A $5,000 donation from the Doukhobor Cultural Association will help support students from around the world enrolled in Selkirk College’s Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping Program.
Selkirk College, in collaboration with non-governmental organization Nonviolent Peaceforce, has begun the program, the first program of its kind offered at a Canadian post-secondary institution. It teaches the principles of nonviolence to provide protection to civilians in a variety of volatile contexts.
A donation from the Doukhobour Cultural Association will enable international students to attend the final two weeks of the Unarmed Peacekeeping Program offered on location through Selkirk College. L-R Mir Centre for Peace Chair Randy Janzen with the Doukhobor Cultural Association’s Kathy Popoff, Anne Zibin, Marilyn Verigin and Pat Picton.
“Here in Canada, it has been used at sites of protest, such as Indigenous land defenders demonstrating for their treaty rights in Ontario, where there is a real potential of violence between protesters and police,” says Randy Janzen, chair of the Selkirk College Mir Centre for Peace. “Or there’s a group in Winnipeg. They’re called the Bear Clan. They use these skills to simply patrol the streets in dangerous neighbourhoods to protect vulnerable people from random crime. In South Sudan, it’s used on a more formal level to act as a third party peacekeeping group between warring factions.”
Students Converge on Campus
The program offers five modules online so it’s accessible to an international audience. Then, a final module involving a two-week intensive workshop at the Mir Centre for Peace runs from April 18 to 29.
“What they’re learning in the online modules is the theory and knowledge,” Janzen says. “But there are a lot of practical skills that go along with that. We teach these through role plays, group activities and connecting with a number of school groups to develop their roles as educators.”
There are 15 students enrolled in the program this year, with eight hailing from the local region and seven coming to the West Kootenay from around the world. One is from the United States while the rest come from volatile areas including Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Sudan and Iraq. The funds donated by the Doukhobor Cultural Association will go toward bringing these students to Selkirk College.
“They don’t have the means otherwise,” says Janzen. “And for someone in a country like Iraq or South Sudan, it’s incredibly meaningful for them to have a credential from a post-secondary institute in Canada. There are jobs associated with this. This can actually help them.
“I believe we are teaching some very good stuff so no matter where you are from in the world, it means building capacity within the individual to build cultures of peace and reduce violence.”
The Doukhobor Cultural Association’s Kathy Popoff explains they are pleased to support the program because peace is a prime teaching in their culture.
“Toil and peaceful life,” she says. “That’s our whole philosophy that we grew up with.”
On April 28 at 6 p.m. at the Nelson United Church, the public is welcome to attend a community event to learn more about the Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping Program, the students’ experiences and to share in a meal. The cost is $12.