Alex Atamanenko says a federal peace department could help Canada regain a reputation as a worldwide peace broker.

Alex Atamanenko says a federal peace department could help Canada regain a reputation as a worldwide peace broker.

Give peace department a chance, MP says

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is calling for the establishment of a federal department of peace as well as a civilian peace service.

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is calling for the establishment of a federal department of peace as well as a civilian peace service.

He tabled two motions in the House of Commons last week and plans to introduce a private member’s bill this fall originally conceived by former MP Bill Siksay.

“As we strive to regain our stature in the world as a broker for peace, it is important for our government to have a mandate to advocate for the non-violent resolution of conflict at home and abroad,” Atamanenko says.

He says Canada’s government has “paid lip service” to building dialogue and working on peaceful settlements in places such as Afghanistan and a formal peace department might better tackle that role.

At the same time, he says a civilian peace service could promote resolution and reconciliation in conflict-torn areas, although he emphasizes they would have a very different job than traditional peacekeepers, who are part of the military.

“These people would be on the ground once it was safe and there was willingness on all parties to undertake in some kind of process,” Atamanenko says. “Maybe this is a group like the Peace Corps, but open to people of all ages.”

The MP recently read Romeo Dallaire’s “gut-wrenching” book on child soldiers, and suggests that may be an area where such an organization could help.

“How do you get former child soldiers back as productive members of society and deal with the post-traumatic stress and atrocities they’ve been through?” Atamanenko asks.

“Maybe if we had a dedicated group of people. We do have NGOs doing that kind of thing, but if we had something sponsored by and under the umbrella of our federal government, that could be neat.”

Atamanenko says he introduced his motions now to get people thinking about the concept over the summer and to muster support when the bill is introduced in the fall.

“Realistically, probably this won’t get debated, but it’s an idea we have to keep moving forward as we try to resolve conflicts, especially in other parts of the world.”

Atamanenko says he plans to work closely with the Canadian Development of Peace Initiative and other peace advocates.

Doukhobor leader J.J. Verigin applauded the idea.

“The establishment of a department of peace would have the support of a great many Canadians,” he said in a news release, “and could serve as an inspiration and even challenge to people and governments around the world to demonstrate their determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”