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.
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 began operating as a project of The Canadian Council of Churches.
It was a unique arrangement. The council became the definer and custodian of the Ploughshares mandate, but not the direct overseer of the implementation of that mandate. Instead the council called on churches who shared the basic vision to come together to form a Project Ploughshares Governing Committee and take responsibility for carrying out the mandate.
photo: Tadeusz Zagosdzinksi/UN