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more profiles of peaceful women

by Sierra Bacquie | August 4, 2005

It’s about a thousand acts around the world to create change. It’s about recognizing the community development work done by women, which is not often recognized.

— Kama Steliga, executive director of the Lillooet Friendship Centre, commenting on the 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 project

This week: Landon Pearson | Doreen Spence | Julia Morton-Marr | Kama Steliga

LANDON PEARSON

They call Landon Pearson “The Children's Senator.” A member of the Canadian Senate since 1999, Pearson has advocated on behalf of children and young people for over 40 years. She has been a driving force behind Canada’s foreign policy with respect to child labour, children affected by war, and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Married to a diplomat – Geoffrey Pearson, son of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson – Landon travelled the world and witnessed the suffering, deprivation and exploitation that too many children routinely suffer. “The starving children my grandmother taught me to pity – but never how to help,” she says, “became young persons whose rights to survival and protection had been trampled upon.”

Pearson served as Vice-Chairperson of the Canadian Commission for the International Year of the Child and Editor of the Commission’s report, For Canada’s Children, in 1979. She served for many years as president, then chairperson, of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth. In 1991, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien named her as his personal representative to the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session on Children, held in 2002. Senator Pearson played a key role in the development of A Canada Fit for Children, Canada’s official response to the assembly.

“I’ve learned how much children can actually do for themselves if only we provide the necessary means,” says Senator Pearson. “That part is up to us.”

Landon Pearson is the author of Children of Glasnost: Growing up Soviet (1990). She has a degree in philosophy and English from the University of Toronto, an M.Ed. in psychopedagogy from the University of Ottawa, and received an honorary doctorate from Wilfred Laurier University in 1995.

DOREEN SPENCE

Doreen Spence is the founder and executive director of the Canadian Indigenous Women’s Resource Institute (CIWRI), based in Calgary. An Elder of the Cree Nation, Ms. Spence has worked within and advocated on behalf of the Aboriginal community and the protection of its rights for more than 35 years. She sits as a representative on the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and is secretary of the Dignity Centre, a provincial human-rights organization.

“Aboriginal women are non-entities in this country,” says Ms. Spence. “The general population paints us all with the same brush and does not see us as individuals.” Doreen founded CIWRI “to bring an awareness to the local community that we’re not all social welfare recipients, we’re not all alcoholics, we’re not all drug addicts, and some of us do have an education and some of us do contribute.”

Prior to founding CIWRI, Ms. Spence worked for 15 years with the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School Society. Committed to building bridges among communities, Doreen worked with Boy Scouts International to coordinate the organization’s inaugural First Nations’ program for its 1993 Jamboree in Kananaskis, and repeated the effort for the provincial jamboree two years later.

Doreen is an active member of several organizations, including the Alberta Civil Liberties Union, the Rotary Club, and the Committee Against Racism. In 2002, she became a member of the University of Calgary's Senate – the bridge between the university and the community at large. Doreen has received numerous awards for her work, including:

  • the Alberta Human Rights Award (1993),
  • the Baha’i community's international award for peace and unity,
  • the international award from the Council on Adoptable Children in New York (1997), and
  • an international award at the New Zealand Spiritual Elders’ Conference, presented to her and the Dalai Lama (1992).

She became part of the Thunder Bay Elders Circle in 1993.

“My job is to break down every myth and stereotype there is about Aboriginal women ... That’s my greatest challenge – in this lifetime, anyway,” says Doreen, who has “never drank, smoked, done drugs or played bingo.”

JULIA MORTON-MARR

An activist, author and educator, Julia Morton-Marr is the founder of The International Holistic Tourism Education Centre and International School Peace Gardens (ISPG) Millennium Project. Her efforts in the areas of peace and sustainability are international in scope, and she has lent her enthusiasm and expertise to projects the world over.

These projects include:

  • developing post-conflict strategies in Burundi and Rwanda,
  • setting up the Marine Peace Parks in Mexico, and
  • establishing the Watershed Peace Pathways (WPP) with Canadian River Management Society.

“We need to clean up the mess we’ve made of the planet,” Morton-Marr told a local newspaper recently. “We need to learn what sustainability is and we need to teach our children never to make the mess we’ve made. I still think we can do it.”

Morton-Marr was born in South Africa, spent her early years in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and graduated from university in Australia. She taught school in Australia for 15 years, and has lived in Canada since 1990. She believes passionately that peace, justice and the environment are interconnected and cannot be taught as separate disciplines. The curriculum she developed informed by this belief is currently used by 3,500 schools in more than 30 countries. Her dream, which she is on her way to achieving, is to have “peace gardens” – places of peace, tranquillity and safety from violence and bullying – in every school.

Julia Morton-Marr is a valued member of countless advisory bodies (including UN committees) and has been a presenter at innumerable conferences on peace, conflict resolution and environmental sustainability – in Canada and abroad. She has been awarded the YMCA Canada Peace Medal for Mississauga (Ontario), and was nominated in 2001 for the Hague Appeal for Peace Prize.

Remarkably, since the early 1990s, Morton-Marr has suffered from chronic pain, and conducts much of her work from her bed.

KAMA STELIGA

Kama Steliga is the executive director of the Lillooet Friendship Centre, an organization that seeks to empower Aboriginal individuals, families and the Aboriginal community as a whole. Kama has worked at the centre – located in south central British Columbia – since 1990, conducting a project for women victims of trauma. The project was so successful that the centre obtained funding to hire Kama, continue the program, and extend it to the broader community.

Kama eventually became the Executive Director of the centre, and the organization has thrived and expanded under her leadership. The centre now incorporates:

  • An employment centre
  • A food bank
  • A thrift store
  • Addiction counseling and other related services
  • A homelessness initiative
  • Information and support related to violence against women
  • Efforts to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS
  • Cross-cultural bridge-building events

The 1000 Peace Women project “is not about one act of greatness,” Kama has said. “It’s about a thousand acts around the world to create change. It's about recognizing the community development work done by women, which is not often recognized.”

Kama is the primary wage-earner for her family of four. Her husband, a hemophiliac, received a tainted blood transfusion from the Red Cross, and has been diagnosed as HIV-positive. He is, in fact one of the longest-living survivors of the Canadian Red Cross tainted blood scandal. Kama's entire family is active in HIV/AIDS-related activities.

Kama was “humbled” and “awestruck” by her nomination to the Peace Women project.

As far as her own efforts are concerned: “It’s just a way of life to me.”

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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