Peace Days: a celebration for all

Local event promotes human rights and social activism

Photo: Beibei Lu

Sunday, Sept. 15 marks the beginning of Peace Days, a weeklong celebration to inspire human rights engagement and social justice in Manitoba. Speaking events, film screenings, and musical performances are scheduled throughout the week. The event will culminate in the Concert for Peace on Saturday, Sept. 21, to coincide with the International Day of Peace.

“Peace Days exists for all persons who believe in the culture of peace and compassion, and who reject stereotypes, discrimination, exclusion, prejudice or clichés,” states the website.

The first Peace Days celebration in 2010 took place on a single day – the Concert for Peace. This year is the first in which the event is being expanded to take place for an entire week.

Sierra Noble, an acclaimed singer-songwriter hailing from Winnipeg, is a featured artist at the concert, along with Gentil Mis, Flo, Free Ride, and others. Noble has performed at numerous Peace Day concerts. She expressed her strong connection to humanitarian issues to the Manitoban.

“The common thread in everything that I’ve always done is children [ . . . ] children are the future and we need to make sure that the kids are okay so that we have a good world to live in down the road,” she said.

An artist who is inspired by the humanitarian work of others, Noble spoke of the incredible opportunity artists have to send a message to their audience.

“There’s not very many instances where human beings have a stage with 50 to 100 to thousands of people standing in front of you waiting to hear what you say. It’s a very rare occurrence. As a musician, you have these opportunities, so take them, and do good with them, because those are moments that you can change people’s lives and you can change the world.”

Some activities will be of a serious nature, such as the Policing for Peace talk by Constable Pat Chabidon of the Winnipeg Police Service. Chabidon will discuss the way in which the police consider individuals’ rights and freedoms while cultivating a safe environment. The event is free and will be held at the Millennium Library.

Other events take a celebratory tone, such as the Autumn Equinox Peace Meditation. This event will include music, singing, dancing, and poetry and takes place at St. George’s Anglican Church. Admission costs range by age from free entry to $20.

Community members and local organizations are encouraged to create their own peace celebrations and events. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a sponsor for Peace Days, will be holding a lecture series titled Fragile Freedoms: the Global Struggle for Human Rights, with the first sold-out lecture occurring on the 16th.

Judy Slivinski, volunteer member of the organizing committee of Peace Days, spoke proudly of community organizations and service workers in Winnipeg who are already promoting social justice and non-violence in the city.

“It needs to start in your own backyard,” she noted. “Sometimes that’s really where it’s most needed.”

Slivinksi noted that many issues and inequalities still exist in Winnipeg. She referred to the need to focus more on Aboriginal and First Nations populations, large numbers of immigrants in Canada requiring supports and benefits, as well as inequalities among women and children.

“It pervades every social group; it pervades every cultural background, every socioeconomic group in our society [ . . . ] there are issues that are ongoing that we need to pay attention to.”

The organizers of the event hope that from participating, Winnipeggers will be able to increase their sensitivity to the importance of encouraging peace every day. Although Peace Days only lasts for a week, organizers are hoping to hold activities throughout the year in a fashion similar to the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Noble spoke of the importance of making an effort to improve the lives of others, especially while in university.

“As university students you are going into an education for your future, and I think that it’s more important than ever in our world today, that whatever we choose to do, whatever direction we go in life, that we keep the world as a whole in mind with everything that we do, because with all of our gifts, we have the opportunity to change the world. Or not. It’s a simple choice,” she said.

Tickets for the Concert for Peace are available on Ticketmaster. Call the Peace Days hotline at 204-396-INFO(4636) for more information.