Local MP introduces Department of Peace bill

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is calling for the creation of a federal department of peace.

Give peace a chance, at least, the Department of Peace, that is.

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is calling for the establishment of a federal department of peace that could advance the cause on a national and global scale, reducing the overlap in many federal departments.

Atamanenko introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons for first reading last week, based on an idea originally conceived by former MP Bill Siksay.

If it was created, the department would look at resolving disputes through non-violent conflict resolution, Atamanenko said.

“The whole idea is there has to be a different way of looking at conflicts in our country, but also in the world,” he said. “If we can look at it from the point of view of preventing a conflict or healing after something takes place, I think this is a tremendous idea.”

The department would not take anything away from the other existing departments, but would also establish a national peace academy, provide financing for community-based non-violent programs, provide policy regulations to the Justice minister on human rights, labour laws and civil liberties, and advise the Department of Defence.

Atamanenko said Canada’s government has not built a dialogue of peace nor worked on peaceful settlements in places such as Afghanistan.

The bill was introduced Thursday in first reading — after approval by the government’s legal department — and now is something that can be chosen by the Conservative government to pursue if they opt to.

However, because it is a Private Member’s Bill, Atamanenko can’t move it forward himself until he gets his chance — and under the “lottery system” in the House it could be a year or two.

“Right now, this is an idea, it’s a rallying point, it shows there’s hope, that there is actually something on paper to begin the process,” he said.

Elizabeth May of the Green Party and Liberal Jim Karygiannis are co-seconding the bill. Karygiannis said this is one issue where party politics should not get in the way.

“It is time for Canada to serve the global constituency by committing to the creation of a Department of Peace,” he said in a press release.

May stressed her party’s continued support of this initiative.

“Peace is more than the absence of war,” she said during the introduction of the bill last week. “Non-violent solutions, ‘waging peace,’ requires a focused investment and shift in consciousness. Even talking about a Department of Peace helps in that shift.”

Representatives for Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) at the press conference Thursday described the bill as exemplifying a global movement in 30 countries promoting infrastructures of non-violent peace within governments, with Peace Ministries and Departments in three countries, most recently Costa Rica.

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