Victoria councillors want the federal government to create a department of peace.
Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Chris Coleman put forward the motion at the city’s governance and priorities committee today.
“Obviously, the city doesn’t have the authority to enact statutes in this way, but we’re saying it’s important and we need to do something about this as a community,” Alto told the News.
The symbolic motion was drafted at the request of Saul Arbess and Penny Joy, co-chairs of the Victoria branch of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative, who have been working since 2003 to convince the federal government to establish the department.
Arbess said the motion is the first of its kind in Canada, and his organization plans to lobby other municipalities to build support for a federal bill in the coming months.
“Cities are where people live, and it’s also the most responsible level of government to its citizenry,” he said.
Arbess and his colleagues have already successfully lobbied the House of Commons to pass the first reading of a bill that would create a department of peace.
A similar bill was shot down in 2009, but Arbess is confident local support will help build momentum in the run-up to the bill’s second reading this fall.
“We’re asking for two per cent of the department of defence budget,” he said, admitting his cause still faces many hurdles before becoming a reality.
Alto said the motion comes in the wake of Mayor Dean Fortin’s decision last year to join Mayors for Peace, an international initiative that promotes the abolishment of nuclear weapons, among other issues.
“Things like this are so important from a principle perspective, values perspective, that you can’t give up,” she said.
The motion will now require approval at Thursday’s regular council meeting.