YOUTH ACTIVISM VITAL TO LANDMINE CAMPAIGN
Canadian youth are giving life to the Ottawa Convention on landmines. By
raising awareness, they are playing a part in solving the devastating
The small farming community of Morden in
southern Manitoba is far removed from the
deadly fields of landmines found in some
strife-torn areas of South Asia.
But it's home base for two young Canadians
determined to help end the humanitarian
crisis of anti-personnel mines. Darryl Toews
and Meredith Daun are co-founders of a
voluntary organization working hard to
promote the 1997 Ottawa Convention that
launched the global ban on landmines.
The two are not alone. With support from
Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC), the Canadian
Red Cross and non-governmental Humanitarian crisis: A Cambodian
organizations such as Mines Action Canada, landmine survivor is fitted with a
Canadian youth are active in this country and new prosthetic limb at the
overseas in raising public awareness, American Red Cross rehabilitation
training volunteers and lobbying politicians centre in Cambodia.
Photo: Meredith Daun
"This is a solvable problem," says Toews, 35, a high school social studies
teacher in Morden. "We in Manitoba are removed from the situation. But we can
play an important part in helping solve the problem with other countries."
Meredith Daun wears a demining suit at a landmine awareness
event as Manitoba's ambassador in the Youth Mine Action
Ambassador Program (YMAAP) in 2000.
Photo: courtesy of YMAAP
Toews and Daun, who met as volunteers five years ago and married in 2002,
became interested in the landmines issue as university students. But it was
through the Youth Mine Action Ambassador Program, a 10-month internship
supported by FAC, the Canadian Red Cross and Mines Action Canada, that they
became dedicated activists.
Since its inception seven years ago, the Ambassador Program has selected
between 6 and 12 university graduates a year to visit schools, set up
conferences and carry out fundraising in their home province.
As Manitoba's Youth Mines Ambassador in 1999-2000, Toews travelled to
Bosnia to see the impact of landmines first-hand. Daun succeeded him the
following year and visited Cambodia, meeting survivors and deminers to learn
about the impact of landmines. "If one person is injured or killed, it affects the
whole family," says Daun, 26, now a social worker with the Manitoba
Three years ago, the couple set up their local
group, the Manitoba Campaign to Ban
Landmines, to rally interest. They visit schools
and work with Manitoba's current youth
ambassador, Bequie Lake.
Youth have been getting involved in the
landmine issue in many ways. With assistance
from FAC, the Canadian International
Development Agency and other sponsors, Mines
Action Canada sent three young Canadians to a
youth conference last November held in
conjunction with the Nairobi Summit on a Mine- The logo of an organization in
Free World. Cambodia that assists children
damaged by landmines.
"We bring youth to international conferences so
they can see what happens," says Christa McMillan, a program manager with
Mines Action Canada, adding that as part of the experience, youth attend a
series of workshops on skills and training. The organization this year is assisting
overseas partners in South Asia to hold training sessions to enlist young people
and has helped write a resource manual in five languages on youth engagement.
FAC supports an international program designed to build the capacity of young
people to work in landmine action. Youth are critical to achieving success in the
campaign, observes Andrew Shore, Coordinator of the Mine Action Team for
FAC. "Young people are committed to pressing forward with the fight to rid the
world of landmines... Nowhere was this more apparent than during the Nairobi
Summit, where youth played a large role and had a considerable voice."
But does the work of young Canadians really make a difference? Just ask
Mahboobullah Iltaf, a youth worker with the Afghan Campaign to Ban Land
Mines, who came to Canada for Canadian Landmine Awareness Week in
"Having Canadian youth on board for this cause means stronger international
commitment toward our goal for a mine-free world," says the 20-year-old Afghani,
who has several friends who are landmine survivors. "Youth are the future of any
movement that has energy and talent."
Sierra Noble, 15, an up-and-coming fiddler in Winnipeg who has been involved in
the anti-landmine movement since the age of 10, plays at benefit concerts and
regularly visits classrooms to take the message to youth. Last year, she was one
of three Canadian youth who attended a children's conference on landmines in
"It's up to us to take a stand, gain power in this messed-up world and fix the
mistakes," says Noble.
For more information on Canada's Guide to the
Global Ban on Landmines, visit www.mines.gc.ca.
For the Youth Mine Action Ambassador Program, see
www.dangermines.ca. To learn about Mines Action
Canada, visit www.minesactioncanada.org.