Project Ploughshares (Canadian Council of Churches)

We are the peace centre of The Canadian Council of Churches, mandated to work with churches, government, and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions that prevent war and armed violence and build peace.

Child pictured sitting at a Remembrance Day ceremonyOur Story Why We Exist

The year was 1991. Operation Desert Storm was the name of the invasion. Such value-laden yet ambiguous names these wars were given…Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Liberate Kuwait, Operation Friction (the Canadian name for Desert Storm). Names that might lead young men and women to think they were fighting for something good and pure…the ‘just war’ theory come to life.

My nephew from Ohio was there in Iraq – a proud marine fighting for truth, justice and the American way.  He was just 20, with a young wife and two little girls at home. Too young to be fighting wars. I remember watching the news night after night - wanting to see my nephew, to reach out to him through the screen. It was filled with video game images of a war being waged right before my eyes, against an entire nation of people…people like you and me….people who loved their children and just wanted the best for them. This was a war that, seen on the television screen, looked impersonal, far-away, giving a fireworks-like impression that could make the viewer forget that there were real people being killed and wounded every day. I was often in tears, sitting cross-legged in front of the screen after I had put my babies to bed, not wanting them to see my grief and absolute rage at what was happening.

I developed a deep political sensibility during the Vietnam era. I was a senior in high school when four students were shot and killed by the National Guard at Kent State University. These were kids shooting other kids because of ideological differences, because of fear, because of listening to orders instead of thinking critically for themselves. This was the time when I began watching the news – seeing horrific images of Vietnamese villagers being bombed with napalm, seeing friends return from Vietnam with deep psychological, if not physical, wounds. I still remember well the iconic image of the young Vietnamese girl after being hit by napalm - an agent used in flamethrowers, bombs and tanks that sticks to the skin and causes severe burning. I struggled to see how this was in any way an effective or humane way to solve conflict.

As a result of my developing awareness of the horrors of war, I campaigned tirelessly as a young high school and university student against the insanity of this, or any, war. I pushed back against the system that promoted war as a means to resolve problems, felt frustration, sadness, anger at the shocking acts of violence I was seeing around me. I knew that there had to be an alternative to this insanity, to the inhumane ways in which humans treated one another…and I was quite keen on seeking out that alternative.

No longer wanting my heart to be broken with pain and grief, I made the decision to dedicate my life to working towards peace. After a long and circuitous path I arrived at Project Ploughshares Calgary (PPC), a place where people who care deeply about peace can meet, share their concerns and interests and be heard. Where working together in constructive and life-affirming ways in such a group, we can create the peaceful and just world that we all want. I now hold the position of Program Director with Project Ploughshares Calgary where I can use the peacebuilding skills I’d been honing over the years.

Martin Luther King has been one of my inspirations and his work a motivating factor in studying and working in the field of peace and conflict transformation.  As he said, Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

Floating Lanterns at Olympic PlazaOur Impact What We Do

Project Ploughshares is uniquely positioned as the largest peace education organization in Canada.  We develop programs that specifically address issues of creating a more peaceful community – both locally and globally.  On an on-going basis, we provide the following programming and services to Calgarians:

  • We hold a monthly Peace Education presentation that brings in speakers with expertise on various issues pertaining to peace:  Women as Peacebuilders, Non-Killing Political Science, Spirituality and the Environment, Youth and Restorative Justice, Cooperative Games, The Internet and Cyberbullying, Peaceful Parenting in the 21st Century. 
  • We deliver an annual Spring Workshop, spending a weekend delving into a peace-related topic.  Some of the past workshops have been devoted to Arms Control, Trustbuilding, Environmental Issues and Peace, Nuclear Abolition, Conflict Transformation, and many other topics.  This year’s workshop will focus on youth engagement, and is entitled Peacing It Together:  Calgary Youth Speak Up, and will include Image Theatre, a panel of young people talking about how they engage within their own communities, a social justice hip-hop artist, and time for small group work to develop community initiatives that focus on building peaceful communities.
  • Project Ploughshares also produces a monthly newsletter, detailing our own work during the month, as well as providing details about other peace-related organizations and peace activities that are going on in Calgary.
  • We hold a Remembrance Day service annually at the Calgary Community Peace Pole.
  • For 3 years, we held the Calgary Peace Run & Walk Festival, with 5K and 10K runs and walks.  This event has been incredible in terms of raising community awareness around peace.
  • Our annual Holiday Peace Fair is always a crowd-pleasing event that attracts some 30 organizations that sell items that are ethically made, fairly traded, and help to support peace, social justice and environmental groups and initiatives.  
  • We conduct an annual Toy Audit of Calgary toy stores during the fall, in anticipation of the holiday shopping season.  We look for the numbers of peaceful toys versus violent toys, and rate the stores based on specific criteria.  Those stores with a rating of ‘Excellent’ receive a certificate that can be put up in their stores.  We send the results of our audit to all Calgary media during the month of November.
  • Project Ploughshares is a key partner in the annual Floating Lantern Festival, which is held to remember those impacted by the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The event takes place at the reflecting pool at Olympic Plaza.  Last year’s event saw some 500 people at Olympic Plaza;  we are trying to attract even more people for this coming year’s extended event, where we will have a mini peace festival taking place prior to setting our lanterns on the pool in the evening.

Vision: 

A secure world without war - a just world at peace.

Mandate:

Founded in 1976, Project Ploughshares is the peace centre of The Canadian Council of Churches, mandated to work with churches, governments, and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions that prevent war and armed violence and build peace. Project Ploughshares carries out its mandate by undertaking research, policy development, and public engagement to:

  • Prohibit the use, possession, and manufacture of nuclear weapons;
  • Prevent the weaponization of space;
  • Control the supply and reduce the demand for weapons
  • Reduce the resort to military force; and
  • Build sustainable peace.

A key task of Project Ploughshares is to encourage new ways of thinking about security in which the focus of security is the economic, political, and social welfare of people, rather than the military power of states. The research and analysis of Project Ploughshares is listened to and sought out by NGOs and government. The broad and engaged constituency of thousands of individuals, along with Canadian and international partnerships, contributes to a higher level of public debate and more comprehensive policy analysis.

We believe:

The most immediate threats to the security of vulnerable people derive from unmet economic and health needs, political exclusion, denied rights, social and political disintegration, and the criminal and political violence that accompany conditions of chronic insecurity. This means that security preparedness involved much more than military strength. A comprehensive approach to security required attention to and funding for the 5D’s of security: development, democracy, disarmament, diplomacy and defence.

  1. Development — end poverty and create economic conditions conducive to sustainable human security;
  2. Democracy — promote good governance, political inclusiveness, participation, and respect for human rights;
  3. Disarmament — prevent the transformation of political conflict into armed conflict by limiting weapons;
  4. Diplomacy — support the peaceful settlement of disputes and a rules-based international order;
  5. Defence — ensure that the use of force in extraordinary circumstance supports the full range of peace and security efforts (the other 4D’s).

Our Programs How We Do It

As a peace education group Project Ploughshares provides talks, workshops and written material to feed those who need feeding, ‘food’ (information and programming) that comes from very high levels of peacemaking and academia in Canada and the rest of the world.

In the 33 years of its existence, Project Ploughshares Calgary has been sought out by people who wish to actually do something about issues such as the existence of nuclear weapons, the proliferation of arms sales around the world, bullying in schools and particular conflicts happening in the world such as the Iraq invasions, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Syria. PPC has provided an outlet for action to Calgarians who are concerned. PPC also works with emerging as well as ongoing interests that involve peace-building within our community. We brought together 57 community, ethnic, faith and other groups to create the Calgary Community Peace Pole and Plaza. Further opportunities for engagement annually occur at our Peace Fair where some 30 environment, social justice and peace groups gather to sell their goods and at the Peace Remembrance Day service at the Peace Pole.

We have a number of upcoming programs that we expect will make an impact on the community in terms of learning more about peacebuilding.

1.  Youth Focus - We currently have a particular focus on youth, for as Gandhi said, “If we are to reach real peace in the worldwe shall have to begin with the children.”  We take this seriously and as a result have held many programs during the past couple of years that focus exclusively on youth.  These have included programs on Peaceful Parenting, Cooperative Games, The Internet and Cyberbullying, and Youth Restorative Justice.  We have also presented sessions entitled ‘What IS Peace Education?’ at the Calgary Teachers’ Convention, and at an Interfaith Conference and the Faculty of Social Work – the latter both at the University of Calgary.  We have also done sessions on Fair Trade and Stereotyping & Discrimination at the Diversity and Student for Change annual conference at Bob Edward Junior High. 

Peacing It Together: Calgary Youth Speak Up

Our annual Spring Workshop, to be held at the end of April 2015, is called Peacing It Together:  Calgary Youth Speak Up.  The focus will be on engaging youth in developing and initiating peace-related projects in their communities.  We hope to have 25 young people come and experience the power of Image Theatre, which will be facilitated by an expert in this field, with the afternoon featuring a youth panel talking about their own views of social justice and peace, what that means to them, and how they feel they can work effectively in their own communities.  The last session will be small group sessions, where creativity and imagination will be encouraged in developing plans to work for peace and justice in the Calgary community.

Peace Studies Course

Project Ploughshares, working with the Calgary Board of Education, is working on developing a course in Peace Studies for Grade Eleven Social Studies students.  Our initiative fills an important gap within the high school social studies curriculum in the area of peacebuilding, and will incorporate modules dealing with youth in war, radicalization of youth, human security, cultural diversity, and youth restorative justice. These are indicative of current critical issues that have a great deal of relevance for youth today. The goal is that students make a personal connection to what they are learning in the classroom and develop critical and creative thinking skills which enable them to become peacebuilding-oriented when faced with conflict.

As the largest peace education organization in Canada, Project Ploughshares is uniquely placed to create a Locally Developed Course (LDC) for Alberta high schools on competencies in violent conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and the principles of peacebuilding, and awareness of modern-day causes of radicalization and conflict. This course will support students in becoming engaged thinkers and ethical citizens, as outlined by Alberta Education. Additionally, it is directly aligned with Project Ploughshare’s mission and strategic plan in the promotion and development of peace education.

Our LDC will be first introduced as a CBe-Learn online course which is open to all CBE students.  This course has the potential to reach thousands of Alberta senior high school students. 

2.  Floating Lantern Festival: Remembering Hiroshima, Creating Peace

Held annually for the past 3 years at Olympic Plaza, this is a commemorative event, open to the public, in memory of those whose lives were lost or irreparably damaged by the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima August 6 and Nagasaki August 9 in 1945, and also of all human life lost or destroyed by warfare.  2015 marks the 70th anniversary of these bombings. Oral presentations and music will be followed by audience participation in the placement of floating lanterns on the surface of the water.  The event will begin about 5 PM with a mini-festival including food and water but no alcoholic beverages.  The festival will include activities for children (including yoga and a storytelling tent), music, drama and speakers. Last year’s event was attended by over 500 people; we would like to make that number even bigger this year in order to raise awareness and educate more people about the dangers of nuclear weapons. 

3.  Annual Toy Audit

October 2015 will be our third year of doing an audit of Calgary toy stores.  Volunteers visited 12 Calgary toy stores, examining the shelves for violent and non-violent toys and games, books and videos.  We looked for games and toys that encourage the use of weapons (historical and modern) for solving conflicts;  we looked for how the message was communicated on packaging; we checked the location of toys and games on shelves and in displays; and we  checked to see if video sections were following the Alberta ranking and age appropriate rules.  One of the main outcomes of this project is raising awareness of the prevalence of violent messages and violent solutions that are given to our children, and promoting that there are healthier and more sustainable alternatives.

Results of the audit are sent out to all Calgary media during November.   

4.  Annual Ploughshares Peace Fair

November 2015 will be the 31st annual fair for Project Ploughshares Calgary.  This fair sells goods from some 30 organizations who work in the fields of social justice, fair trade, and the environment.  It is always very well attended by Calgarians, and serves to bring awareness of issues of peace and justice to the greater community. 

5.  Remembrance Day Ceremony

Each year on Remembrance Day, Project Ploughshares holds a small ceremony at the Calgary Community Peace Pole to remember all lives lost in war.  This past year’s ceremony was called

Respecting Past Sacrifices, Looking to the Future, and focused on not only remembering the past, but the need to learn from it and create a peaceful world. 

The following programs need financial support - for amounts required, see details in our WHAT YOU CAN DO section:

  • Spring Workshop – Peacing It Together:  Calgary Youth Speak Up – April 25, 2015
  • Floating Lantern Festival:  Remembering Hiroshima, Creating Peace – August 6, 2015
  • Peace Studies Course Development – July 2015 – June 2016. 

People gathering at the holiday peace fair.Our Requests What You Can Do

You can volunteer with Project Ploughshares Calgary. Call the office for information at 403-270-7366. Add your voice! Express your concerns to your family, friends and neighbours. Contact us for educational resources on a peace issue of interest to you.

  • Support our educational programs in Calgary with a donation.
  • Engage your Member of Parliament in a dialogue about key peace issues.
  • If you belong to a faith group, service club, or community group, invite a Ploughshares speaker to  raise awareness of peace issues.
  • Send letters to the editor and opinion articles to the local newspaper that encourage public  discussion of peace issues.
  • Special birthday, wedding anniversary coming up?  Consider giving a donation to Project Ploughshares, and receive a beautiful card and ornament to send to the person you’re celebrating.

Current Funding Needs:

Spring Workshop – Peacing It Together:  Calgary Youth Speak Up – April 25, 2015

  • $500 - Facilitator Honoraria
  • $100 - Travel Expenses
  • $  60 - Supplies (participant packages)
  • $400 - Lunch for participants
  • $400 - Administration Support
  • $1,460 TOTAL EXPENSES                                                                                           

Floating Lantern Festival – August 6, 2015

  • $1,800 - Entertainment
  • $   500 - Keynote Speaker
  • $1,000 - Marketing & Promotion
  • $   275 - Insurance
  • $1,150 - City of Calgary Fees (License for use of Olympic & fee for electricity for food trucks)
  • $  400 - Materials for making lanterns
  • $   350 - Sound System Rental
  • $   250 - Office Supplies
  • $   800 - Administration Support
  • $6,525 TOTAL EXPENSES     

Peace Studies Course – July 2015 – June 2016

  • $  6,500 - Research
  • $12,000 - Curriculum Development & Writing
  • $10,000 - Evaluation
  • $  2,000 - Marketing & Promotion (Included: Feb. 2/2016 Alberta Teachers’ Convention)
  • $   1,500 - Printing 
  • $  8,000 - Administration Support
  • $40,000 TOTAL EXPENSES