January 28, 2021, 12:00
Prof gets U.N. award for peace activism
By Sonya Procenko
Mississauga Star, 1995
Erindale College professor Metta Spencer's commitment to peace hasn't gone unnoticed.
Tomorrow, she will be presented with a Global Citizen's Challenge Award by the United Nations Association of Canada, at a reception at the Ontario lieutenant-Governor's residence.
The award is presented to people who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of human rights, peace, security; education, health, poverty or the environment Other recipients this year, chosen by the organization's Toronto branch, are writer-activist. June Callwood, commentator Rabbi Gunther Plaut, futurist Don Toppin and Scarborough environmentalist Lois James. Across the country, 40 Canadians are being honored.
Spencer, a University of Toronto sociology professor, founded and coordinates the college's Peace and Conflict Studies Program and is long-time editor of Peace magazine, a bi-monthly.
"The award's very nice. Everyone ought to get recognized for what you feel good about doing," says Spencer, who won a Confederation Medal, for Service to Canada in 1992.
Born in Oklahoma, Spencer moved to Canada and started teaching at Erindale in 1971 after completing her PhD in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, a centre of leftist student unrest during the late 1960s.
Over the years, along with her teaching and peace work, she has written a sociology text, several books—over 100 articles, and edited a number of books and publications.
Spencer, 62, who retires next year, says her most important books, yet unpublished, deal with secession, the partition of states in the former Soviet Union, and the influence of the peace movement there.
Since the 1980s, she has travelled to Russia as a peace activist about 10 times and interviewed 250 people there for her upcoming book Bears and Doves:Toward Peace and Civic Culture in Russia. [later published as The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy -- web ed.]
"The first time I declared myself pacifist was during the Vietnam War, when I felt it necessary to do anything to stop that war," she says.
But she says she didn't devote her life to the peace movement until the early 1980s, after. the nuclear reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.
Since then, the divorced mother of one has been active with the United Campuses, a student/faculty peace organization, Science for the Environment, Pugwash, and the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly.