Erb Street Mennonite Church Advocates for Department of Peace

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On June 25, 2011, Erb Street Mennonite Church sent the following letter to elected officials in Canada's federal government:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Prime Minister of Canada

Office of the Prime Minister

80 Wellington St.

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

 

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

In the recent Speech from the Throne (June 3), we heard about our government’s plans and priorities for the coming parliamentary session. Under the heading, “Here to stand on guard for Canada”, the speech makes it clear that our government plans to promote Canadian values and to stand for what is right on the world stage. The speech continues, “In an uncertain global environment, our government will also continue to pursue a stable, principled foreign policy that advances Canada’s interests.”

As Canadian Mennonites, we support our government’s pursuit of peace and justice. We wholeheartedly affirm this part of your plan. We assume the Canadian values include the following: respect, freedom, diversity, democracy, and social justice. We assume that what is right on the world stage is the construction of peaceful international relations. We assume that Canadian interests are shared interests of other nations as well: the pursuit of peace, economic and social stability, environmental sustainability, and cultural vitality.

Therefore, we ask our government to promote Canadian values and to stand up for what is right by establishing a Department of Peace within the Government of Canada. As you know, Private Member’s Bill C-447 (An Act to Establish a Department of Peace) passed first reading in September 2009 with the maximum number of join-seconders permitted. As well, a motion was put forward in November 2009 to support a Department of Peace in principle. Many organizations and prominent individuals across Canada continue to promote this initiative – see the list of supporters at www.departmentofpeace.ca/Canadian-chapters/list-of-supporters. Similar efforts are underway in forty other countries, and Departments of Peace have been established in Solomon Islands, Nepal, South Sudan, and Costa Rica.

Canada used to be known as a peacemaking nation, but we fear that this reputation is now lost because our efforts to promote development, disarmament, and democracy are being overshadowed by our military deployments in places like Afghanistan and Libya. Especially when many acknowledge that there can be no “military solutions” to international conflict and violence, we believe that more robust peacemaking efforts are past due. A Department of Peace would amplify the capacities we already have as Canadians: to prevent war, to address root causes of conflict, to broker ceasefires, and to foster mutual respect and dialogue in the midst of crisis. Such a Department of Peace could interact with and complement other governmental departments such as Defence, Foreign Affairs, and CIDA.

On the eve of our centennial year in 1976, Prime Minister Lester Pearson said, “We are still a young nation, very much in the formative stages. Our national condition is still flexible enough that we can make almost anything we wish of our nation. No other country is in a better position than Canada to go ahead with the evolution of a national purpose devoted to all that is good and noble and excellent in the human spirit.”

For his efforts to promote peace and the common good, Pearson became the only Canadian ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. What if his observation still holds true – that our country is still flexible, and that our national purpose challenges us toward the good and the noble?

In your Speech from the Throne, you acknowledge that in 2017 we will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and as part of our preparations for this milestone you invite all Canadians “to imagine ways to build a smarter, more caring nation.” This is an excellent invitation! Alongside the many efforts we as average Canadians will be making in this respect, we urge you to be proactive and vigorous in positioning Canada as a global leader in the area of peace building. That would be a wonderful legacy for our government.

In your important role as a political leader, as Prime Minister of Canada, what will you do to establish a Department of Peace within the Canadian government?

We pray for you. We look forward to receiving your response.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Esther Fast, Congregational Chairperson

Erb Street Mennonite Church

 

cc.  Rev. Dr. Eleanor Epp-Stobbe, Lead Pastor, Erb Street Mennonite Church

Rev. Gord Alton, Associate Pastor, Erb Street Mennonite Church

Hon. Jack Layton

Hon. Elizabeth May

Hon. Bob Rae

MP Peter Braid

MP Harold Albrecht

MP Stephen Woodworth

Rev. David Martin, Executive Minister, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada

Rev. Willard Metzger, General Secretary, Mennonite Church Canada