On 28 June 1999, in the aftermath of a devastating conflict in Kosovo, the Canadian Landmine Foundation was officially introduced by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy. Extending his commitment to the Ottawa Treaty, Axworthy donated a $1 million start-up grant to the CLMF. Upon the foundation’s birth, he stated that “we want to ensure in this tragic time and horrible period of resettlement that Canada will take the lead.” His comments were in response to the problems faced by refugees returning to Kosovo, who despite the conflict’s end, still had to endure the dangers and problems posed by landmines in regions that were once their homes. Since its foundation in 1999, the CLMF has committed itself to rid the world of landmines, and encourage Canadians to take the lead in helping achieve these goals. Below is a brief overview of some of the past and present programs that the CLMF has launched, and what you can do to get involved.
Meals for a Mine Free World (Formerly Night of 1000 Dinners)
We decided we needed to find a unique way to raise funds; to assist countries to meet their international obligations. So we created an event, we thought… the best fundraisers are high-end dinners, people wear fancy clothes and they go to fancy places and they pay fancy prices and they raise an awful lot of money. And we thought well we don’t know those people, so let’s do the opposite. So anybody can have a dinner, invite friends and neighbours into their own home, friends and neighbours come and instead of wine, or flowers, or dessert, they bring a donation. That has raised well over 4 million dollars; we have undertaken 92 projects in 12 countries using that money. – Former CLMF CEO and President Scott Fairweather explains the concept behind “Meals for A Mine-Free World.”
Meals for a Mine-Free World—or “Night of 1000 Dinners”—has been a significantly successful program designed to encourage the average person to host their own fundraising dinners. The flexibility of the program has allowed for unique ways to raise awareness and proceeds to the CLMF. In 2008 for example, the CLMF recognized Earth Hour by serving dessert under candlelight.
Below is a video of Scott Fairweather’s speech on the first Meals for a Mine-Free World dinner in 2009 (the tenth anniversary of the ratification of the Ottawa Treaty).
In 2000, the CLMF partnered with the UN’s Adopt-A-Minefield program where individuals or groups could donate to the clearing of a minefield. These minefields were typically 10,000 to 60,000 sq m in size and cost on average $40,000 to clear. Areas in Cambodia, Croatia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Bosnia were cleared under the program. The Adopt-A-Minefield program also gained the support of celebrities such as Paul McCartney and has raised over $17 million internationally.
The CLMF’s connection to peacekeeping began early on and was a natural connection given the nature of landmines, the Ottawa Treaty, and Canada’s reputation as a peacekeeping nation. Since its inception, the CLMF has honoured and recognized International Peacekeeping Day on August 9 every year. As former CEO and President Scott Fairweather stated “humanitarian mine action is an action of peacekeeping.” This is because long after governments and combatants declare a war to be over, for the people living on former battlefields, that war continues for decades. The clearing of a minefield means the building of peace and the final stages in ending a conflict. Regions that are still affected by landmines after war cannot rebuild and live in peace until the mines are cleared.
Past events to recognize Peacekeeping Day include the “Peacekeepers Day Yard Sale” in 2006 which marked the 50th anniversary of “modern day peacekeeping in Canada.” The campaign encouraged Canadians to hold yard sales dedicated to raising funds for mine action projects. The nearly three-month campaign was designed to coincide with International Peacekeeping Day and in addition to funding the foundation, also raised awareness to “Canada’s leadership role in peacekeeping.”
Watch the video below to see Fairweather explain the CLMF’s connection to peacekeeping.
You can become active in one of the programs mentioned above, such as hosting or organizing your own “Meals for a Mine-Free World” event. Host a dinner and ask your guests to bring charitable donations to help clear landmine fields.
If you work in education, the CLMF offers lesson plans designed to educate students on the landmines issue. High-school students should also be encouraged to submit an essay to the Mark Isfield Essay Contest. Mark was a Canadian combat engineer who lost his life in 1994 while clearing a landmine field in Croatia. To help raise awareness to Canada’s peacekeeping and demining efforts, the CLMF is asking students ages 14 to 18 to answer the question “What is a peacekeeper, peacemaker?”
Donours are not limited to the above ideas. There are many ways in which you can encourage people to donate or raise awareness. In March 2008 for example, Law Students from University of New Brunswick held a charity boxing match to “knock out landmines.” All donations went to the CLMF. The story was covered in the local newspaper, helping raise awareness to the CLMF and the landmine issue in addition to raising funds.
Above all, the CLMF depends on donations. While the programs explained above are excellent ways to encourage donations and raise awareness, a simple individual donation can go a long way. Become a monthly donour and help save lives. The CLMF also offers “Give the Gift of a Changed Life.” A memorable episode of Seinfeld saw George Costanza hand out phony donation cards to coworkers as Christmas gifts, hilarity ensued. This was unethical and fraudulent for sure, but handing out donations as gifts is actually a great idea. These donations can help assist victims in their recovery, including surgery, the purchasing of prosthetic limbs, counseling and rehabilitation.
The signing of the Ottawa Treaty was a major step in the right direction, and it could not have been possible without the significant media attention landmines received in the 1990s and the public support. But landmines continue to be a serious problem. Each year, mines maim and kill thousands of people across the globe. The only way this issue can ever be resolved is through continued awareness and mine clearance. As Lloyd Axworthy stated upon the CLMF’s foundation “…governments cannot do it alone. Individuals and groups of Canadians must continue to be active in pursuing land mine activities….[the CLMF’s] aim is to create a sustaining fund to which individuals and corporations can contribute to help eradicate land mines and ease the human suffering they cause. It will encourage Canadians to maintain the lead and set the example for demining efforts across the globe.” With your help we can make this possible.