Leadership Conference Envisions Canada as a Welcoming Family
Written by Joy Pople, UPF International
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Ottawa, Canada - “Should Canada see itself as a welcoming family?” was the question asked by the annual UPF and Women’s Federation for World Peace conference in Ottawa, Canada Oct. 5, 2013. Two women from First Nations, the aboriginal inhabitants of North America, opened with traditional chanting the day’s discussions of educational, multi-ethnic, and Aboriginal concerns.
Dr. Kihoon Kim, Chair of UPF-North America, challenged the approximately 70 leaders in various fields of endeavor throughout Canada to honor the importance of family values. He noted that UPF Founders Father and Mother Moon traveled to Canada 18 times bringing the message that only true love can bring peace and heal the divisions in the divided human family.
“Women are searching for ways to contribute to the peaceful world that we all long for,” said Mrs. Lilly Tadin, Chair of the Women’s Federation for World Peace-Canada, and she described their work promoting human rights and women’s dignity. Mr. Franco Famularo, Secretary General of UPF-Canada, paid tribute to the original inhabitants of Canada, who welcomed the initial Europeans who arrived. “Issues that are problems in one community affect us all,” he said and went on to describe UPF’s peace education and leadership conferences in Canada and around the world.
Session 1 - A More Caring, Sharing Citizen: The Role of Education
“When a child has a problem, it means that adults have a problem,” said June Girvan, an educator with the organization Every Child Is Sacred. She read examples of commitments that adults can make to children so they feel themselves as “sacred beings, capable, loving, lovable, and strong.”
“Before peace among nations, we need peace among people,” stated Dr. Faisal Al-Rfouh, visiting professor at McGill University and previously a Minister of Culture, Administrative Development and Social Development of Jordan. Drawing on examples from both Canada and the Middle East, he encouraged education that emphasizes greater openness to others.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, President of UPF International, remarked that many of the same concerns in Canada are also faced in the US. Commending conference organizers for encouraging a holistic perspective, he traced the shifting balance between the realm of the state and the realm of the family in Western European culture, emphasizing the key importance of the family, school, and religion in cultivating loving people of good character, able to make a contribution to society.
Session 2 – Is Devotional Garb a Sign of Spiritual Commitment or a Political Statement?
A high-profile issue across Canada is Quebec’s effort to prevent people in public roles from wearing religious symbols or devotional garb.
Mr. Errol Gibbs, an author and motivational speaker born in Trinidad and living in Toronto, described multiculturalism as a social experiment that encourages people from different traditions to coexist. Canada established a social contract that implies separate but equal, but the direction is separate and unequal. Tolerance is lauded only because of the lack of love in the human family. “We need a new direction and a new social contract with the government and within and among different ethnic and social groups,” he concluded
Muslim author Ms. Zohra Zoberi reported that minorities still face prejudice, such as one Muslim woman’s experience that when she gave up wearing a hijab salesmen in stores were willing to assist her. A Jewish friend told her that anti-Semitism is still alive, and a black teacher faces discrimination in her profession. “Full acceptance may not be possible,” she concluded, “but respect and compassion would be helpful.”
“I care deeply for this government its values,” stated Hon. Don Meredith, a Canadian Senator from Ontario. “Canada is a welcoming family. I immigrated to this country [from Jamaica], and regardless of skin color it embraced me.” A Christian minister, he is active in Toronto’s Interfaith Alliance community service activities. He believes that what’s on the inside matters more than outside appearances and people should be evaluated on the basis on their ability to embrace differences.
Reb Arie was dressed in Jewish garb and charmed the audience by demonstrating various ways to wear them. The Rector of the Metivta of Ottawa encouraged the audience to oppose the trends promoting a politics of identity.
As in any frank family discussion, uncomfortable issues can arise. A First Nations woman noted that prejudice is not just an issue of religious garb, saying that her people live with the memory of 100 million of them killed by Christians. The rabbi commented, “I sense hurt in the questions being asked. We must not be silent when people deliberately identifying themselves as religious deliberately inflict harm on others.” The term multiculturalism evoked a range of emotions, with one person expressing the opinion that it was created by whites for their self-preservation and another person saying that seeing people in different religious garb may detract from the sense of the oneness of humanity.
The session ended with the appointment of new Ambassadors for Peace by Dr. Moonshik Kim, chair of UPF-Canada and a recent immigrant to Canada, and Dr. Peter Stockdale, a long-time Canadian who retains his native British accent.
Session 3 - The Cry of the Lost Aboriginal Sisters Across Canada
The session following lunch raised additional troubling issues. Ms. Jackie Brennan, an Algonquin and Strategic Policy Analyst with Violence Prevention & Safety of the Native Women’s Association of Canada discussed the 582 known cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. These cases come from every province and territory and half of them are under the age of 31. “Aboriginal women and girls are more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Aboriginal women,” she added, but noted the difficulties in getting authorities to pursue these cases.
Hon. David Kilgour, a former Secretary of State of Canada, called the First Nations people “early entrepreneurs in the global economy.” South Africans say that their apartheid system was set up based on Canada’s Reserve system, which isolated its First Nations people. He lamented the residential school system in which about 150,000 children were taken from their families.
The next speaker, Deacon Ron Boyer, is an Ojibwa and residential school survivor. “As an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church I am aware of the struggle of the native people to find their place in the larger society,” he said, noting with pride the first canonization of someone from the First Nations: Kateri Tekakwitha. Dedicated to the “Gospel message of healing and reconciliation,” he ministers to Native people living in urban areas, who often feel cut off from their culture.
Other First Nations people voiced concern about the trafficking of Native women in the sex trade and the impact of the residential school system preventing parents from passing their values on to their children. After giving examples of the extreme poverty in which some of her people live, one woman said: “We helped the settlers. Our people fought in the First World War and Second World Wars but when they came back they were sent back without compensation to the reserves.” In response to questions about information resources and ways to make a difference, speakers referred the audience to the online “Community Resources Guide” and described initiatives such as “Peace Healing Circles.”
“I’ve been to many conferences and seminars, and today I learned things I never heard elsewhere,” commented Dr. Kihoon Kim at the close of the session. “I hope that times when we gather like this can help communities make positive changes.”
Keynote address: Toward a Circle of Nations and a Culture of Peace
The conference closed with a keynote speech by Dr. Douglas Joseph Cardinal, an acclaimed architect who combines the values he gained from his German mother and Native father to create structures that show the contributions of Aboriginal people integrated into global civilization. Dr. Cardinal designed the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa/Gatineau and the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC USA. For notes of his presentation and the discussion following it, click here.
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