Peace talks celebrate solstice at Shatford Centre

Peace on earth is one of the holiday tenants, and it is the subject of Solstice Peace Talks at the Shatford Centre Dec. 21.

Peace talks celebrate solstice at Shatford Centre

The holidays are a time of peace and togetherness, with winter solstice rituals throughout many cultures interconnecting us all.

It was from the Penhenge winter solstice gatherings that the idea for Solstice Peace Talks at the Shatford Centre came to be.

Randy Janzen, instructor in the peace and justice studies program at Selkirk College, is taking on the topic of Canadian foreign policy and the lack of criticism.

“(My talk) is basically going to look at all the evidence and make the argument that, for some reason, Canadians are, as a whole, completely uncritical of our government’s foreign policy,” Janzen said. “We are reaching a critical juncture because of climate change and the potential for our weaponry to mass destroy human populations.”

He hopes the exploration of non-violent peacekeeping alternatives are going to play a bigger role in foreign policy.

He added that research and evidence point to practical solutions like unarmed civilian peacekeeping.

“There is a complete absence, if you look in the mainstream media, on Canada’s foreign policy. We can criticize almost everything, but for some reason the military and those sacred institutions, critical analysis of those and of our defence policies really is absent in our discussions,” Janzen said.

Janzen pointed to one of Canada’s recent military deployments in Libya in 2011 along with NATO allies.

“We went there under the guise of protecting civilians and saving lives, which are notable and good reasons to go somewhere to help another country. However, even though our Canadian government deemed it was a success, that was kind of the official line, anyone who has any analysis of Libya now will say the mission was a complete failure,” Janzen said.

Ridding the country of one bad guy with guns has only led to the replacement by other bad guys with guns, Janzen summarized.

“The country is a failed state now and on the brink of civil war. It seems like what we do as Canadians is we either do nothing, or we go in with the military. I think the Canadian public realizes often those two choices are limited and not very useful, but no one seems to be putting forth a pragmatic third alternative,” Janzen said.

Janzen said Canada needs to reclaim its international identity as a peacekeeping nation, while updating what exactly it means to be peacekeepers.

“(Peacekeeping) is a military operation. We need to demilitarize it for the sake of breaking the cycle of violence,” Janzen said.

The interdisciplinary, social science program at Selkirk College is one of many around the world which are increasing in popularity Janzen said.

“The basic premise of peace and justice studies is that as human beings conflict will always be with us. It would be impossible to try and find a utopia without conflict, but the premise is to study and research ways to deal with conflict that are non-violent, that reduce harm, that will nurture relationships, restore relationships” Janzen said.

Speakers come to the Shatford Centre Dec. 21, with a suggested donation of $10 per person and $20 per family.