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Mondial Winter 2023: Remembering Canadian World Federalists

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Mary June Pettyfer
1933 – 2023

As the years go by, our global political community is faced with more and more reasons to come to terms with the reality that the international governance institutions created after the Second World War are inadequate for addressing the needs of the 21st century. From the risks of nuclear weapons use, to the injustices of growing financial and economic inequalities, to ecological breakdown, often referred to as the “triple planetary crisis” (biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change), the requirement to find an improved framework for global decision-making becomes increasingly obvious.

For Mary June Pettyfer, who passed away July 5 in Victoria B.C., world federalism simply made good sense. A caring, empathetic, good-humoured person with strong religious convictions and a sense of fundamental human decency, she recognized that social and political change doesn’t simply come about on its own. As her three sons grew older and family demands diminished, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work as a practising world federalist. She recognized the importance of making connections, keeping in touch and building a movement. World federalism was the right thing to do, and there was plenty that needed to be done. She led a very strong and sometimes boisterous Victoria B.C. chapter of WFM-Canada for over 15 years in the 1990s and early 2000s, and was also actively engaged in the work of the governing Councils of the national and international sections of the Movement.

During the Second World War, she was held captive for three years at a Japanese internment camp in The Philippines. The hunger and deprivation she experienced then as a young girl reinforced her belief in the need to strengthen legal frameworks that upheld peace and human dignity.

Successes for the World Federalist organization, such as when Canada (finally!) ratified the Law of the Sea Convention, or when the WFM International Secretariat led a global civil society coalition that was instrumental in the creation of the International Criminal Court were celebrated, but not for long.

Mary June was often frustrated with the entrenched political mindsets and machinations that animated politics in Ottawa and at UN HQ in New York; As she saw it, there was soooo much more that we needed to do.

In her will, Mary June contributed funds dedicated to enabling participation in the work of the World Federalist Movement by activists from her native Victoria and from Africa. She was selfless, caring and committed to the cause that she both strengthened and enjoyed. 

Fergus Watt

Former Executive Director of WFM-Canada.

May Kersten
1932 – 2021

May Kersten, long-time member and supporter of World Federalist Movement - Canada, passed away peacefully on August 29, 2021 at the age of 88.

May had a strong and independent spirit forged by the challenges of the Second World War. She had powerful memories of the Canadian soldiers who liberated Holland when she was a girl, and perhaps that is when the first kernels of commitments to global democracy, peace and the rule of law took root in her spirit. 

In keeping with these beliefs, May made a very generous bequest to the WFM-Canada, a donation that will enable our movement to continue its work on our platforms pertaining to global governance, peacebuilding, and the rule of law. The members of the WFM-Canada Board of Directors hereby take this opportunity to express to May’s family our profound thanks and appreciation.  

As a member of the WFM-Canada’s Montreal branch, May participated actively in events and contributed regularly to branch and national fundraising campaigns.  She cared deeply about social justice and, to that end, also contributed to causes at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, her spiritual community, including taking responsibility for a year’s rent for one of two families sponsored by the church’s Syrian Refugee Programme in 2016 – 2017.

May was born in Holland, the second youngest of ten children, and immigrated to Montreal in 1965 where she became a successful financial advisor. Among May’s many interests were her love of the outdoors, tennis, photography and travel.  She loved reading about mythology and Indigenous cultures, which fueled her passion for traveling, and was fortunate enough to have traveled all over the world. In 2018, May suffered a debilitating stroke that severely curtailed her freedom.  She spent her last years receiving gentle and loving care at the Sunrise nursing home in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

May is survived by sisters, Yvonne and Anne Marie, and a brother, Ferdinand.  She also leaves behind her nephew, Robert, and his wife, Anita, who provided loving and attentive care from the U.S. due to Covid restrictions during that time.  

We extend our sincere condolences to May’s family in their time of sorrow. May lived her life according to her values and demonstrated her deep conviction of making a difference in the world.  She did so with aplomb.

Patricia Philip

Montreal branch 

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