The International Peace Arch Association is hoping to receive some good news in the mail.
The Blaine-based organization – dedicated to celebrating the history, culture and traditions of the Peace Arch on both sides of the border – is hoping that Canada Post will select the iconic monument for a 2021-issue stamp to mark the arch’s 100th birthday.
Since 2018, the association and its supporters have been lobbying postal authorities in both Canada and the U.S. for stamps that would recognize the centennial of the arch, opened on Sept. 6, 1921.
While there has been no formal response from the U.S. side, association founder and president Christina Winkler said a letter from Canada Post stamp services director Jim Phillips has assured her that a Peace Arch commemorative stamp is on the list of subjects being considered by the stamp advisory committee for the 2021 program.
“Final decisions for next year’s stamp program will be made this year,” Phillips wrote.
“I think we have a very good chance with Canada, based on a personal response showing care and consideration – the U.S. response was a form letter,” Winkler told Peace Arch News, while noting that competition for commemorative stamps is much more fierce on her side of the border.
“We’re very excited,” she added, pointing out that Canada Post began announcing new stamps for this year in September 2019.
For the association, lobbying for a stamp was an important part of planning ahead for activities commemorating the anniversary next year, she said.
“Having a stamp would be very big,” she said. “If we don’t get one now, on the 100th anniversary, I don’t think we ever will.”
Winkler noted that, in preparing infographics for the appeals to both postal services, it was discovered that, while other stamps have done a good job of honouring both countries’ shared culture and heritage, neither country has ever issued a stamp “commemorating our shared boundary history west of the Rockies.”
This is in spite of numerous efforts on both sides of the border dating back to 1937, when the United States Postal Service was first lobbied to feature the Peace Arch on a postage stamp.
Other attempts have included calls for stamps marking the Columbia River Treaty, signed at the Peace Arch by President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Lester Pearson on Sept. 16, 1964 and commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Peace Arch in 1996.
Among supporters of current lobbying efforts, Winkler said, are the Peace Arch Stamp Club, the cities of Blaine and White Rock, Washington state senator Doug Ericksen, White Rock Museum and Archives and the Surrey Historical Society and the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington.
Winkler acknowledged that COVID-19 has introduced a lot of uncertainty into the picture of planning other events to mark the anniversary.
But she said the association is philosophical that the significance of the 100th anniversary of the monument will ultimately be honoured, including recovering the time capsule from the 1921 cornerstone and depositing a new one to be opened in 2121.
“The arch itself was supposed to be finished years earlier, but was delayed by the First World War,” she said.
“And then, when the soldiers came home in 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic came with them. But people back then managed to carry on and get the arch finished – so we should be able, at the very least, to mark the anniversary.”
And there are other options for marking the monument’s 100th anniversary – according to Lorraine Ellenwood’s history of White Rock and nearby environs, Years of Promise.
While the cornerstone for the Peace Arch was originally laid in 1921, the monument was also the subject of two re-dedication celebrations, one in March 1922, attended by France’s Marshal Joseph Joffre, and the other, in 1926, attended by Queen Marie of Romania.