Kingston Peace Council’s John Gallant: “Anti-imperialism is a way of looking at peace/peace work and understanding that it doesn’t occur in a vacuum”
The Kingston Peace Council has been an active organization in the Kingston area for the past two years. They’ve been organizing protests against Canadian imperialism, as well as providing support for the victims of Kingston’s Housing crisis, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, their work has been more valuable now than ever. I sat down for The Limestone Dissection with co-founder and lead organizer for the Council, John Gallant, to talk about the organization, the work they’ve been doing, and the importance of confronting the consequences of imperialism in our own backyard.
Disclaimer: The interviewer has also been involved in the Kingston Peace Council in various degrees since its founding. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Scott Pinkerton: So can you describe a little bit about what the Peace Council is?
John Gallant: Sure, so Kingston Peace Council is the local division of the Canadian Peace Congress, we’re basically a chapter of that group. It’s an anti-imperialist group founded in 1949 by a Canadian Minister named James Endicott, and it was in response to the dangers posed by the Cold War. Obviously we’re at a different point in time now, but we’re an organization that stands for peace, disarmament, genuine global security, economic development and certainly social justice. So we try to let that guide us.
SP: The thing that sets the Peace Congress aside from other peace organizations is the anti-imperialist aspect, can you elaborate a bit more about what that entails?
JG: Its a guiding principle for the peace work that we do and certainly for the Canadian Peace Congress at large. Anti-imperialism is a way of looking at peace and peace work and understanding that it doesn’t occur in a vacuum, that is to say there are other factors involved when we’re talking about things like peace. To be an anti-imperialist I would say is to conduct peace work, knowing that it’s also related to things like: poverty, the struggle of the working class and certainly on a global level related to intervention and respecting the sovereignty of countries that are, by and large, under the boot of the global north.
SP: One of the big things that the Peace Council did was last October. There was a protest outside of Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen’s office. Can you tell us about that?
JG: That was regarding the recent F-35 deal, that the Canadian Government was looking to be involved with. That was a deal that was in the works for some time, under the Conservative government as well. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little bit more of a boogeyman for the government in terms of figuring what they wanted to do, and the process was so drawn out. So this was the national day of action in opposition to this deal. I can certainly elaborate on why purchasing F-35 warplanes especially during a pandemic might not be a good thing.
SP: Obviously as a whole, broad strokes I think people can understand, but a little bit of details if you have them.
JG: Yeah, for starters the F-35 deal is $60 billion dollars. $19 billion is the estimated cost of purchase and its $55,000 per hour to operate. So to give you an idea, we could be ending homelessness in Canada, that would take $44 billion over ten years. We could be tripling the environment and climate change budget for the next ten years. Honestly there are quite a few different things that it could be spent on. Lieutenant Colonel Laurence Wilkerson in the U.S Army has famously been quite vocal about that. He’d actually said that the entire cost of the F-35 program would be 7.5 million college educations with no cost to a student as of 2020.
SP: Wow, that’s staggering to hear. Have you heard any response from Mark Gerretsen regarding this?
JG: No we haven’t, but that’s no reason to stop. In the next year or so, there will be plenty of other developments with that. On the organizing side of things, there are some things coming down the pipeline that we’re eagerly looking to speak to the public about.
SP: So the Peace Council has been organizing donations for Kingston’s homeless community. There’s been quite a success there, can you talk a bit about why the Peace Council is doing that?
JG: Some of the folks that comprise the Kingston Peace Council have been in Kingston for quite some time, for a lot of their lives, and they recognize that this has been… well… ongoing, despite the best efforts of local groups and so on. Frankly, going back to the anti-imperialist thing, I think that this is something that cannot really be overlooked. I think that it would behoove people that are looking to get involved and certainly people that are looking to organize, that these two things are fundamentally related. Things like the F-35 deal and the money being devoted towards that and also being involved in the community and lifting up those that are being pushed to the margins of the city and the system. Yeah, it’s been going really well and we’re going to keep doing it and, to put it bluntly, I think it would be pretty silly if we weren’t involved in something like this, because it’s right in front of our faces.
SP: So I just have another point that I’d like to bring up. Kingston of course is famous for its housing of armed forces, we have the Royal Military College and CFB Kingston…
SP: …how does the Peace Council arrange itself in such a climate where its such a big deal with the army?
JG: Well, I think going forward it’s something that we must at all costs engage with. When it comes to other activities that have been done here in the past, organizations like Peace Quest have done a really good job with that and we’ve been in touch with them to better understand the relationship. There is this sort of precedent for Peace activism in Kingston, and what the relationship has historically been with the military here, it’s been one of dialogue from what I understand. So we would like to continue that going forward, and we’ll definitely be letting that inform our events. I’ve got a couple examples of that.
SP: Where can people find out more about the Peace Council, fundraisers, or even join if they’re so inclined?
JG: Absolutely, well we’ve got all major social media platforms so Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’re announcing all events, activities and opportunities for donation and involvement through those three outlets. If you have more direct questions, our email is firstname.lastname@example.org and we can certainly chat through there. But you know, it’s fairly evident the work that we need to do, and in the coming year there’s going to be all sorts of that put on our social media.
SP: Excellent, well thank you so much for sitting down and talking with us.
JG: Absolutely, it was a pleasure.