150+ Canadians Day 37: Ernie Regehr

Image Credit: The Simons Foundation

Ernie Regehr contributed to peace by studying war and peace since the 1960s, and, in 1976, founding, with Murray Thompson, Project Ploughshares, which is based in Waterloo, Ontario. Regehr served as its Executive Director for thirty years.

Project Ploughshares is an operating division of the Canadian Council of Churches that works with churches, government and civil society to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence. Regehr has been a Canadian NGO representative and expert advisor at numerous international disarmament forums including UN Conferences on Small Arms.

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Waterloo in 1968, Regehr worked in journalism and for a Member of Parliament, during which time he wrote his first book Making a Killing: Canada’s Arms Industry.

Regehr and his wife Nancy then served with the Mennonite Central Committee in South Africa, Zambia and Botswana from 1974-1976 before returning to Canada.

He has served as an NGO representative and expert advisor on a number of Government of Canada delegations to multilateral disarmament forums. He is a former Commissioner of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs

Errnie’s peace and disarmament work, both written and spoken as well as action, has been honoured with many awards: He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003, and in January 2011 he became the 26th laureate of the Pearson Peace Medal.   Regehr was also a recipient of the University of Waterloo 50th Anniversary Alumni Award and the Arthur Kroeger College Award for Ethics in Public Affairs in 2008.

On receiving a honourary Doctor of Laws degree from Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in 1990, Regehr said:

“One initiative that particularly pleases me is the work on international arms trade controls. When I began writing on the arms trade and trying to engage federal officials on the issue back in 1975, one kindly, senior gentleman in the Department of Foreign Affairs, suggested that I should stop bothering him and go and find something useful to do with my life. Canada has now signed the newly-minted Arms Trade Treaty – it took a long time and involved many people and organizations, and it was a privilege to be a part of it,”

Regehr is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College (Waterloo, Ontario) and The Simons Foundation (Vancouver, BC).   He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Africa Peace Forum in Kenya.

When asked to endorse the UN Secretary General’s call for a nuclear weapons convention, Ernie stated, “The world’s primary strategy for avoiding nuclear war has to date been to rely on luck.  These accomplished supporters (800 Order of Canada recipients) of nuclear abolition know that we desperately need a change in strategy.”

“Peace cannot be won on the battlefield.”

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