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Teacher Newsmagazine   Volume 18, Number 7, May/June 2006  

Teaching peace is more important than ever

by Jane Turner 

As co-ordinator of the International Peace Education Conference for the World Peace Forum, I have learned a lot about peace. First of all, it means different things depending on where you live in the world. If you live in Tanzania, it means eradicating poverty; you can’t have peace if you are poor. If you live in Latin America, it means equality of the sexes; a machismo culture doesn’t lend itself to peace for women. If you live in Washington, DC, it means having children not be hit by adults.

I began to wonder, what does peace mean for Canadians? I think it has all of the above meanings plus a few more. Now peace for Canadians means the absence of war, of being involved in one. Canadians are fighting in Afghanistan, not as peacekeepers wearing the symbolic blue helmets but as an aggressive fighting force. We are not part of a NATO mission, nor are we under the auspices of the United Nations. We have taken over fighting in Afghanistan from the United States, freeing up American soldiers to concentrate on their war in Iraq. The Americans are having trouble finding those weapons of mass destruction. I guess they need more soldiers to find them.

The Russians waged war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That went as well as the US involvement in Vietnam in the previous decade. Currently, Canadian armed forces are in Afghanistan fighting—not peacekeeping. Now that we are part of that elite group of aggressor nations, I wonder what impact this will have on our Canadian culture?

Ironically, as we are preparing for the June World Peace Forum’s International Peace Education Conference, the theme of which is "educating a generation to create a culture of peace," the federal government is launching a cultural initiative of its own. According to a news report by Matthew Behrens, Stephen Harper’s government is offering course credits to students who join the Canadian Armed Forces Army Reserve co-op program. There they will learn to shoot automatic weapons (machine guns) among other things military and be paid $1,400 for two weeks in the field. Add to this an aggressive recruiting campaign for the armed forces, targeting young men and women in high school, and it’s no wonder CTV reported Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor as saying the armed forces recruiting campaign was so successful they had reached 110% of their target recruitment quota.

It is extraordinarily important that teachers learn as much as possible about incorporating peace education into their curriculum right now. There is a strong movement in Canada to change our traditional cultural profile from peacekeeping to a combatant nation. I hope this is not what we want for our students or our culture. It is going to get harder to teach that anti-bullying and peaceful problem solving are keys to good citizenship when our federal government is role-modeling military aggressiveness and encouraging our youth to learn how to fight. 

Registration for the Peace Education Forum

Full week: $225

Fixed-income seniors and students: $150

Daily Rates: $50 a day

Fixed income seniors and students: $30 a day

Field-trip rate, Monday, June 26 International Peace Education Conference only: $5 per student (K –12 students must be accompanied by teacher/supervisors)

For information about the Peace Education Conference, contact Barb Preus at 604-871-1866, bpreus@bctf.ca or

Jane Turner 604-871-1871, jturner@bctf.ca.

Jane Turner is an assistant director, BCTF Professional and Social Issues Division. 

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