National conference showcases women taking action for peace

Topics of discussion this weekend range from sexualized violence in the military to the Halifax Explosion.

Tamara Lorincz, back in town and protesting outside the Irving Shipyard on Barrington Street on November 2. - THE COAST
Tamara Lorincz, back in town and protesting outside the Irving Shipyard on Barrington Street on November 2.

Tamara Lorincz feels Canada spends too much on the military—and she’s not alone.

Lorincz is a board member with the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) and was a prominent local activist when she lived in Halifax. She’s back in the city for the first time in three years to take part in VOW's annual conference, which kicks off this weekend at Saint Mary's University.

Founded in 1960, VOW is self-described as a non-partisan, non-governmental organization which advocates “for a world without war and for gender equality, nonviolence and more recently for sustainable development.”

“We are on the spectrum of feminism—anti-militarist, radical feminists—that don’t support the military and see the military as an institution that oppresses women,” says Lorincz.

“What we want to do with the conference is, first of all, welcome all of national VOW to Nova Scotia,” says Sarah Morgan, who is part of VOW’s Nova Scotia branch. “Another thing is to show how women are taking action for peace on many levels.”

Pre-conference events include a public talk by Lorincz as well as a screening of the documentary Partners for Peace. The conference itself will tackle topics such as sexualized violence in the military, which is something Lorincz says women are still vulnerable to given the lack of independent oversight.

“It’s not surprising that women in the military are subject to sexual harassment and sexual violence,” says Lorincz, referencing Marie Dechamps’ report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“What she found when she investigated…was that there was a culture that is hostile to women and to the gay and lesbian community in the military.”

A panel discussion on the subject is taking place on Friday at 7PM. Other workshops and presentations will include looking at the Halifax Explosion through a military lens, connecting the tragedy to acts of war.

“Next year is the 100th anniversary of the explosion, and it would be a good time for us to make those connections,” says Morgan. “Had these munitions for war not been needed, we wouldn’t have had the explosion.”

Morgan believes it’s a simple connection, but a strong one. Author Janet Maybee, who wrote a book on the persecution of Halifax harbour pilot Francis Mackey, will also be speaking.

Saturday’s events are happening throughout the day inside the Sobey Building at SMU, and will touch on women's contributions to peace-building, peace education, nuclear disarmament and grassroots activism.

“Our priorities our not straight in this country,” says Lorincz. “The Voice of Women wants a rejection of military spending and a reallocation of military spending to our urgent social and environmental needs.”

The conference takes place this weekend, November 5-6 and is free and open to the public. A full list of times and events can be found here.

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