In Memory of Dr. Richard B. Splane

From L to R: Karen Truscott, Courtney Szto, Piita Irniq, Patsy George.
From L to R: Karen Truscott, Courtney Szto, Piita Irniq, Patsy George.

On November 16, 2015, we held our Annual Dr. Richard B. Splane Lecture on Public Policy at UBC’s Liu Centre.  It was another full house to hear Piita Irniq, former Commissioner to Nunavut, speak about issues of reconciliation, and the colonial experiences for the Inuit.

This was a particularly special lecture because just days before the lecture, Dr. Splane passed away at the age of 99.  UNA-Vancouver Past-President and Honorary Member, Patsy George, gave a touching introduction in Dr. Splane’s honour.  Below is her full speech:

Dr. Richard B. Splane, known to most of us as Dick, passed away peacefully on November 8, 2015 just six weeks after his 99th birthday.

splaneNine years ago on Sept 25th, when we were celebrating his 90thbirthday, UNA-Vancouver, the World Federalists, and U.B.C decided that a special gift to honour and celebrate Dick would be to set up a public lecture in social policy in his name. He was very pleased and somehow had understood that it was just one lecture. The next year when I went to consult him on behalf of the planning committee, he simply could not believe that it was an annual event to honour his contribution, and to engage the public, particularly students, in social policy discussions. Dick had attended every lecture until this year.

It is indeed a true honour for me to remember Dick as he was a mentor and a friend to me for many years, as he was to many of you in this audience. Dick introduced the people of my generation to the concepts of social administration and social policy in the 50’s and 60’s in Canada. After he received a Masters degree, and the very first PhD in social work given by the University of Toronto, Dick went off to London to study with Richard Titmuss at the London School of Economics. Titmuss, the very first professor of social policy and Founding Chair in that subject at L.S.E, became very influential in his thinking. He has told us that those were the best of times for him and returned to Canada to practice all what he learned.

My own memory of Dick goes back to the summer of 1965, exactly 50 years ago when his then wife Marion, also a social worker, organized a lecture under the auspices of the Welfare Council and invited graduate students to attend. The speaker was Dr. Richard B. Splane, a senior public servant working closely with Judy LaMarsh, the Minister of Health and Welfare under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. He described with much enthusiasm all that he had learned from Professor Titmuss. It was a most exciting time to be a senior public servant since he was implementing programs such as the Canada Pension Plan, Canadian Medical plan, and Canada Assistance Plan with the blessings of the new Liberal government elected in 1963. Dick remained a towering figure of Canadian social policy developments throughout his life.

Graham Riches, our Splane Lecture speaker from earlier this year, sent his regrets that he could be with us because he is giving a lecture in Bilbao, Spain right now. He did, however, have this to say about Dick’s leadership in crafting the Canada assistance Plan:

“Introduced in 1966 CAP, a cost shared programme brought order, national standards, financial stability and social rights to a patchwork of underfunded provincial income assistance programmes and social services. It was progressive public policy at work in an era of co-operative Federalism with the Federal government playing a lead role in meeting the needs of vulnerable Canadians”.

For a young student aspiring to be the best ever, Dick’s speech was an inspiration. The values he promoted remain in my mind. He was determined to convince us of the critical role of the state serving as the instrument of fundamental social and economic reform. In addition to the already recognized rights such as free speech, equality before the law, and human rights, he argued with a lot of conviction for other issues such as the right to work, decent wages, access to education and leisure, protection against insecurity, illness prevention, and unemployment insurance. His preference for the values of public service over private or commercial forms of care will have great influence on me and my generation of social activists.

He deeply believed that ordinary people are capable of making significant contributions to the shaping of their own destinies, and that civil responsibility has to be tapped to release a new social order. This was evident in his involvement with so many local and global N.G.Os, professional associations, and his encouragement for many of us to do the same.


With the force of a warm and generous personality, with an impish sense of humour and sharp wit, Dick converted many of us into local and global activists, in addition to shaping the social welfare policies in Canada. It is appropriate that his name is attached to this annual public lecture in social policy where issues of social justice such as equality, human rights and peace are discussed with the hopes that these conversations will influence public policy in the years to come. As a committed multilateralist, Dick spent many years at the UN advancing human rights and human well-being. Not too long ago, in watching the deterioration of civil and social rights in Canada, he made the following statement, “We are faced with having to win back what we had once attained, and to move forward with skill and determination to realize the values proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” This evening, I am certain that his sprit is urging all of us, to do all what we can, to get the new government in Ottawa to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. Rest in Peace, Dick.

We will continue to remember you and be inspired by these lectures in your name. We thank you for showing us the way to be decent and proud Canadians.

Dr. Splane’s obituary can be found via The Globe and Mail.

Global Women Unite for Peace

unacto11.jpgThe following was written by Patsy George, Honourary Director of UNAC-Vancouver who is at the Hague attending the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
I am attending the 100th anniversary  of the only global women’s organization still active. It was founded at a conference held at the Hague by women who opposed the First World War. 800 of us who are peace activists along with a large number of U.N officials, ambassadors and media are here. The groups of women represented are from the North and South, particularly from the areas where the conflicts are in full force.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.01.36 PMI have had the privilege of listening to women from Lebanon, Palestine, Nigeria, Syria , Columbia and Pakistan. They have experienced war, lost families and seen their communities be completely destroyed. But no one, including the UN, is willing to listen to these women’s proposed solutions. Of course the women are completely against the military solutions and insist on mediation and diplomatic approaches.
I must share my feelings of frustration when a delegate from Columbia spoke about losing her husband and brother in the mines owned and operated by Canadian companies. She and others are organizing to get safer labour conditions but she has been under death threats. She believes that the mining companies hire thugs to go after women active in the community.
The Office of the Indigenous people of the Americas based in Geneva organized a march to the Canadian Embassy at the Hague with 1200 pairs of shoes on Tuesday to remind them of the missing and murdered women in Canada. It is their hope that shaming Canada this way will bring some attention to this issue from the Harper Government.
There is another session examining the role of the UN Peacekeepers who have been accused of sexually violating women and girls and boys in some of the areas where they serve.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.07.46 PMSo you can see that working for peace involves addressing the root causes of violence and the power structure which does not pay attention to equality and human rights of majority of human beings, particularly the women and girls.
It is great to be with a large group of people who are against wars and are seeking peace building as the only alternative to making sure that we and the planet we call our home survives.
One of the positive reports I heard  was from the Secretary General  of WILPF, Madelene Reese, was that the organization was able to arrange a meeting between the UN Security council members and a group of women from Syria. This was the first time; it has ever happened.
Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 8.59.50 PMThe women gathered at this conference adopted a new manifesto which concluded saying that violence is not inevitable. We choose non violence as a means and as an end. We will liberate the strength of women and in partnership with like-minded men bring to birth a just and harmonious world. We will implement peace which is a human right.
What is needed is total world wide disarmament; economic systems that will deliver well-being to every human being and other life forms on the precious planet; multinational organizations capable of mediating between states and guaranteeing international law; democratic governments from local to global; social systems that accord no privilege to certain type of people or people of a given physical type, culture or religion; the end of male supremacy; and radical changes to the way we live together and the fulfillment of women’s rights as human rights.
It is important to remember that Peace is possible and Wars must stop and it is the job of each and every one of us to see to it.
Patsy George, Honourary Director of the United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver Branch.

Dr Verna Huffman Splane turns 100 years

A long tiunacto11.jpgme member and a great supporter of United Nations in Canada, Verna Splane celebrated her 100th birthday along with her husband Richard Splane, family and friends. Vancouver Branch was pleased to present Verna with messages from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our Governor General, our Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Premier of B.C. and many others. Verna was elegant and graceful as always, responding to all those present with warmth and expressing appreciation of what it means to her to have the love and friendship of so many.

Verna Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 7.32.06 PMwas born on November 23, 1914 in Ontario. She became a nurse. After graduating from University of Toronto, she went on to study at Columbia University in New York and finally, received her Masters degree in Public Health from University of Michigan. After working with the Victorian Order of Nurses, Verna went on to work for the World Health Organization in Africa, Caribbean and South America. She was Canada’s First Principal Nursing officer, holding the highest post for any nurse in this country articulating nurse’s perspectives to the Federal Government. As a professor of Nursing, she influenced thousands of young professionals around the world.

Verna Splane with her husband Dick Splane and UNAC Vancouver Past President Patsy George
Verna Splane with her husband Dick Splane and UNAC Vancouver Past President Patsy George

Verna served her country and the global arena through her volunteer work becoming a founding member of many non-governmental organizations. International Social Services Canada is one example. She has been awarded a number of honorary Doctorates from Canadian Universities, Medals of honour and the Order of Canada.

We, at UNAC Vancouver, are grateful to her for her continued support, interest in our programming and the great dinner receptions she organizes after the Richard B Splane Public Lecture on Social Policy, one of our annual projects. On the eve of her 100th birthday, she engaged me in a deep conversation about the state of children around the world and how important it is to continue to educate the public about poverty elimination and children’s rights to free education and health care.

We wish Verna happy days ahead and time to enjoy memories of the extraordinary life of contributions made to Canada and to the global community. It is indeed an honour for us to celebrate her and be proud of the incredible journey she has been on.

Post written by UNAC Vancouver Past President Patsy George

Universal Children’s Day – November 20th, 2014

unacto11.jpgPost written by UNAC-Vancouver Past President, Patsy George.

Today is a special day for all of us who are active in promoting the rights of children across the globe. This year we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. When I heard the great news that the Nobel Prize committee decided to focus on the Rights of Children by awarding the Peace Prize to children’s advocates, I was thrilled.

The 17 year old Malala Yousofzai of Pakistan fighting for education for girls and Kailash Satyarthi, of India, a college teacher of engineering turned child advocate to end child labour were chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This in turn highlights this year’s focus on children’s rights and the need for the global community to pay attention to miserable conditions in which majority of children currently live even after the 25 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Those of us who live in North America came to know of Malala after a masked Taliban gunman shot her in the head in 2012. She was airlifted to a hospital in Burmingham, England. With the help of her father, who ran a school for girls, she continued to speak out from the hospital. Under the leadership of Gordon Brown, UN speScreen Shot 2014-11-19 at 5.53.21 PMcial envoy on Global Education, more than 2 million people signed a petition that led to the ratification of Pakistan’s Right to Education Bill. Malala continued to show her courage by speaking up including at the UN Youth Assembly “ Let us pick up our books and pens, they are the most powerful weapons” she said at that gathering in 2013.

Today, I want to share with you what I know of the work done by Kailash Satyarthi of India where despite many laws, thousands of activists and increased awareness, child labour continues to be a serious problem.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 5.54.26 PMThe campaign against child labour has been a long one in India heading back to the 1970’s Kailash started his work in the mid 90’s to free the 300,000 children working in the carpet factories. Through his efforts, many Canadians were taught not to buy a carpet without the Rugmark Logo which certified that a carpet had not exploited child labour in its manufacturing. Thanks to his work, many children escaped, otherwise from their stolen childhood. There are many sectors, which continue to exploit children. Cigarette industries, construction, domestic work, spinning and weaving and brick makers are some such groups

India is the second largest brick producers in the world after China. 41% of the kilns workers in India are children between the ages of 6 and 14. Most brick kilns in India are in the suburbs of the cities, away from the glare of the law enforcement officers and child welfare authorities. Children are employed in every stage of brick making, from mixing clay to firing dried bricks, walk over vast stretches of semi dried bricks, flipping each brick twice a day. Since brick making is done between November and June, they work under hot sun for hours and none of them ever see a school.

Due to constant monitoring and international pressure, the number of child labourers has declined, thanks to Kailash and his group of volunteers. Even the trafficking of children from Nepal and Northern India has come down but we cannot rest reading those statistics as long as children are exploited any where in the world.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 5.58.15 PMGlobal March Against Child Labour, an N.G.O headed by Kailash says the rates of prosecution in cases of child labour are only 10% in spite of the provisions in the Indian Constitution safeguarding children from labour and provide access to education. Child Labour Act came into being in 1986 prohibiting child labour in hazardous conditions.

Accurate information on the extent of child labour is missing. Indian census reported 4.3 million child labourers in 2011 whereas UNICEF figure for the same year was 25 million and the ILO figure was 40 million. His NGO was instrumental in getting the International Labour Organization to draft a convention against child labour. 172 countries, including Canada have signed on to it.

There are creative reasons used by various industries for hiring children. Just as children were made to sweep the chimneys and enter narrow mines in England and elsewhere in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, the Carpet makers insist children’s nimble fingers tie the best knots. Beedi makers reason that children are the best for rolling the tobacco leaves. The kiln owners say they are the best for flipping semi-dried bricks. What none of them tell you is that a child can be made to work for 12 hours at one 6th of the wages demanded by adult workers. Even though, the Child Labour Act has a list of occupations in which children should not be employed, the Activists say that the list is not comprehensive and implementation is to be desired. So Kailash’s Nobel Peace Prize has put a spotlight in India where they are fighting to change the law seeking complete ban on child labour.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 6.00.17 PMA bit more about Kailash, the person. After quitting his job in 1980, he set up the South Asian Coalition on Child servitude, which now consists of over 750 civil society groups. He launched the Global March Against Child Labour with participation of 103 countries and millions of people. He set up what is known as “ Child Friendly Villages” for the elimination of child labour and universalization of education. In some of the villages, his group started an operation-rescuing girls sold into abusive, forced marriages and help them into rehabilitation centres to teach trades to abused teenagers. He launched the Rugmark, now known as GoodWeave, a consortium of independent bodies for major carpet exporting and importing countries which are part of the self certification process to ensure that carpets are free of child labour. Kailash has survived several attacks on his life during his crusade to rescue children from factories, most recent in March of 2011.

Kailash has been honoured by the Wallenberg Medal, Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award. Defenders of Democracy Award and now the Nobel Peace Prize. He is described by family and friends as a humble man, preferring to wear cheap cotton clothes, cook vegetarian meals for his family and write poetry.

So, November 20th marks the day in which the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1989 in which we promised the children of the world that we will do every thing in our power to protect and promote them. We know that millions of children live in poverty including in our own communities in Canada whose voices are not heard and who have been denied opportunities to reach their full potentials. So we have a challenge to commit ourselves on this day. Let us mark this Universal Children’s Day, with the spirit in which the General Assembly voted 25 years ago today.

Post written by UNAC – Vancouver Past President Patsy George

Nov 20, 2014

Remembering Jim Siemens 1939 – 2013

 Jim Siemens, a member of the Board of Directors of the United Nations Association in Vancouver died on the 15th of Feb after a brief illness. Those of us who have known him and worked with him are saddened by his departure. Continue reading