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Café connections

Yellowknife peace cafe is another light in the dark

By Carolyn Pogue

The Duchess of York, Rick Mercer and Gordie Howe have all flown into the N.W.T. capital lately, so I thought I’d better go to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, I really went to see grandsons Michael and Tristan and their parents. I also wanted to visit Bob Stewart at the Yellowknife Peace Cafe.

Bob is a long-time Yellowknife resident who also lives in Moncton with his partner and peace co-conspirator, Anne-Marie Collette. I met Bob when he lived in Alberta and started Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace. When I stumbled on the website nine years ago, I read, “I went looking for a Peace for Dummies book, but there wasn’t one.” The version of Peace for Dummies Bob writes is more than words; it includes peace education, a website (www.peace.ca receives 70,000 visits monthly), conferences, networking and interestingly, peace cafes. I visited the Yellowknife cafe earlier this month.

A chartered accountant and Rotarian, Bob began working on his life’s passion 15 years ago. “I was concerned about trends in violence and rising numbers of kids caught up in drugs. I was frustrated that libraries and book stores have shelves dedicated to war, carpentry, pets, but not to peace.” As a businessman and member of a worldwide organization, he thought he had something to contribute.

Outside it’s 30 below zero, but the sun streams through the cafe windows as I listen to Bob’s warm enthusiasm. His eyes literally sparkle. Nearby a bookcase groans with books about peace in the world, in families and in your soul. “People want more peace and less stress in their lives, but they don’t know what they can do about it. I want to help people connect raise peace consciousness.” Bob says he wants the cafes to act as catalysts.

By his definition, a peace cafe is one that declares adherence to the UN Culture of Peace Manifesto 2000, to Fair Trade, a living wage and local organic foods, while using the space for community gatherings on social justice and peace issues.

The first cafe opened in Hamilton in 2007, followed by one in Walkerton, Ont. There are plans to open cafes in Victoria and Nelson, B.C. He owns this Yellowknife building; his dream is have the floors above the cafe occupied by justice and people-oriented businesses and organizations. He envisions peace retail stores where books, music, art, jewelry, clothing and more could bridge the spiritual and material worlds. As he and Anne-Marie plant peace seeds, they create lists of community peace allies. Peace people work hard, but we don’t always work smart. Isolation from one another is not smart.

On the other side of the country, Central United Church in Moncton is working smart. Three years ago they began the process of transforming into a Community Peace Centre. I will write more about this exciting, innovative project in another blog, but in the meantime please visit www.communitypeacecentre.ca

Central was one of the first stops for Bob and Anne-Marie when they moved to the province. “Communities need peace, and many churches today are concerned about fewer members,” says Bob. “Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ right? Peace centres make sense.”

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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