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Thirty-five years of peace activism in Calgary

Image: Ploughshares Calgary Society

Trudy Govier first became involved in peace issues in the early 1980s. She was one of the founders in 1982 of the peace group currently known as the Ploughshares Calgary Society, and today she is still involved. Scott Neigh talks with her about how the world and peace activism have changed in the last three and a half decades, and about the ways in which the Ploughshares Calgary Society is still patiently and persistently working towards a more just and peaceful world.

In some ways, when it comes to questions of war and peace, the world is a very different place than it was thirty-five years ago. In that era, the world was dominated by two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. After a detente period that lasted much of the 1970s, Cold War tensions were once again high in the early 1980s and the risk of nuclear annihilation felt sufficiently imminent to mobilize hundreds of thousands into the streets in peace marches in Canada in that decade, and millions more in the rest of the world.

In 2018, the world is quite a different place. The geopolitical map has changed a great deal. For decades, now, the conflicts that have raged around the world have mostly been more localized in character, though of course that hasn't stopped them from causing immense death and destruction. They have prominently included warfare organized along subnational and inter-ethnic lines, as well as more numerous open instances than during the Cold War of the West, led by the United States and generally supported by Canada, using military force as a means of exerting power in other parts of the world. As for nuclear weapons, they are generally much lower on people's list of concerns these days. And since the many millions around the world that took to the streets in 2003 to oppose the pending U.S.-led invasion and recolonization of Iraq, peace movements – and perhaps even moreso in Canada than in other places – have had difficulty mobilizing people in large numbers.

So, yes, there are differences. But at heart, a lot remains the same. War continues to happen, in ways that our own country continues to be complicit in. The need to push for other ways of resolving conflict, from the global level on down to the local, is no less pressing. As the existence of social movements of different kinds continues to show, the structural violences of inequality and injustice continue to be fundamental to how our society is organized. And nuclear arsenals that could destroy humanity many times over still exist – with the particularly unpredictable character of the current leadership in the United States bringing that danger increasingly back into mainstream consciousness.

Over the years, Trudy Govier's work for peace has taken many forms. She has organized and spoken on panels. She has written letters and lobbied. She has produced leaflets and marched. Her work as a scholar and teacher of philosophy has been greatly informed by her participation in the peace movement. More than three and a half decades after she helped to found it, she currently chairs the board of the Ploughshares Calgary Society – which was formerly Project Ploughshares Calgary, but it disaffiliated from the national Project Ploughshares organization a couple of years ago at the insistence of the Canada Revenue Agency, and was re-organized and re-named to become an independent non-profit.

Each year, the Ploughshares Calgary Society holds a peace fair. In recent years, they have organized a solemn commemoration of the destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima by a nuclear bomb dropped by the United States. They also hold numerous public education events of various sorts, including a community conference on peace issues coming up in May. They are one of the longest continually operating peace groups in Canada, and they even have a staff person and office space. The group continues to explore new projects, and Trudy is keen to find ways to expand their work in the coming years in the face of a world that, sadly, is in no less dire need of grassroots work for peace than was true three and a half decades ago.

Image: The image modified for use in this post is used with permission of the Ploughshares Calgary Society.

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Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow them on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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