Sept. 22, 2022

Glenn Michalchuk: The absence of war is NOT the definition of Peace!

Glenn Michalchuk: The absence of war is NOT the definition of Peace!

The Chair of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg, Glenn Michalchuk is convinced that the War in Ukraine could have been averted but was not. In this episode Glenn explains his strong belief that this war in not based on anything of substance but more on political fanaticism. And that Canada has played a roll, wrongly in his view, of advancing that political fanaticism.

Active in the peace and anti-war movement since 1980, Glenn has used his involvement with the union movement as a natural connection to his activity involving social justice. Glenn articulates his disappointment that the mainstream media is more interested in providing sound bites rather than factual, in-depth, research about how the peace process gets derailed in favour of violence and war. Thoughtful, educational and very unconventional, Glenn Michalchuk is worth a listen.

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The Chair of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg, Glenn Michalchuk is convinced that the War in Ukraine could have been averted but was not. In this episode Glenn explains his strong belief that this war in not based on anything of substance but more on political fanaticism. And that Canada has played a roll, wrongly in his view, of advancing that political fanaticism.

Active in the peace and anti-war movement since 1980, Glenn has used his involvement with the union movement as a natural connection to his activity involving social justice. Glenn articulates his disappointment that the mainstream media is more interested in providing sound bites rather than factual, in-depth, research about how the peace process gets derailed in favour of violence and war. Thoughtful, educational and very unconventional, Glenn Michalchuk is worth a listen.

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This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.

This is Humans on Rights, a podcast advocating for the education of human rights. Here's your host, Stuart Murray.

Wednesday, September 21, is International Peace Day. That is a day that the United Nations has declared, a day that we all need to think about the importance of peace. Their theme for 2022 for International Peace Day is end racism, build peace. My guest today is Glenn Michael Chuck, who is the chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, and also the Treasurer of the Canadian Peace Alliance. Glenn. Welcome to humans on rights.

Thank you very much.

Glenn, I'd like to ask you, what do you think of the 2022 International Peace Day theme of End Racism, Build peace?

Well, racism has been a very big part of the development of the world through the 19th and 20th centuries. And when I think of racism, I think of the legacies of colonialism. And certainly much of the problems we see in the world today are reminiscent of colonialism and the legacies of colonialism. So on the question of ending racism as a factor for establishing a broad and inclusive world, I think that's very important because I think one of the big problems that we're facing now is that the world is not broad, it's not inclusive. And there's a tendency to see peoples of other countries as enemies for whatever reason. And sometimes that is part of the legacy of colonialism, and sometimes that is part of the built in politics of various countries and of various parties in terms of their platforms and how they see and how they see the world. And one of the things that comes to mind on that, I think it's a concrete example, is we saw at the beginning of the and during the very first part of the COVID Pandemic, a rise in crimes against Asian communities. Crimes that were the Asian communities often said were motivated by this tendency to blame China and Asia as the source of the COVID empathetic. So I think these kind of problems and issues are very real. They're part of the battle of fighting for a peaceful world without war. I know certainly in the Peace Alliance Winnipeg, we've often addressed in our walk for peace all these questions of racism, of inclusivity. And I do recall one of the peace walks in my opening remarks as chair of the Peace Alliance, that our view as the Peace Alliance Winnipeg is that it would be hard for Canada to be a progressive force for peace in the world so long as our own First Nations people faced oppression at home. So I think there is definite links in various ways as part of the whole problem of finding a world that is devoid of xenophobia and is inclusive.

Yeah, okay, Glenn, thank you so much for that. I appreciate that. It's an interesting way to sort of start off today's topic, but let's get to know you a little bit. Again, just a reminder, my guest is the chair of the Peace Alliance, Winnipeg, Glenn Michalhuk. Glenn. You are a Manitoban?

Yes, it was my grandparents who came to Manitoba who had emigrated from Ukraine before Ukraine existed as a country. So they came in the early part of the 20th century.

And you went to school here, I think you went to Garden City Collegiate.

Yes. Born and raised in West Codon. Yeah.

Okay. And then, Glenn, let's take us through because I see that you went on to get your Bachelor of Environmental Studies in the Faculty of Architecture. That was at the University of Manitoba, correct?

Yes, I did the early seventy s. I was at the University of Manitoba.

Okay. So how do you transition from a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba to starting a career for CP Rail, starting out as a machinist apprentice at the Western Shop. So how did that transition occur?

Well, I think part of it had to do with the fact that at that time I was still in my early twenty s. And often in your early 20s, you're kind of unsure of what direction your life might go. So after completing Environmental Studies and taking a few years of architecture, I decided to take a break and see if this was the thing I wanted to do. And it was just in that period that I heard that CP was hiring, and I decided to go down there because I didn't need work, I wasn't working in my related field, so and one thing led to another and I stayed there as a machine. It was in the university that I first began to become aware of the issues related to peace and war and social justice. And then in terms of starting work at the railway, of course, you get introduced into the union movement and those struggles. And I guess it's some kind of natural connection that being at work in that environment, I found very invigorating in terms of developing a social conscience based on the trade union movement.

And so, Glenn, just to that point, you spent, I think, your entire career at CP Rail. I think you retired there in 2017, if I'm not mistaken.

That's right. Yes, I spent 40 years there.


Part of that becomes very easy when you get active in I mean, it was besides it being my job, my means of employment, I mean, I was active in the union. So that too sort of fills out that part of your life. So it makes it very natural that you continue on and just keep working at the various things you're doing besides just your job.

And Glenn, would you say that you were pro labor or active even in your university days, or is that something that you would have come into when you started your tenure at Western shops for CPR?

It was at my university. My father was a printer. So no, being pro labor was something in my family. And of course, when I was at university, it was just part of my exposure at university was to social justice issues, pro labor issues. There was an anti war movement. It was while I was at university, of course, that the coup in Chile took place and Yende was deposed and a military government was put in under a gendi.

Yeah, that's a nice, interesting sort of background piece, because I think that when you look at the fact that you were in the Faculty of Architecture and you know to go into an area where, you know, there's a union environment, but as you say, the struggles and the social movement that comes with that, it's always a learning piece. You've been a very strong supporter. You've been a Winnipeg Labor Council delegate for more than 20 years at your time. And let's talk about Glenn. How your background in the labor movement? How has that made you become an advocate for peace? And specifically, how did you get involved in the peace alliance here in Winnipeg?

So the first part of that is the question of the labor movement. And the labor movement has always had strong antiwar sentiments. Unions have often taken positions against wars. I remember during the Iraq War in 2003, unions taking positions against that. So the labor movement has always been a source of that kind of progressive view and antiwar view support for various struggles of peoples in national liberation struggles, anticolonial struggles. That's been a big part of at least the Canadian union movement. I first began to get involved in very concrete actions. In anti war actions late 1979 or 1980 with of course. There was the advent of cruise missile testing in Canada. And that was one of the first mobilizations I remember being part of was the mobilization to stop cruise missile testing in Canada. Which was done by a variety of organizations. Some of them faith groups. Some of them unions. But then shortly after that began the big movement against nuclear weapons. And if you most Winnipeggers will remember, the large walks for peace that were held throughout the early 1980s against nuclear weapons and the danger of nuclear war. And it was always through that that I began to be active in the peace movement in an organized way. Peace Alliance Winnipeg has been around in one form or another since the early 1980s, but was really during the 2003 Iraq War that the Peace Alliance Winnipeg sort of emerged as a standalone organization dealing with the issues of anti war issues and peace issues in Winnipeg. And it was around that time that I became active with the Peace Alliance Winnipeg locally.

So you're also the treasurer of the canadian Peace Alliance. So the Peace Alliance, Winnipeg is just a part, it's a chapter. Maybe that's not the right word, but it's a part of something bigger.

It is. I mean, there's a large peace movement in Canada in the sense of organizations in many cities across the country. You can almost go even to the smallest of places in Canada and find peace groups or peace organizations. The Canadian Peace Alliance is a large organization. It has been somewhat on the sidelines due to some organizational issues in terms of sorting out its work. But the Canadian Peace Alliance was also very active against the war, the Iraq wars. And Canadian Peace Alliance acts more as an umbrella organization for unions, for other peace organizations, for faith groups. But as I said, the Canadian Peace Alliance is now in the process of re establishing itself as a national organization. And yes, I am treasurer of that. So the Canadian Peace movement has always been very active. We here in Winnipeg are in very close contact with the Regina Peace Council. And of course, through the Canadian Peace Network, we're plugged into, I would say must be 40 or 50 organizations across the country, in cities and in towns who are dealing with the issues of what Canada is doing in the world, the danger of war and so on.

Glenn, we're going to get into that because I want to make reference to a speech that you made to your annual general meeting earlier this year, to the group being the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg. But let's go back a little bit just to sort of look. You think about world War I, World War II? These are devastating parts of history. The human impact is deplorable people that are listening. My father was a Midupper gunner and a Lancaster in World War II. Didn't really want to talk about what took place there. I totally understand that. But from your perspective, when you look at the notion and what peace is about, is there anything from your perspective that is positive that could come out once a war, once as there's been a signature to both sides to call for a peace agreement? I mean, that in itself is historic. I get it. But is there anything from your perspective that you say that has maybe come out? And I'm just thinking aloud for a second. I think the League of nations, if my memory serves right, came out of the conclusion of World War One, how people might sort of say the League of nations didn't live up to what it was supposed to. But I'm just trying to look at, from your perspective, is there something you can sort of say, as horrific as it was, this came out of it which was positive?

Well, let's look at the Second World War. So in the Second World War, there was this broad united front of nations and peoples to defeat fascism in Europe and militarism in Asia, and there was tremendous sacrifice by peoples of all the countries in that struggle. And I do think that coming out of the horrors of the Second World War, there was an opportunity to put that forever behind us. And I think that opportunity was squandered because it was not long after the end of the Second World War that of course, we had the Korean War begin and the Korean War began out of the Cold War. And in fact, as the Second World War was ending, the Cold War that brought forward equally horrific things was beginning. I mean, many put the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an example of US. Militarism saying to the world, we have these horrible weapons that can devastate cities and populations unlike anything people have seen before, and we can use that. I know that's been a theme that we've talked about often in our lantern ceremony that we host, is that that was the beginning of squandering the great achievements of the Second World War and the great possibility that there could be development amongst nations and peoples without threats of violence and so on. And I think if we were to leap forward, we saw that same opportunity at the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Soviet Union, and that opportunity was, again, Squandered. And if you want to talk about that at a little more length so, yes, there have been opportunities.

Yeah, so let's talk about that. And I do want to talk about the military definition of peace, but we'll get to that. Let's talk about what you just said. Glenn. When you say it was Squandered. If you want to go back to your example in World War II or go back to whichever example you would like to the end of the Cold War. But just put in perspective what happened and why you think it was Squandered and what you feel could have been done to promote a broader sense of what we could do around the issue of peace.

Okay, so, yeah, it happened in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War and the lead up to the Korean War. There was a real opportunity that in Europe you would have had a demilitarized Europe in which none of the powers there would have had substantial weapons or substantial military means capable of threatening other parts of Europe that was largely lost in the formation of NATO. There are historic documents that show and because of my role in the peace alliance and doing work on the question of NATO and other aspects of that after the Second World War, it was very clear that there was an opportunity for demilitarization of Europe, and that was lost. And it was the formation of NATO which really began that shift in Europe and in the post war period towards a new militarization and a Cold War.

So, Glenn, let me just stop you for 1 second because I just think that just to get clarification from your perspective. So when you look at the horrors that came out of World War II and what the Nazi Germany was doing under Hitler and the direction they were going, and of course Europe, britain got the Canada was in, the Americans came in. So we all know the outcome of that. And here's where I want you to comment, because I think at that time the thinking was that to ensure that we don't have another Hitler come forward, let's ensure that we have sort of unity and strength amongst the European countries. And hence, why don't we start an organization called NATO? Now, that's I think, what was behind that, you're suggesting that that was wrong.

That was wrong because from what I've seen and what I've read, there was no demonstrated need for such an arrangement because of course, the two main powers that have kind of inherited the post war sphere were the Soviet Union and the United States. Britain, to a lesser extent, was already a power on the wane. But the Soviet Union was actually making approaches to find ways to have a settlement in Europe, postwar settlement that was without the militarization. And it's not a fact that NATO really talks about a lot, but at the formation of NATO, the Soviet Union actually made gestures saying that it would welcome a chance to work and be inside NATO if the question was a strategic way to ensure that Europe would never again become such a battleground. And interestingly, that again happened after the end of the Cold War when you had these various arrangements on Europe and on its security arrangements that now Russia the remnants of the Soviet Union, we are making approaches again to say, let's have an understanding about what Europe will look like in terms of the security of all nations of Europe.

So, Glenn, the reason I'm struggling with that is I haven't done that sort of research, so I appreciate you sharing it, but pardon me, looks at this and says it comes down to a matter of trust. So some countries say at that time, as it was known, the Soviet Union looks and makes an olive branch or puts out sort of an opportunity to say, look, let's demilitarize ourselves and let's make sure that we're not going to repeat incidents that have happened for the benefit of humanity. But somebody would look at that and say, well, can we trust them? I don't know. And I would love to get your sense I don't mean to oversimplify this, Glenn, because it is not simple in any way, shape or form, but is there not an element of trust that figures into how do you go through a complete, nationwide or global wide demilitarization?

Certainly there is. There is definitely an absolute question of trust. And there's ways through some of the strategic arms treaties that have been signed, there's ways to ensure that and enforce that. And, of course, there's the United Nations and the various bodies that the United Nations and protocols that the United Nations has set up on questions of, say, chemical weapons. Biological weapons. The importance to ensure inspections. So there Is no one is Asking or would think that you just simply accept anybody at face Value, any country at face value, saying, well, this is what We Will Propose To Do and Then everyone's just supposed to do It. No, of course there's means to do this and they can be Verified. But that has not been what's been Done. And so in many Respects, the question that you Raise is very important because we're now stumbling into a whole new period where that very question is at Stake Here. And sometimes It's just the Question of how these things are Presented by various Forces who whether they're political Forces that don't want the mechanisms of trust to Work, but instead want something else to Work, which is to ramp up Attentions. So that leads us to this Whole I mean, the new Cold War. I wasn't young enough to remember the height of the old Cold War with McCarthyism and things like that, but it's all emerging Again, and it's not Based on anything of Substance. It's based on a kind of Fanaticism, political Fanaticism, which is very Dangerous. I'm not necessarily talking about extreme right wing political fanaticism, but just the fanaticism that we've seen played out in our parliament. You must remember in the spring when there was a list released of people who were not being sanctioned by the Russian government. Amongst Them, I Was told this Is A fact, that amongst MPs there Was a lot of finger pointing as to those MPs Who weren't on the List. Well, why aren't you on the sanctions list when I am? So that's what I mean by this atmosphere that has not got anything to do with logic and reason, but is just this kind of fanaticism. It's very scary.

An interesting perspective, Glenn, and I appreciate you sharing it. Glenn, how do you feel when military history would say that the word peace means in their term, that the absence of war. That's their definition of peace.

That's a pretty awful definition of peace. Peace should be the advancement of Humankind and the ability of people and civilized and various civilizations, whether they're in this Part of the World or that part of the World, able to live together, respecting people's rights, to choose the Forms of the Governments that they Wish To live under and Respect. So the absence of War is not, in my Mind, a definition of Peace. The definition of Peace or a way we can define and look at Peace is how far We've Advanced as human Civilization. And to advance human civilization. We need to bring forward the best of human civilization, which is the ability of people to live together, cooperate for the common good. I mean, we saw that during the COVID pandemic, countries coming to the assistance of other countries, countries that didn't have enough medical supplies, getting them from other countries. I mean, Canada was the beneficiary of that, from countries like China, the worldwide effort to develop the vaccines. So I think those kind of efforts that really show what countries and people are able to do cooperatively is really the measure of how we check and can check up on how we're advancing. On the question of being able to bring about a world without warm.

So glad. Let's just go to a time and place that we all is burned in our memories. And that would be 911, September 11, when the World Trade Towers and others, the Pentagon, etc. Were attacked. And so the response to that by the US president was he declared a war on terrorism. Would you advise him to say something different or approach it in a different way?

Well, the 911 is a very complex piece of history, but I think it was our Prime Minister, Jean Kratzen, who said that these things have their basis in broader politics of what's happening in the world. So the war on terror cost millions of lives in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan. So it was not the kind of response that assisted in really dealing with the question of terrorism, let's put it that way. If anything, it ingrained amongst those who espoused terrorism and want to do those things. It probably ingrained that more deeply. So I think the question is, how do you change the world for the better without engaging in these kinds of overarching and global events of such significance, where you declared as a war on terror?

Yeah, again, it's one of those things that it gets to be very political, and clearly a nation is hurting and they're expecting their president to stand up and do something, and that's history will show how successful they were. As you say, it's a very complex, deep rooted it just didn't happen in one day. There was a lot of history to it. But I think that those are the kinds of issues, Glenn, that I think are so important for us as citizens of the world to be able to have conversations about it, not to shy away some of these difficult conversations. And I want to move into a speech that you, as the chair for the Peace Alliance in Winnipeg, gave to your annual general meeting. And part of that you talked about, and it's not lost on me that you have Ukrainian background, Glenn, and you talked about this situation that's happening now with Putin and Russia and Ukraine. And your comments, and I'm quoting you from your remarks in your speech, it says that it is a war we could have averted, but was not. Explain that, please.

Yes, definitely was a war that could have been averted. I continue to believe that there was a framework for a settlement of the civil war that had been going on in Ukraine for some eight years, from 2014 to 2022. That was the war over the Donbasse region. And there was a protocol to solve that, and that was called the Minsk Agreements, minskwan and Minsk II. And that was not followed. And instead, what happened was that not only in Ukraine, but in countries who were supportive of Ukraine not trying to agree to the Minst Accords and to work on that settlement. And the Minstrels actually called for the Don Bass to be fully within Ukraine and sovereignty and territory. I mean, it allowed for a degree of selfgovernment in those areas and so on, but it did not in any way break apart Ukraine. But there was, in the months leading up to the war, the outbreak of the wars at the end of February, but especially through January and February, it was clear that many countries in the Western Alliance were pushing confrontation over the east of Ukraine. And there are other countries that were clearly trying to find a way to salvage the Minsk agreements. France was one of them, Germany to a degree, but that did not happen.

So glad. Let me interrupt you just for 1 second, because you say there are some countries that were aggressively saying, don't go by this agreement. They were basically forcing this issue that we're in. Why would they do that?

Well, I think it was that there has been a longstanding hope and plan to try and have a major confrontation with Russia. I think that maybe one day found out in historical documents about NATO strategy. But I certainly remember the parliamentary debates in Canada and in the days before the war, and there was no talk about Canada working for a peaceful solution. And you can go back. Anybody can look at the hansons of that. It was all this immense. And we talked about it a little earlier in this interview, this creation of an enemy and this hysteria that Russia was the enemy to be taken on. I actually joined a call that was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and liberal MPs in this area, and on that call were Christopher Freeland and Foreign Minister Melanie Shali. And this was at the end of January. And there was nothing to suggest in that call that anybody was looking for a peaceful solution. In fact, coming from the ministers, there was this drumbeat about, you know, we have to confront Russia. This is the battle of democracy against authoritarianism, which we're hearing more of now and now. But that to me was just an indication that at least the minister of our government, who could have done much in parliament to say, let Canada be force for peace on this, like France was trying to do. President Macron's office and other countries are still working very hard to bring the parties to the peace negotiations table. Turkey, France is still India is trying and Canada's response was just to send weapons, just to ramp up detentions. So that's why I made the comments that I did in the annual general meeting and why as a member of the Ukrainian community, I said that this war could have been inverted and should be to this day. Canada should take a different position and.

Was not welcomed by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Glenn, those thoughts, your comments.

Well, first of all, on that call on the town hall that I was part of, it was a zoom meeting, but there was no opportunity for anybody to intervene into the meeting. So it was just the people from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the ministers who were speaking. I certainly put those questions into the chat. I've never heard any direction apply to the questions I put in the chat. I mean, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress itself at its last convention talked about a plan advanced by the German government several years ago to try to broker a settlement on the question of the Dawn Bass and so on. And they supported that.

Yeah, I appreciate that Glenn. Listen. As we're kind of just winding down in time here. I would love to just get from you a sense for anybody who's listening that wants to find anything more about the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg. Or if there's some place that you would recommend. If there's a book you would recommend people read. Or if there's something you'd recommend that they focus on to understand a little bit more about the dialogue that is being advocated by the Peace Alliance not only of Winnipeg but the Peace Alliance of Canada.

Yeah. I would just say people should keep very important for people to keep an open mind. Very important for people to read various sources. Even though some sources. Maybe some people may frown on it. Don't be afraid to go to the sources as they exist and read for themselves and see for themselves and not rely on the Cole's notes that they sometimes get in the journalism and in the western media. So I would say go to the sources and read them for yourselves. And there's a lot of good work that's being done by a lot of people and unfortunately it's not making it into the mass media. On all these questions about what direction the world is heading, the new Cold War and so on, I think our Peace Alliance Winnipeg tries to be somewhat of a source for that. So they can certainly check out our website or Facebook page and if they have any questions and want to be directed anywhere, we could certainly do that.

Well, I'll make sure that all of that is in the podcast episode notes, Glenn. But Glenn Michalchuk, the Chair of the Peace Alliance of Winnipeg. I really appreciate your time. Thanks for being open and honest about your views around celebrating International Peace Day, and the great work that you're doing. Thank you very much.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Humans on Rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray. Social media marketing by the creative team at Full Current in Winnipeg. Thanks also to Trixie Maebituan. Music by Doug Edmund. For more, go to Produced and distributed by the Sound Off Media Company.