TORONTO (CUP) — Five hundred people packed Hart House’s Great Hall last week to hear lectures given by University of Toronto (U of T) professor, and brand new Liberal MP, Michael Ignatieff and Heidi Hulan, head of the political section of the Canadian permanent mission to the United Nations.
The talk ended up being slightly derailed in the question period when Ignatieff received attacks on his beliefs and on Liberal and international policy.
The two were the first speakers in the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Society’s first annual conference, entitled “The Challenges of Peacebuilding: Reconstructing Shattered Societies.”
“Nation-building, state-building, peace-building is never over anywhere. Not here, not anywhere else.” said Ignatieff, newly elected Liberal MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. It was not clear from his introduction whether his new position on Parliament Hill is going to be an impediment to a teaching schedule at U of T.
During Ignatieff’s speech, he remarked that he supports Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, though he noted that the Canadian presence should balance the missions of peace- and infrastructure-building with the task of trying to end violence.
During the question period, audience members posed questions to Ignatieff regarding Liberal policies. One question from a 12-year-old girl drew audience applause.
“[I want to know] how many Afghan children have been killed by Canadian troops in Afghanistan and if that number is worth the state that Afghanistan is in now,” she asked.
Both speakers replied that the situation is unfortunate, but that the positive factors of Canada’s presence in that country outweigh the negatives.
The conference defined peace-building as “crafting the social structure and institutions that make peace self-sustaining and enduring in a post-conflict society,” said Alex Szaflarska, co-chair of the Peace and Conflict Society at U of T.
“Many states that recover from conflict relapse into it. Indeed, some 50 per cent of post-conflict states relapse into violence within five years,” said Hulan, who focused her talk on the United Nations role in peace-building.
An in-depth look at the conference can be found at www.trudeaucentre.ca.