West Kootenay Advertiser
Selkirk College is recognizing retiring British Columbia Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko with a Honourary Diploma in Peace Studies for his contribution to furthering the cause locally and across Canada.
The representative for the region in Ottawa since the 2006 federal election, Atamanenko has been a strong national voice for peace as a member of the New Democratic Party.
“Alex is passionate about world peace,” says Selkirk College President Angus Graeme. “It has been a significant part of his platform and message to constituents and the Canadian people during his nine years as MP.”
In 2011, Atamanenko introduced a private members bill — the Conscientious Objection Act — which introduced the notion that Canadian citizens opposed to the use of military intervention in conflict zones could have their portion of taxation redirected to other humanitarian uses. Though not successful in passing, the introduction of the bill became part of the national conversation about Canada’s changing military role in the international community and theatres of conflict.
“It was a real surprise and a true honour,” Atamanenko says of the honourary diploma. “I am only getting this diploma because I have been working with people that have been involved and dedicated in furthering the cause of peace. People like the folks at the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College, the people I have marched with in peace rallies over the years and the people all across the country who are making a difference. I am just one spoke in this wheel and it’s quite a humbling experience to be receiving a diploma.”
Atamanenko spent a life teaching prior to entering politics. He moved to the West Kootenay in the early 1990s and began teaching at Stanley Humphries Secondary in Castlegar. In the mid-1990s he teamed up with former Selkirk College instructor Myler Wilkinson in resurrecting the Russian language program at Selkirk College which he helped teach on a part-time basis.
“Selkirk College is a dynamic institution with so many worthwhile and innovative programs that serve our communities,” Atamanenko says about the regional college. “From Nursing to Forestry to Cooking to the Arts, it’s a very major component of our area’s education. It’s also a significant provider of jobs and contributor to our economy.”
Atamanenko’s entry into politics came in 2004 when he represented the NDP in a hard fought election against incumbent Conservative Party MP Jim Gouk. Atamanenko narrowly lost in 2004, but stayed with it and won the local seat by a landslide in 2006. He has remained a popular regional politician, winning both the 2008 and 2011 elections by a large margin.
Over the years, Atamanenko has maintained his connection to Selkirk College and helped enhance post-secondary education in the region.
“Alex has never refused invitations to come and present to students at Selkirk College on a variety of topics,” says Graeme. “He is a frequent contributor to college-wide student events and is always interested in engaging with students on the importance of young Canadians getting involved in the democratic process.”
Now 70, Atamanenko has decided not to seek another term and will not be running in the October, 2015 federal election.
The Selkirk College Graduation 2015 Ceremony will take place at the Castlegar Campus on April 24. Atamanenko will be joined on stage by fellow 2015 special award recipients John Armstrong (Distinguished Educator), Geoff Yule (Distinguished Alumni) and Margaret Scaia (Distinguished Alumni).