Peter Golden and the Victoria Central America Support Committee (CASC)
Introduction to speech for Peter Golden memorial on September, 2018
I was humoured and touched when Charlotte Bell, Peter’s wife, asked me to speak on behalf of the Victoria Central America Support Committee (CASC) at his memorial September 2. Because I tried to keep to CASC related matters I could not speak personally.
I want to write that Charlotte and Peter were some of the first people Gerd and I met when we came to Victoria 36 years ago. We were involved in many issues and concerns together – Central America, women’s rights, Palestine and refugee support. Peter was our lawyer and provided much appreciated support to us both and particular to me after Gerd’s death. Always helpful and kind.
In Palestine the human quality most appreciated is “Sumud”. That means “Steadfastness”, Peter in his commitment to social justice exemplified that rare and precious quality. I will miss him as will so many others. His was a life of meaning in every aspect.
Peter Golden, a founding member of CASC, was a constant presence and strength in CASC for more than 30 years. He was steadfast in his support cheerfully doing all the tasks that make an organization work well – setting up chairs, contacting and organizing speakers and musicians, chairing meetings, greeting guests, preparing and giving reports, expressing informed and reasoned contributions during our deliberations, and was probably the best fund-raiser we ever had. For many years he was known as the Minister of Finance.
He went on human rights delegations to Central America during the times of brutal military rule, met with endangered activists there; helped lawyers and others threatened with death and disappearance. He assisted many to come to Canada as refugees. Later he was involved in Victoria and globally in organizations to help traumatized refugees, in Victoria called Survivors of Torture.
We particularly remember him for his h work on behalf of Coca-Cola workers and union organizers in Guatemala in early 80s. As a result of international efforts of which he was part – the workers for CC were unionized and still are.
Last year, at the initiative of his friend Deirdre Kelly, another CASC activist, we were able with Peter’s support to help the creation and installation of sculptures of nine assassinated Coca-Cola a union organizers in a prominent place in Guatemala City.
When Peter attended our last Café Simpatico on June 27, frail, but in good spirits, we showed a film about the children of those who were murdered and disappeared in Guatemala in the 80’s. Several were at the meeting and we treasure out last photo of Peter taken with our Guatemalan guest speakers and CASC activists. The film is called SIN MIEDO: WITHOUT FEAR or FEARLESS
Over the years Peter had no fear of retaliation or hostility because of his values and actions. As we have heard today; he was fearless as he demonstrated that solidarity and the search for justice know no boundaries.
CASC and Peter learned this – all human rights are indivisible – so with Peter’s steadfast commitment that while still supporting Central America CASC stands in solidarity for justice for all – – from 1st nations in the Peace River Valley to Palestine. This month CASC presents a film about resistance to colonialism in Western Sahara.
A few weeks after my husband died three years ago Peter called me to a refugee rights demonstration at the office of the Conservative federal candidate. I went down to the bottom of my street and stood with others holding banners. Peter and a friend went to an appointed meeting with the candidate – who did not show – in fact he was invisible most of the campaign – so our message was delivered to the executive assistant. Standing outside were two young friends who came to Canada as children- Sofija from Serbia and Sasha from Russia. Sofija is now working for a women’s organization in Serbia; Sasha is taking his PhD under my son-in-law at McMaster University.
Sofija wrote, “My heart reaches out to Peter’s family. I know that we spent a lot of time, Sasha and I, talking about Peter, what we learned from him (and his daughter!) and how the community lost someone truly irreplaceable. It’s hard to ever find someone who fights for the rights of others in so many aspects of their lives, especially in their personal life. It’s also extremely rare to find a lawyer who does good work, who has a reputable name in the province, and who still spends his Saturday marching to a Conservative party office, holding protest signs. That, to me, is incredible. I know you lost a good friend, and I think what we learned from him will live on… Even still, the grieving process lives on. Rest in Power to such an incredible community shaper.”
The Christian Peacemaker, James Loney, has written, “None of us can know the measure of our lives. None of us can know what our actions might seed.”
We are just today beginning to know the measure of Peter Golden’s life – let us be inspired to honour his legacy of commitment to solidarity by strengthening our own resolve to create a better world for all: From Guatemala to Palestine; from Serbia to Saanich, we can cherish the wisdom and passion of Peter in our hearts.
The life of Peter Golden has shown us that solidarity is just another word for love.
Photo: Café simpatico Jun27, 2018. Peter at back 2nd from left. We are wearing photos of some of the murdered and disappeared
Theresa Wolfwood, on behalf of the Victoria Central America Support Committee