Meet Gianne Broughton, Green Party Candidate & Life-long Peace Activist

Gianne Broughton worries about the plankton.

Yes, the plankton — micro-organisms that fill the world’s oceans. They may be small but they are highly sensitive to environmental change, and their fate is interlocked with all of humankind’s.

And that’s why they mean so much to Broughton, the Green Party candidate for the riding of Peterborough-Kawartha in the June 7 Ontario provincial election.

gianne with flowers

Gianne Broughton (Photo Credit: Kofi Broughton)

As long as we keep putting extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and allow fertilizer run-off to flow to the ocean, the acidity of the ocean will continue to increase, dramatically affecting global populations of plankton and causing many its species to die.

So what? Well, plankton makes up the base of the marine food chain, and also produces  about 40% of the world’s atmospheric oxygen. 

“The ocean is going acid at an unpredictable, but quite alarming, rate and we don’t know how much longer we have”, explained Broughton, 57, in a JOURNEY Magazine interview.

“The status quo isn’t good enough. It’s time we got more serious about ecology,” she said. “I’m really excited about running for the Green Party. I really feel if not now, when?”

Her life’s calling has been tied up in peace work, concern for the marginalized and the environment, and guided by the Quaker phrase “live simply that others may simply live.”

It’s her first time running for office, but, as a bilingual former peace-builder in Canada and around the world, a Quaker, and a planner and teacher with a background in agriculture, international development and environmental science, she brings a distinctive set of skills and knowledge to the political stage. 

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Solidarity Weekend, Peterborough, Sept. 2017

Her life’s calling has been tied up in peace work, concern for the marginalized and the environment, and guided by the Quaker phrase “live simply that others may simply live.”

Broughton grew up in an Anglophone enclave on Montreal’s West Island, the oldest of four children. Her father taught agricultural engineering at McGill University and her mother, legally blind since age nine, had studied food services technology at Ryerson.

“I consider myself very privileged to have grown up in a secure family. My parents were feminists, but they didn’t call themselves that.”

They were active members of the United Church of Canada.  She remembers being “very concerned about poverty very early on”. In Grade 9 she read a book by Ian Adams (“The Poverty Wall”) who wrote about Canada’s Indigenous people. It influenced her so much that she decided to become an English as a Second Language teacher. She was already tutoring friends and knew she had a natural talent for teaching. She became bilingual the same year when she suddenly found herself thinking in French during a Core French class.

“I hoped that I would be able to teach in a school in an Indigenous community, since deportation to residential schools was obviously cruel,” Broughton said.  “That was 1975. I came to Trent University (in Peterborough) in 1978 because it was the only university in Canada at the time that offered courses in any Indigenous language. I had the privilege of studying Ojibwa from Fred Wheatley, who was exceedingly generous with his wisdom.” 

“My time at Trent was great, one of the best times of my life. If you go away from home you can re-invent yourself and I really enjoyed re-inventing myself here in Peterborough.”

“A few months before I graduated from teachers’ college,” she continued, “the federal government introduced a policy of not hiring non-Indigenous teachers right out of teachers’ college. This policy was possible because there were now many more Indigenous people with the necessary qualifications, which I recognized as a good thing.” 

“There were too many teaching graduates for the number openings in Ontario. I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, and the jobs were all occupied by the bulge of the boom, who were about five years older than me.  I applied to schools in places you could only reach by train, and had my applications returned unopened because they had received  so many applications.”  

“So I went to the CUSO office and applied to volunteer in Nigeria as an English as a Second Language teacher.”

After two years of a “totally amazing experience” there, she came home and taught in Ontario schools for two years. After marrying a Ghanaian colleague she had met in Nigeria, she took a Master of Arts degree at Guelph University.   She wrote her thesis with her son, Kofi, on her lap. The marriage ended before she graduated.

After graduation, she worked on a ground-breaking project called Women’s Rural Economic Development, in Stratford, Ontario. But in 1990, her life took another turn. She became a Quaker.

“I had thought that Quakers faded out with the Underground Rail Road. But the Quaker way is to speak from the heart and that speech is what counts rather than any particular form of words or articles of faith,” Broughton said. 

gianne in congo

Broughton (middle) with Chantal Bilulu (left) and her assistant, in Bukavu, South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo with staff of Heritiers de la Justice, a human rights organization working to help women whose lives have been ruptured by rape used as a weapon of war in the on-going civil war there.

She was hired by the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers) in Ottawa to look after its international development projects which gradually moved toward peace-making. She spent 17 years at the job, spending as much as three months a year visiting projects — including poverty alleviation and ecological remediation – in countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. All of them were in the midst of or had just ended a civil war, she said. 

One project stands out as particularly challenging. In 2005 she landed in Burundi, Africa, where she was required to establish a program to assist local Quakers who were building peace between hostile parties.

“I was pioneering something for the Quakers, finding people to trust . . . and developing relations with local people. There was no recipe to follow.” 

She drew on this work to write a book titled, “Four Elements of Peacebuilding: How to Protect Nonviolently” with examples of peace-building in action. Those elements are power-based work; rights-based work; interest-based; and compassion-based.

“It’s where my hope comes from because I have seen how things interact to build peace in very, very difficult places.”

(To access her book, go to http://quakerservice.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Four-Elements-of-Peacebuilding-25-Nov-2013.pdf)

Broughton took a leave of absence for health reasons, and her work with the Quakers culminated with the publishing of the book.  She then came to Peterborough in August, 2015 to be close to her parents and siblings in Toronto, and has fallen back on her original career of teaching.

She now teaches Core French at the Children’s Montessori School in Peterborough and tutors English, French, Math and overcoming dyslexia to children and adults. She attends the Peterborough monthly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and is a passionate supporter of the Peterborough Peace Council.

She said the Green Party of Ontario’s platform is: Jobs, People, Planet.

“I want people to know that this year a vote for the Green Party is not a throw-away vote. People think of trying to win, but what’s important is strengthening the voice for recognising the environmental limits on life. Every vote for the Green Party is a little more pressure on the whole system to go green.”

She said the Green Party listens to people and their grass-roots protests and gives them a voice in the political forum, “demanding the necessary changes right there in that chamber” where the laws are made. And because of that voice, the other parties have to listen.

Broughton is running against Liberal incumbent Jeff Leal, New Democratic Party candidate Sean Conway, and Progressive Conservative Party candidate Dave Smith.

“My life philosophy is to do what I can now. Take what joy I can in the moment and do whatever I can to make life easier for the plankton.” 

By Melodie McCullough

 

gianne protesting cropped 2

 

While Broughton says she has never been arrested, she has had her photo in the Ottawa Citizen protesting outside the Prime Minster’s office in 2012 at the start of the Syrian civil war. A security officer approached her and said she needed a permit, which was untrue. She wrote to the newspaper to complain, “and there was outrage”. 

 

Categories: Politics, Strong Women

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