|Left to right: Susan Yates, Jean McLaren, Hilda Pattern, and Ted Wilson discuss the history of the Gabriola|
Jean McLaren, Hilda Pattern, and Ted Wilson were the first people who came to mind when Gabriola Island Peace Association (GIPA) member Susan Yates was asked to co-ordinate a discussion about the association.
“And they are all still alive and with us, thank goodness”, she added to loud applause at a Tuesday presentation at the Haven where she led off a retrospective on the creation and work of the organisation.
The presentation was sponsored by the Gabriola Historical and Museum Society.
Yates said she first got involved in the peace movement in Vancouver through the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which had an analog clock whose minute hand showed how close the atomic scientists thought the world was to nuclear war. She said at Christmas time she would dress up like an elf in support of the “Boycott War Toys movement” and stand in front of the Woodward’s building trying to convince parents and grandparents not to buy war toys.
Yates said when she moved to Gabriola and found she was pregnant with her first child she was afraid to bring her child into such a world. But, she said, “I met a few people who made me think, whatever we do in this community will make a difference”.
She said Gabriolan and long-time Amnesty International proponent Deborah Ferens convinced her to join GIPA. She said she became involved in local politics and land use issues, including serving on the Trust, but also became and remains involved in community organisations outside of Gabriola.
Gabriolan Jean McLaren said she also got involved with the peace movement when she was having her first child in 1947. She said the atom bomb had just fallen two years before, and the Cold War had started. She said she would go to Woodward’s with a Ban the Bomb petition although she got few signatures and sometimes even got spat on.
McLaren described a long life of travelling as an activist from being involved with the anti-nuclear movement in New Zealand to a number of trips to Palestine. She said she moved to Gabriola in 1978, and in 1984 attended the founding meeting of GIPA at the home of Gabriolan John Garson.
The group organised the 1986 People’s Enquiry into the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Range at Nanoose Bay, which Yates said was a “huge conference” in Nanaimo that brought in speakers from all over the world.
McLaren said in 1987 she ran into the Raging Grannies for the first time, and organised a group on Gabriola. She said the Grannies are able to “make fun of stupid things”, and are effective because people are more likely to listen to songs than speeches.
McLaren said she was arrested a number of times – including in 1992 at the Clayoquot Sound logging protest when she was given two years probation “where I wasn’t allowed to go near any logging road in British Columbia”, and had to do 75 hours of community service – which she served, after some negotiation, doing non-violence training at Clayoquot Sound.
McLaren said she still works in the community and knits with the “Gabriola Knitwits” to help with the Grandmothers to Grandmothers movement.
“Remember you can’t change the world by yourself”, she said. “Do what you can do, and what brings you joy, and let the rest go”.
Gabriolan Ted Wilson said he first got involved with GIPA when he was “dragged” by his wife to a meeting at the Community Hall.
Wilson said he helped produce a Peace Association Newsletter, the last of which was published in 1997, at about the time the group “… was put on ice with the idea that maybe we would start it up if anything else happened”.
Yates said they did “start it up in many different ways when something else happened”, for example during the Clayoquot protests.
All the former members of GIPA, “… are amazingly active”, Yates said. “In this community … we’ve got people ... that can reform the world’s monetary system to make sense of it. We’ve got people here that will give away their property so that it is here for the rest of us for eternity”.
There are elders here, Yates said, with wisdom to pass on. She said because her children have watched their elders do things for the greater good of the community, they have taken those lessons to heart.
Gabriolan Hilda Pattern, who said she was “93, going on 94”, said she and her husband Jack travelled to many places to see what sorts of lives people lived. Yates asked if after all their travels, Pattern was happy to be on Gabriola. Pattern replied: “This has been the best place we have EVER, ever been. And we’ve been to a lot of countries”.
|The Flying Shingle, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada||Web design: Innovative Illusions (Paul Rudyk)|