History

Murray Thomson and Ernie Regehr in 2011

Murray Thomson and Ernie Regehr in 2011

Project Ploughshares officially began its life on July 1, 1976 at Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, with Ernie Regehr as its first employee.

In its original mandate, Ploughshares was described as a “working group on militarism and underdevelopment.”

Co-founders Ernie Regehr and Murray Thomson had met in early 1976 to explore a joint study project. Both had recently witnessed the growth of post-colonial militarism, the way in which newly independent countries were spending vast amounts of borrowed money to build up military institutions rather than spending them on human development.

Ernie had just returned from a three-year Mennonite Central Committee (Canada) study assignment in southern Africa while Murray was the Executive Director of CUSO.

Within a few months, Ploughshares and the United Church group CANDA (Canadian Defence Alternatives) amalgamated, adding the exploration of alternative, less militaristic national security strategies to the project’s mandate.

The project’s strategy was to work in two concurrent phases.

  • The first built a resource base through the study and research of defence policy and the arms trade with an emphasis on Canada.
  • The second focused on developing alternative policies and, through public education programs, gaining support for these policies.

In mid-1977, Ploughshares officially became an operating division of The Canadian Council of Churches.

photo: Tadeusz Zagosdzinksi/UN