View From the Legislature

Peace Takes Center Stage Across Province

  • Kelvin Goertzen, Author
  • Member of the Legislative Assembly, Steinbach

This long weekend will feature several events across the province that highlight the best of what Manitoba is and who Manitobans are. Here at home in the southeast, the Pioneer Days festival is again back in full swing with an opening parade down Main Street and a weekend full of events at the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) Museum.

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Mennonite Heritage Village grounds with provincial Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, Andrew Smith. I have been on the museum ground’s countless times during my life but touring Minister Smith was a reminder of what a jewel we have in our own backyard. One of the displays that was most appreciated on our tour is the Dirk Willems Peace Garden. This life-sized bronze sculpture depicts the scene of Dutch Anabaptist Willems saving the life of his jailer who had fallen through the ice while pursuing Willems. Despite this act of grace, Willems was burned at the stake and is a celebrated martyr among Anabaptists.

Those visiting the MHV this weekend will see the sculpture surrounded by a beautiful garden and may wish to take time to sit and reflect on the importance of peace and the sacrifice as depicted by the site.

Many kilometres away from the MHV, the International Peace Garden will be celebrating its 90th anniversary this weekend. Established in 1932 as a memorial to the peaceful co-existence between Canada and the United States, today the Peace Garden is 2,339 acres covering both land in Canada and the United States.

The Peace Garden was constructed in the midst of a great world depression and prior to World War II. Despite these challenges, it flourished and has continued to stand as a symbol of the friendship that our two nations have. It has grown to now include not only gardens, but a conservatory, cafe, fountains, trails, and play areas to name a few. Last September, I visited the Peace Garden to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 together with American legislators.

Manitoba recently announced that it is increasing the annual support for the Peace Garden to $514,000 in addition to the capital infrastructure commitment announced last year which totalled more than $7 million. As the co-chair of the Midwest U.S.-Canada Relations Committee I can attest not only to the importance of our relationship with the United States from an economic perspective, but the enduring nature of our friendship as neighbours.

There is much to celebrate in Manitoba this long weekend. A weekend whose holiday is named after Terry Fox gives much reason for reflection. Part of that reflection is the great fortune we have to live in a peaceful nation.

I hope that you and your family have a safe and wonderful long weekend.