Samantha Garvey, Contributor Ω
As has happened 37 years in a row, the faces around Stuart Wood Elementary had a little more paint on them one sunny May afternoon and the field was lined with many colourful signs. Because, as has happened 36 years in a row previously, the Kamloops Peace Walk was about to commence.
The sun was high and hot as local musicians were crooning and playing guitar to the crowd before the microphone was returned to George Feenstra, the event’s MC.
Music and speeches, poems and art were presented in preparation for the walk around the downtown core to promote peace, social justice and the environment.
Despite the cheerful, sunny demeanour on May 5, the artists and speakers who took the stage and streets had a serious message — well, not one message but many. They hoped to shed light on significant local, national and international issues. Everyone at this event had been inspired to stand up and speak out, and pass the torch on to others to do the same.
According to Anita Strong, member of the Council of Canadians, the co-sponsor of the event for the last 13 years, the goal of the day is more than awareness, but to call people to action.
“I think the people go away from an event like this and get inspired to do something, to join a group, to speak out,” said Strong.
“It makes me really happy that there is this kind of support,” she said. This year saw over 250 participants.
“More and more people are getting involved every year,” said John Hall, the president of the Kamloops & District Labour Council, the other co-sponsor that has been involved since the first event in 1975.
In his address to the crowd he touched on many injustices that Canadian workers have been subjected to.
“Many of our rights are being threatened. We’re here today because of a government that puts profit before people and profit before the protection of our environment.”
Hall organized peace walks in the lower mainland before he moved to Kamloops and has been involved in this one since he arrived here 15 years ago.
“It’s a matter of priorities and values, and we’d like to see the values that Canadians used to have,” said Strong.
The issues discussed also came from a local level. Much of the art and many of the presentations were regarding the proposed KGHM Ajax mine, an open-pit copper and gold mine located 50 percent within Kamloops’ south east city limits.
Charmian and Bill Ferguson were also in attendance. They (along with their children) organized the first walk 37 years ago, and have been active members of the Kamloops community for decades.
“There’s no quick fix to anything,” said Bill. “It’s a slow process and it takes a long time.”
One idea that was common to much of the day was that peace is something not to take for granted, but for each Canadian to actively fight for. “Peace cannot be passivity, it is a constant effort and takes great strength,” Athena Gradwell said to the crowd. She is a local activist who has spoken out against Ajax in the past.
Having described the battle of peace, the swelling crowd took to Battle Street to begin the march around the downtown core. Feenstra kept the participants (including babies, dogs, and costumed and face-painted adults) lively and loud. In return, they were met with honks and cheers from the cars and sidewalks. The cheers were both positive and negative, some calling out from a pro-mining stance, for example.
Upon their return, the crowd was treated with the sounds of local Kamloops band Caliente, who was crooning, “I am everyday people,” which was befitting a gathering promoting peace and equality.