On Human Rights Day, let’s meet a Canadian woman peacebuilder!

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. On December 10th, Human Rights Day, ICAN was officially awarded the prize at a ceremony in Oslo.   

Development and Peace’s partner PAX is a leading member of this coalition and is part of the international Catholic global peace movement Pax Christi. This movement is also active in Canada, and since our current campaign May Peace be With Her celebrates women peacebuilders, we wanted to share with you the inspiring work of Sr. Gisèle Turcot of the Sisters du Bon-Conseil (SBC), who is a founding member of Antennes de paix (Antennas of Peace), the Montreal branch of Pax Christi, and a committed activist against nuclear arms and militarization. Here she tells us what motivates her to be a peacebuilder. 

1. Why are you such a strong advocate against nuclear arms?

Our planet is a treasure, a fragile treasure that nuclear arms could potentially annihilate. Even if Canada does not have any nuclear weapons, we don’t have a choice but to participate in the global movement to completely abolish nuclear arms, mainly for two reasons:

  • As stewards of all of creation and co-responsible for our human family, we know that these weapons of mass destruction, which could be used at any time, threaten the security of our entire planet, as we learned when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945.
  • The human energy and financial resources used to maintain these weaponized systems and the development of ever increasingly sophisticated machinery could be going towards constructive efforts for human development, especially in the poorest countries.

One of our members, Sr. Mary Ellen Francoeur of the Sisters of Service, has been lobbying for nuclear disarmament for 30 years. During a public event, she said the following:

We humans, we are the expression of the most recent creation, but our impact is huge. With the development of science, humanity is able to control life and death, capable of destroying life. The universe, so vulnerable, is now in the hands of humankind. [With nuclear arms], the world continues to choose death over life. That choice was not the objective of God’s creation. Now is the time to make another choice.

2. What does Antennes de paix do ?

Our group, Antennes de paix à Montréal, has participated in the campaign to maintain the gun registry here in Canada and also supports the United Nations’ Programme of Action on small arms and its International Tracing System.

Our organization is a member of Pax Christi International, which is Catholic movement for peace. Founded in 1945, the movement committed itself fully to the cause of disarmament in the midst of the Cold War, as well as the abolition of nuclear arms by participating in coalitions such as ICAN, which has been honoured with the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. As a member of this large network, and by leaning on the available research, we occasionally participate in public opinion campaigns, such as GDam (Disarmament for Global Development) and advocacy actions at the UN, where Pax Christi International has observer status.

3. What is peace for you?

Wanting and being able to live in peace is one of the deepest aspirations of humankind. A peace that provides the conditions to interact through dialogue in my environment as a way to establish or re-establish harmonious relationships that respect the diversity of all. A peace founded on the recognition of the dignity of each person and all peoples, and that renders me open and compassionate towards the suffering of communities divided by violent conflicts and puts me in solidarity with their calls for help. Patrick Maloum, recipient of the 2017 Public Peace Prize, said that peace calls on the “power of love,” which is the only force truly capable of defeating the thirst for power that divides. Lastly, a peace that I recognize as the daily of work of mediators and artisans of peace.

4. What can Canada do to contribute to world peace?

Each time that questions of peace touch on disarmament, peace activists call on the Canadian government to exercise its leadership to ensure progress in peace talks and negotiations. This is possible, as we saw with the campaign to ban landmines. The activist Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, recounted how Canada took the initiative to bring together multiple countries and lead a process that within only five years resulted in the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. This victory was also thanks to an international campaign that was made possible in part by the accelerated communication of the internet in the 1990s.

Today, in 2017, the movement Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (www.nuclearweaponsconvention.ca ) is asking Canada to become more actively in favour of complete nuclear disarmament by working on the implementation of the Un Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted by 127 members countries of the United Nations (but not Canada), on July 7, 2017.  


To learn more about Antennes de Paix, visit https://www.antennesdepaix.org or contact antennesdepaix@gmail.com                    

Antennes de paix is a partner of the Public Peace Prize, an online initiative to recognize and make known peacebuilders as nominated by the general public. Visit https://prixpublicpaix.org