Fifth Ottawa Peace Festival celebrates human survival and democracy

What started out as a small gathering of concerned citizens has become the 12-day Fifth Annual Ottawa Peace Festival, a celebration of peace and justice from September 21 to October 2.

This year’s program, put together by over 15 peace groups, includes: a peace walk; photo and art exhibits; a music concert; panel discussions; and a wind-up gala finale at the City Hall where the Friends for Peace will host their 9th Annual Awards.

This year’s awards will be presented by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson to the world walker, the Terry Fox of Peace, Jean Béliveau. Jean is completing the last part of his 70,000-kilometer walk that took him 11 years through 64 countries and over 50 pairs of shoes. Since January, he has walked from BC to Manitoba, and he is now traversing through Northern Ontario to Toronto. The Path of Peace Parade with Jean Béliveau will be led by former CTV anchor Max Keeping. Max will be Grand Marshall of the Path of Peace walk that arrives at City Hall at 12 noon on October 1.

The festival as always will be launched on September 21, the UN International Day of Peace, with prayers at Victoria Island with a “Paddle for Peace” ceremony remembering Algonquin Chief Grandfather William Commanda, who passed away on August 3. Over the past four years, the festival was inaugurated by Grandfather Commanda with prayers in reverence for Mother Earth, communal harmony, social justice and peace, and indigenous wisdom. Other festival highlights include on October 2, the unveiling of a full-size statue of India’s nonviolent leader Mahatma Gandhi at Carleton University.

As in previous years, the festival audience will find the events covering thought-provoking themes, such as ‘How can music, art and meditation help build a culture of peace?’; ‘How can our world religions promote nonviolence?’; ‘Dissent in Canadian democracy in Canada — How do peace groups deal with it?’; ‘The nonviolent Arab Awakening’; ‘What do the ways of nonviolent peace champions like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have in common to make our world safer?’; and ‘Why Departments of Peace in 21st Century?’, etc.

The book-ends of the Festival, September 21 and October, 2 are two important UN Days of International Peace and Nonviolence. “With a different kind of peace event every day throughout the 12-day festival period every citizen has an opportunity get out and participate, and to reflect on how peace, unity, and harmony can be achieved in today’s world.” The festival convenors, Drs. Bill Bhaneja and Peter Stockdale say, “We hope these fun and friendly events will give folks a chance to know what’s happening in Ottawa to build community peace and be convinced that there are alternatives to violence and war in Canada and abroad.”

Over the past four years, the peace organizers have mounted their extensive festival program without any funding from government sources, building it with their passion and conviction for peace and justice. Its expansion over the previous four festivals shows that there is a longing in the public for increased citizen participation in peace building at home and abroad.

The Festival fits well with the inclusive vision of the two coordinating civil society organizers: Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) and the City of Peace Ottawa. In their role as facilitators for the festival, the two groups aspire to involve communities and citizens to work towards building cities of peace, to enhance women and youth participation in peace-building, to promote inter-faith dialogue, and to explore ways of resolving conflicts through nonviolent means. For more on these organizations, visit their websites at Canadian Department of Peace Initiative and City of Peace Ottawa.

For further information, please contact: Peter Stockdale, cityofpeaceottawa@rogers.com, 613-852-4527, and Bill Bhaneja, billbhaneja@rogers.com, 613-244-1972, and for individual events, the respective coordinators identified in the festival program calendar available on the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative website.

All events are free and open to the public.

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