May 25th 2002 Hart House, University Of Toronto
In addition to discussions about budget, committees, and other operational issues, this AGM included a pair of moving and informative presentations. The first was by the Canadian- Colombian Solidarity Campaign (CCSC: www.tao.ca/~ccsc), this year’s recipient of the Hanna Newcombe – Anatol Rapaport Award, and the second by John Valleau and Bruna Notta on the Campaign to Stop the Weaponization of Outer Space.
The CCSN representatives, Manuel Rozental, Sheila Gruner, Pablo Leal, and Agustín Reyes, spoke movingly about the problems in Colombia. Pablo had been the indigenous governor of the Putumayo region, and has been asked by the elders of his tribe to leave the region in order to try to mobilize solidarity abroad. Leaving the land is not an easy decision for him, as an indigenous person without land is not considered alive.
Several of the presenters were unable to return to Colombia for fear for their lives. They spoke of the 15 political killings per day, the 2.4 million displaced in total with almost 400 000 displaced during the past year — violence largely oriented around control of resources and aimed at the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and trade unionists. The region is rich in oil and minerals; over 80% of the oil companies bidding for contracts in the regions where indigenous and Afro-Colombian people are being displaced are from Canada, including Talisman Energy Inc., known for its dealings in Sudan. Trade unionists and journalists are also being targeted and assassinated, with the vast majority of the violence perpetrated by paramilitary organizations with links to the military and the government.
In the face of this, a “Minga” has been called by representatives of Colombian popular movements and organizations. This is the name given by people indigenous to the Andes to the ancestral practice of mustering the energies of entire communities to achieve common goals. The Minga takes precedence over other activities, and involves acts of solidarity, reciprocity, discipline, and dignity by individually conscious people committed to a common good. As Manuel told us, there is an aggression against unarmed social and popular movements — a deliberate, systematic, and generalized genocide — to remove people from their territories and deny them rights and freedoms in order for largely foreign corporations to make use of resources. He urged us, as Canadians, to bear witness to their struggles, support the legitimacy of their efforts along an unarmed path to peace with social justice, and support their right to representation in decision-making processes at all levels.
In the second presentation, John and Bruna presented the disturbing facts regarding the intentions of the US to put weapons in space. Since more can be found on this topic both in this Bulletin and the March 21, 2002 Bulletin, I won’t go into much detail. I will mention that the relevant documents show that the US Space Command believes that globalization will widen the current wealth imbalance: “The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.” This, in their view, necessitates weapons in space to enforce the disparity, and “protect US national interests and investment”.
These strategies make US State Department policymaker George Kennan’s infamous 1948 statement eerily prescient:
We have about 50 percent of the World’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction…We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
As Bruna aptly pointed out, while a Minga is the sacrifice of the immediate interests of individuals for the well-being of the community, US policy seems to be sacrificing the well-being of the world community for the immediate interests of a few.
In other news from the meeting, Phyllis was roundly applauded for her work as Treasurer after having taken on the post on such short notice; she has now passed on the torch to David Sandomierski. Phyllis also moved that we appoint Ken McFarlane as accountant and auditor to review SfP financial statements for the coming year.
Derek Paul was also warmly applauded for his work as Director of Publications; Hani Kim and Chris Trendall will take over from Derek.
The Nominating Committee now consists of Lisa Jeffrey, David Sandomierski, with Helmut Burkhardt as chair.
A need to increase both revenues and membership was generally recognized; membership dues were set at $60 for regular members, $20 for students.
Budget matters were discussed, and figures for the Blumenfeld Fund were presented which are included elsewhere in this Bulletin.
Derek Paul spoke of the new Education Working Group and the brief that was presented to DFAIT, which is discussed elsewhere in this Bulletin.
Charles Purdy suggested that we work closely with the Earth Charter process, and Bruna Notta suggested that we work toward the UN development meeting in South Africa in August.
The impending SfP office move was briefly discussed; see the note in this Bulletin. Finally, it was noted that Senator Doug Roche is to receive an honourary degree from York University.