For the last two decades, Canada has dragged its feet on climate change and sometimes even engaged in obstructionist practices at climate conferences. Such tactics have helped to keep the world on the path to calamitous global warming.

Will Canada continue to be a climate laggard at this year’s climate change conference? Or will we become a climate champion?


  1. To avoid catastrophic climate change, global temperature must not rise more than 2°C above pre-industrial (1850) levels.
  2. Average global temperature has already risen by .85°C.
  3. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975.
  4. 2014 was the hottest year on record.
  5. 2015 is set to break the 2014 record.
  6. Weather-related disasters, such as floods and fires, have occurred almost daily over the last decade.
  7. Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are the main cause of climate change.
  8. The leading cause of the growth in atmospheric CO2 in the last 50 years has been an increase in the burning of fossil fuels.
  9. To stop global temperature from rising more than 2°C, at least 80% of fossil fuels needs to stay in the ground.
  10. By 2030 it will have become impossible to meet the 2°C target if far-reaching measures to reduce emissions are not taken now.


  • In 1997, Canada signed the Kyoto Accord, a binding climate agreement, pledging a 6% reduction of emissions by 2012 compared to 1990 levels.
  • In 2011, Canada withdrew from Kyoto, the first and only country to have done so.
  • Today, Canada’s emissions are 18% higher than they were in 1990.
  • Canada ranks 58 out of 61 on the 2015 Climate Change Performance Index.

Why is Canada such a climate laggard?

Since climate change first became an issue in the 1990s, Canada has repeatedly placed profits for the fossil fuel industry before the well-being of people and the planet.


  • According to a recent IMF report, the total fossil fuel industry subsidies in Canada are more than $34 billion a year. Think what Canada could do with an extra $34 billion a year!
  • Canada subsidizes the oil and gas industry at a higher rate than any other rich country except the US and Luxembourg.
  • The oil and gas industry accounts for 25% of Canada’s emissions. Transportation accounts for another 23%.
  • Subsidies also include $4.5 billion annually for the coal industry. Coal-fired power is by far the dirtiest electricity, accounting for 10% of Canada’s carbon emissions.
  • Tar sands development, also heavily subsidized, is the single biggest contributor to the growth of carbon emissions in Canada. Pipelines facilitate tar sands expansion.
  • Prime Minister Trudeau’s expression of disappointment following President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline was telling. Premier Brad Wall is also a champion of pipelines and tar sands expansion. 


To be a climate champion, Canada must make, on a binding basis, the following four commitments at the Paris climate conference:

  1. To stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry.
  2. To start subsidizing a) the development of renewables: $20 billion annually for the next 10 years; b) public transportation: 14 billion annually for the next 10 years.
  3. To phase out coal-fired power by 2020.
  4. To leave tar sands oil in the ground. No pipelines!


Join hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are marching for the climate. Let world leaders know we are counting on them to act in Paris: to commit to keeping fossil fuels in the ground and to start immediately to transition to 100% renewables.

Hands reaching out, fists raising up, banners unfurling, megaphones booming

And we are canoes blocking coal ships

We are the radiance of solar villages

We are the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past

We are petitions blooming from teenage fingertips

We are families biking, recycling, reusing; engineers dreaming, designing, building; artists painting, dancing, writing

And we are spreading the word

And there are thousands out on the street, marching with signs, hand in hand

Chanting for change NOW 

From Dear Matafele Peinem, by Marshall Island poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, addressed to her baby daughter and read at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.

Read all of this powerful poem online. Google the title.



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Posted by strattof on November 19, 2015

The world’s media, and most of its politicians, have expressed outrage at the brutal ISIS attacks in Paris which killed over 130 people and left many more wounded. We too are outraged. As our banner states. Making Peace Vigil is “against war & all violence.”

We are equally outraged by the ISIS suicide attacks in Beirut two days earlier, in which 43 people were killed and over 200 injured; by the attacks targeting Shias in Baghdad; by Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria; by…the grisly list goes on and on.

But these acts of violence have occasioned no 24-hour media coverage or expressions of solidarity from western leaders. How do we explain this identification with French suffering and indifference to the suffering of people we see as different? Do some lives matter more than others? 

And what about our own acts of violence—the war in Afghanistan, the US-led occupation of Iraq, US drone attacks in Pakistan and Somalia, the bombing raids against ISIS? This list, too, goes on and on. Are these western acts of violence not equally appalling?

“Violence begets violence.”–Martin Luther King



Othering is a strategy used by powerful groups or nations to justify their domination and exploitation of other groups or nations by representing them as fundamentally different—that is “not one of us”—as lacking full humanity, as inferior. At the same time, the powerful group represents its own members as superior.

Othering is the reason we in the west do not readily identify with the suffering of Muslims, Arabs, Asians, or Africans. We see them as inferior and hence not worthy of our sympathy or solidarity.


Demonization takes the strategy of othering one step further, representing the Other not merely as inferior, but as evil. It is the identification with evil of the people your side is intent on killing. It justifies the slaughter of the Other.


  • In each of the conflicts in which Canada is involved, our government has demonized one of the combatants: Islamic State in the case of Iraq-Syria, Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Russia in Ukraine. 
  • At the same time, our government has idealized “our side,” identifying the west with freedom and democracy. 
  • In fact, there are few, if any, totally good guys or bad guys in any of these conflicts, just many varying shades of gray. 
  • For example, the emergence of ISIS in Iraq is a direct result of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. 
  • Simplistic notions of good and evil lay the groundwork for war by creating a culture of hate and fear. Demonization also makes the lives of whole populations disposable. 


How many lives have been lost so far in the US-led so-called “war on terror”? As of 2013:

  • About a million lives had been lost in Iraq.
  • 220,000 lives had been lost in Afghanistan. 




Thankfully, so far Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not retracted his pledge to end Canada’s bombing mission against ISIS, though he has yet to implement it. Not that training Iraqis and Syrians to kill other Iraqis and Syrians is a positive alternative.

  • Other nations, including France, the US, and Russia, are contemplating or have already carried out further airstrikes against ISIS. ●The Secretary General of NATO has said the alliance is willing to come to France’s defence.

Will western military operations against ISIS bring about any good outcome? Have the first 13 years of the “war on terror” had a beneficial outcome?

  • Descent into chaos and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya: Where is the promised freedom and democracy?
  • Civilian deaths: To date, more than 450 civilians have been killed by the US-led airstrikes against ISIS.
  • Endless war in the whole Middle East region.
  • Violence in western countries, including Canada ‒ which should not surprise us: To inflict violence on other countries is to invite retaliation. 


Premier Brad Wall and others have urged Prime Minister Trudeau to suspend the plan to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end. Kudos to the Trudeau government for keeping to the plan.

Syrian refugees should not be punished. They are fleeing just such violence and looking for security. Theirs is a humanitarian crisis.

If we really believe in freedom, justice, equality, and democracy, we must loudly proclaim: REFUGEES WELCOME!


You see two children fighting on a playground. What do you do? a) Encourage them to keep on fighting? b) Break up the fight and ask them to work out their differences in a non-violent manner?


A poem by Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh

It’s not Paris we should pray for.

It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut,

reeling from bombings two days before Paris,

is not covered in the press.

A world in which a bomb goes off

at a funeral in Baghdad

and not one person’s status update says “Baghdad,”

because not one white person died in that fire.

Pray for the world

that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.

That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker

and the person running from the very same thing you are.

Pray for a world

where people walking across countries for months,

 their only belongings upon their backs,

are told they have no place to go.

Say a prayer for Paris by all means,

but pray more,

for the world that does not have a prayer

for those who no longer have a home to defend.

For a world that is falling apart in all corners,

and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar. 

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Posted by strattof on November 12, 2015

Back in early September, the door to Canada was almost closed to refugees. That’s when the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi was found washed up on a beach. Alan had drowned, along with his brother and mother, while trying to reach Greece in a rubber dinghy. The family had fled the war in Syria with the hope of eventually coming to Canada.

Today, the door to Canada is open a little bit wider. Kudos to our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his pledge to bring 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada by year’s end.

Don’t listen to the naysayers. Past experience shows that when there is a will there is a way.

Once the 25,000 Syrian refugees have been settled, let’s open the door to refugees even wider.


  • 1933 – 1948: In June 1939, Canada refused entry to 937 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, turning their ship, the SS St. Louis, back to Europe. A third of the ship’s passengers ended up being murdered in the Nazi death camps. From 1933 – 1948, “none is too many” was the response of the Canadian government to Jewish asylum seekers.
  • 1956 – 1957: Canada accepted 37,000 Hungarian refugees.
  • 1979 – 1980: Canada accepted 50,000 Vietnamese “boat people.” By 1985, 110,000 Vietnamese refugees had resettled in Canada.
  • 1999: Canada airlifted 5,000 Kosovo refugees to Canada.
  • 2013 – October 2015: The Harper government’s primary response to the Syrian refugee crisis was to make anti-Muslim racist statements. Clearly intended to arouse fear, the statements were reminiscent of the “none is too many” rhetoric of the 1930s and 40s.
  • November 2015 – : 000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year is a good start. Germany, a geographically much smaller country than Canada, has said it can take 500,000 Syrian refugees a year. 


  1. Today there are 19.5 million refugees worldwide.
  2. Another 38.2 million people are displaced within their own countries.
  3. 51% of today’s refugees are children, the highest figure for child refugees in more than a decade.
  4. Syria and Afghanistan are the world’s top source countries for refugees.
  5. The majority of refugees (86%) are hosted by poor countries.
  6. Lebanon has the most refugees per capita ‒ about one refugee for every four inhabitants. Next comes Jordan, then Chad.
  7. Contrary to Stephen Harper’s claim, Canada ranks 41st, not 1st, in terms of refugees per capita.
  8. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees: 1.6 million, most of whom are from Syria. Pakistan comes 2nd, with most of its refugees coming from Afghanistan.


The majority of today’s refugees are fleeing wars that have been caused, directly or indirectly, by western foreign policy. The emergence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, for example, is a direct result of the 2003 US-led occupation of Iraq.

The Good News:

  • Canada is no longer participating in air strikes against ISIS.
  • On October 30, Syria peace talks finally got underway, with many (but not all) of the parties involved in the conflict present at the table.

The Bad News:

  • Instead of dropping bombs on Iraq and Syria, Canadian forces will be training local troops to fight ISIS. In other words, Canada will be training Iraqis and Syrians to kill other Iraqis and Syrians.

The Syrian war will NOT be resolved by bombs and guns. Bombs and guns simply create more refugees.


  • Congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau on his decision to stop Canadian bombing raids against ISIS. Also let him know you want him to be a Prime Minister for peace; and that you look forward to the day when all the world’s nations seek non-violent negotiated settlements to conflicts as a first option: or 613-992-4211.
  • Read Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal, a new novel about refugees.
  • We all need to consider what we can do to make refugees welcome in Regina.

HOME, an excerpt, by Somali poet Warsan Shire 

No one leaves home unless

Home is the mouth of a shark

You only run for the border

When you see the whole city running as well


You have to understand

That no one puts their children in a boat

Unless the water is safer than the land

No one burns their palms

Under trains

Beneath carriages

No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

Feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled

Mean something more than the journey

No one crawls under fences

No one wants to be beaten


Read all of this powerful poem:

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Posted by strattof on November 8, 2015

C A N A D A   A T   W A R


Since 2003, Canada has been endlessly at war: Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria ‒ Canada has been or is there making war.

Today, Canada is directly involved in two international wars ‒ Iraq-Syria and Ukraine.

The Good News: Kudos to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for pledging to end Canada’s bombing mission against ISIS.

The Bad News: Instead, Canadian forces will focus on training local troops in Iraq to fight ISIS. In other words, Canada will be training Iraqis and Syrians to kill other Iraqis and Syrians.

More Bad News: The Liberal Party supported the Harper government’s war-making policies in Ukraine.


  • Canadian weapons manufacturers make $12.6 billion in annual revenues from arms sales.
  • Canada has refused to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, a treaty aimed at restricting the global arms trade. It has been signed by 127 other countries. 


Regina high schools, both Public and Catholic, offer a military training program to grade 11 and 12 students. ●Students earn 2 credits for taking the course. ●They are also paid $2,000.

Wouldn’t it be better for students to study for peace, not for war?


  • Tell Prime Minister Trudeau you want Canada to seek non-violent negotiated settlements, including all parties involved in the conflicts, to the wars in Iraq-Syria and Ukraine.
  • Tell your MP you want Canada to get out of the weapons industry and to sign the Arms Trade Treaty.
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you do not want a military training program in Regina high schools.

W E   W A N T   P E A C E

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or under the holy name of liberty or democracy?–Mahatma Gandhi 

It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.–Albert Einstein 

Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their difference themselves instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.–Harry Patch, last surviving British veteran of World War I 

You can bomb the world to pieces/ But you can’t bomb the world to peace.–Michael Franti 

War always marks the failure of peace. It is always a defeat for humanity.–Pope Francis 

Our motto should be: let us make peace so that we can concentrate on the really important work that needs to be done. That is, alleviating the plight of the poor and the defenceless, for as long as most of humanity feels the pain of poverty we all remain prisoners.–Nelson Mandela 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.–Jimi Hendrix 

All we are saying is give peace a chance.–John Lennon



Some of us are wearing white poppies. The white poppy is a symbol of peace, of our hope for an end to all wars, and of our commitment to work for a world where conflicts are resolved without violence and with justice.


Some of us are also wearing red poppies to honour Canada’s veterans. We are particularly concerned about the 40,000 soldiers who served in Afghanistan and the challenges they are facing: the replacement of an ongoing pension for wounded veterans with lump-sum payments; the closure of Veterans Affairs offices; and the lack of support for veterans who are suffering from the ravages of war.


The red peace button is the work of the Mennonite Central Committee. It reads: “TO REMEMBER IS TO WORK FOR PEACE.” War is not necessary or inevitable. Peaceful alternatives exist, as do non-violent means to resolve conflict between individuals and communities.

If you would like a white poppy or a red peace button, please ask one of us. We are happy to give you one of each, as long as our supplies last.

To order white poppies for future Remembrance Days, go to:

To order red peace buttons, go to: or phone the Mennonite Central Committee office in Saskatoon: 1-306-665-2555.

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