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President's Corner

Peace At Expo ’86

THE QUEST for peace takes on various shapes and symbols. I even found peace alive and well in some aspects of Vancouver’s EXPO. Former Premier Bill Bennett claimed EXPO had been intended to send out a message of peace and better understanding among nations. Was he right?

My first superficial impression of EXPO gave me a different message. Sleazy commercialism seemed to have run riot in a setting that nature had intended for the enjoyment of beauty.

A more carefully planned second visit brought me to the UN pavilion — the most impressive audio-visual presentation of what the UN does that I have seen anywhere. The message was clear: all life on Earth exists in symbiotic relationship which must not be upset if we are to survive the nuclear age. The GM and CPR exhibits responded imaginatively with rather similar themes. The GM pavilion dwelt on the concept of communication with the spiritual world held by the Haida. The CPR pavilion poked fun at the supposed benefits of machines and commercialism which are apt to dwarf real men and women and offered a rather unsophisticated attack on Star Wars and a slick Hollywood feature on the confrontation of the “empires” in the heavens.

The Haida and Tlingit peoples and their legends dominate the northern Pacific coast, right up to Alaska. A totem I saw at Juneau has a nice “peacemongering” story attached to it:

A man built a fish trap and caught many salmon. Black bears discovered it and began taking the fish. Catching the bears in the act, he man shouted such awful insults they were offended. The bears captured the man, but he escaped in a canoe. Having lost their chief, the black bears gathered to make war on humans. Warned of their attack, the people built ten stockades, one within the other. In the fighting, the bears threw down all but t.a. the innermost stockade.

Since so many died, they lost the war. Then the people had more bear meat than they could eat.

It seems to me a pity that no equivalent totem exists to represent the madder world of nuclear brinkmanship between Canada’s superpower neighbours — the “bears” and the “eagles” — and their confrontation with nuclear overkill of layered defences and escalating offensive triads, a brinkmanship which risks pushing us all over the brink.

– George Ignatieff

While he was in British Columbia George Ignatieff spoke at Castlegar and at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby. July found him in Quebec; his topic there: Strategy for Survival. He is off now to the Pugwash meetings in Budapest. From there he goes to Moscow as guest of the Academy of Sciences. End of the month finds him back in Canada for Consultative Group meetings in Ottawa and conferences across the country.

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