On a rainy evening this past spring a couple of dozen people gathered at Ottawa’s Bronson Centre to discuss the idea of setting up a local PeaceQuest chapter. Many of the people in the converted classroom have been questing for peace for decades.
Their lifelong commitments ranged from the promotion of a Department of Peace to a nuclear weapons ban, from Project Ploughshares to the global struggle for social justice. Their commitment reflected the PeaceQuest description of peace.
“Peace is an active way of living, resolving conflicts cooperatively, respecting the wellbeing of the earth and all peoples.”
One of the very first ideas suggested at this meeting was to re-dedicate the Peace Tower to underline the importance of peace – peacemaking, reconciliation, peacekeeping, a culture of peace – as a basic Canadian value.
The Tower got its name in the aftermath of World War I, with its carillon inaugurated on July 1, 1927 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Confederation. Since then, the tall flagpole above the gothic gargoyles and copper roof has become one of the most widely-recognized symbols of our country.
Until the 1970s the Peace Tower stood as the highest accessible spot in the nation’s capital. It still retains a hugely symbolic and physical presence – a true Canadian icon named, appropriately, for this fundamental Canadian value.
The Memorial Chamber at the Tower’s base was originally dedicated to the memory of the 60,000 Canadians killed in the tragic 1914-1918 war that had so traumatized the country. So it’s no surprise that the Chamber’s windows include The Dawn of Peace, symbolized by peace, prosperity, progress and plenty. At the base of one window visitors read the words from Psalm 46:9 “He maketh wars to cease.”
(The entire verse reads that the Lord makes “… wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire”)
Until this year, the Peace Tower was the central image on Canada’s $20 bill. Though recently replaced by a war memorial, the Tower remains on the polymer-based banknote’s new window.
The government’s most recent throne speech has indicated that the government intends to re-dedicate the national war memorial while underlining martial values.
Isn’t it appropriate for those of us who hold peace as a central Canadian value to take up the cause of re-dedicating the Peace Tower?