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Laurier’s peace and justice conference a success
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Nearly 500 scholars and students from across North America and throughout the world descended on Laurier’s Waterloo campus for the 2013 Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) conference, hosted in partnership with Conrad Grebel University College.
The conference, which took place Oct. 17-19, consisted of three parts: a main academic conference on peace and justice; a Teacher’s Professional Development Strand organized by Laurier’s Faculty of Education for Kindergarten to grade 12 teachers; and a parallel conference for undergraduate and grade 11 and 12 students organized by Laurier PJSA intern Jorden Johnstone and others from Laurier and Conrad Grebel University College.
“It was a very ambitious conference; we did a number of things differently than had previously been done,” said Edmund Pries, assistant professor of Global Studies and chair of the PJSA 2013 Host Steering Committee. “What was gratifying was that everything we tried worked really well, from an organizational perspective and a content perspective.”
For example, the Teachers’ Development Strand was a new aspect of the conference that utilized the expertise of Laurier’s Faculty of Education and Dean Colleen Willard-Holt. The strand addressed themes related to peace and conflict resolution within the classroom, as well as teaching global peace and conflict to children in the K-12 setting.
The undergraduate student conference was large enough for students to learn from each other while having access to the top scholars from the academic conference. In addition to being able to attend the five academic plenary addresses, students had five plenary addresses tailored to the youth perspective on peace and justice. The student plenaries included a performance by Emmanuel Jal, a hip-hop artist and former child soldier.
Additionally, many of Laurier’s Global Studies students had assignments attached to panel discussions, which they attended and responded to in writing. Pries said these assignments not only exposed students to new, creative thoughts, but also these students ended up contributing a great deal to the involvement of all students at the conference.
Altogether, there were almost 250 academic presentations during the conference. Among the many notable keynote speakers were two from Laurier: Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights, and James Orbinski, CIGI Chair in Global Health Governance. Idle No More cofounder Sylvia McAdams’ keynote on Aboriginal justice inspired conference goers to attend an impromptu Idle No More rally at Waterloo Town Square, led by Laurier’s Aboriginal Student Centre. McAdams explored a brief history of Aboriginal oppression and resistance in Canada during her talk.
“To all of you who think these events are historic, I’m here to tell you I still remember seeing the ‘Indian’ agent when I was a child … and the first fear I felt for another human being,” she said.
Jean Becker, Laurier’s senior advisor: Aboriginal Initiatives, introduced McAdams’ talk, which began with a performance by Laurier drummers and singers. Each plenary session at the conference also began with a short piece of music by musicians from Laurier’s Faculty of Music and Conrad Grebel University College “that made it a richer experience,” said Pries.
The conference’s music theme continued with an end-conference performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at the Centre in the Square by the Grand Philharmonic Choir and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony with choirs from Laurier and the University of Waterloo.
“What was most exciting for me was the teamwork at Laurier and Conrad Grebel,” said Pries, who thanked the Faculty of Arts and Dean of Arts Michael Carroll and Associate Dean Michel Desjardins, as well as Tim Donais, chair of Global Studies and Clara Yoon, a recent Master of Global Governance graduate from the Balsillie School who was hired to work as a conference administrator.
“All the different groups at Laurier were incredibly supportive and the response of conference goers to our facilities, students, staff and faculty was extremely positive – that was really gratifying.”
About the PJSA
The PJSA is the North American Affiliate of the International Peace Research Association. The annual PJSA conference is hosted in Canada every three years. For further information, visit www.peacejusticestudies.org.