What could our money do if it was spent on humanitarian causes instead of the military?
Report on the Conscience Canada Annual General Meeting, held at Danforth Mennonite Church, 2174 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON, Saturday, April 1, 2017
Seven members attended this year’s Conscience Canada (CC) AGM with 10 additional proxies received. Mary Groh, President of the board, presided over the meeting. Persons willing to remain as board members and who were accepted by the meeting were: Dave Bechtel of Kitchener ON, Mary Groh of Kitchener ON, Murray Lumley of Toronto ON, Jan Slakov of Salt Spring Island BC, Dwyer Sullivan of Kitchener ON, Eric Unger of Winnipeg MB. Kelly Krauter of Montreal, PQ and Peter Tiessen of Winnipeg, MB resigned from the board. They were thanked for their service to Conscience Canada. Doug Hewitt-White of Almonte, ON and Charlie Diamond of Toronto were elected as new members of the board. Doug Hewitt-White has agreed to act as President of Conscience Canada with Mary Groh acting as Past-President. Treasurer Dave Bechtel distributed the 2016 financial statements and the auditors were appointed for 2017.
‘Non-business’ part of the meeting: –
At 3:30 pm actor Ben Wert presented Monologues from ‘Theatre of the Beat’s’ play, “Yellow Bellies”, about World War II Conscientious Objectors followed by a vigorous discussion, comparing the nature of conscientious objection then with today where the objection is to military taxation.
Conscience Canada Board Report for 2016
The board’s efforts were enhanced this year by the work of two paid interns, Kelly Krauter and Emily Mininger. In preparation for a significant push in promotion they cleaned up the mailing list.
Emily created an infographic showing how Canadian tax money could be spent for the benefit of people in need rather than for the destruction of people and habitat. This was translated into French and used on the front of our English and French Peace Tax Return as a change from the old picture of a dove perched on a cannon. These PTR’s were sent out with a press kit to numerous media contacts. One result was an interview on Windsor radio station with Jan Slakov and Dominique Boisvert. Artistes pour la paix put our PTR on their website. Echeq a la guerre, a coalition of peace organizations in the Province of Quebec, did also and invited Kelly to make a presentation to their organizing committee.
Kelly also created a Facebook Events page which was used in advertising last year’s presentation by Dr. Abuelaish after our AGM on April 9. That event, advertised on social media and local newspapers and posters in public places and church bulletins in the east end of Toronto, resulted in a packed house at Danforth Mennonite Church and contributed about $2,000 to his Daughters for Life Foundation.
At the conclusion of her internship, Kelly agreed to serve on the board, taking the responsibility of recording secretary from Murray Lumley for the ensuing year. She and two other Quebec members made a CC presentation at the World Social Forum in Montreal in August.
The Canadian School of Peace-building at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg for the second summer included Conscience Canada in its programming; and board member Eric Unger did his best to promote tax re-direction to the students from across Canada and around the world.
This year the statistical information on our DVD was updated by Don Woodside and his nephew David; the music issue was dropped and the video re-instated on our website. Our web master Todd Lumley continues to respond promptly and capably to all our requests. Jan Slakov continues to publish two informative newsletters every year received by 125 people by post and many more on line.
Conscience Canada signed on to the Voices-voix declaration for dissent and democracy, and to Echec a la guerre’s article published in Quebec on the International Day of Peace. Conscience Canada also submitted a brief to the Parliamentary Consultations on Defence Policy on July 31, 2016. It is posted on our website under “Resources”.
No MP was found to take our CO bill to parliament. Perhaps too little serious effort was put into the search. Board members are hesitant to ask for support from parliamentarians when so little desire from Canadians for this legislation can be documented. Our 2016 contributors to the Peace Tax Trust Fund, in spite of all our efforts, numbered only 22. There are a total of 157 people with money in the fund.
Our search for a sympathetic MP gave way to a search for people ready to keep Conscience Canada going as a not-for-profit organization. How can we pursue the goal of legalizing the refusal to support the military with our taxes, which is in our mandate? Until our MP’s can feel more pressure from the Canadian public for a CO tax bill there is little hope that legislation will happen.
Other groups are lobbying the government to give priority to the planet’s peace, environmental health, and human rights and well being instead of to the production of military hardware, and procurement and training for “defence” and “security”. We could join with such an organization to make a greater impact; but this would likely mean people who want to keep their earnings out of the coffers of the military establishment would be on their own, without the support of a 40-year-old organization. Maintaining our unique brand or closing it down is becoming a perennial issue for the board and one which must be solved definitively very soon.
The board should be commended for continuing their efforts in spite of so little acceptance. Even though we are geographically remote from each other we feel “the fellowship of kindred minds” committed to a good cause. This keeps us going.
Mary Groh, for Conscience Canada Board of Directors
for Conscience Canada Board of Directors
New President needed ……………… p. 1
Peace Resources ………………………. p. 2
CC AGM April 1 Toronto …………… p. 3
Canada’s 150th ………………………… p. 2
Private Money & War Economy …. p. 4
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CONSCIENCE CANADA 2017 Annual General Meeting
(AGM Official Notice)
Date and Time: Saturday, April 1, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
Place: Danforth Mennonite Church
(TTC exit Woodbine Station, stay on north side and walk 1 1/2 blocks east to 2174 Danforth Ave. (Street parking and public lot nearby)
2:00 BUSINESS MEETING
3:30 pm MONOLOGUES from “YELLOW BELLIES” performed by Ben Wert of Theatre of the Beat. The play produced in 2016 enacts stories of conscientious objectors during WWII.
As time permits, participants are invited to share stories of and visions for their activism – What are we engaged in and how can we build solidarity?
Conscience Canada’s Fall, 2016 newsletter is now ONLINE. We invite you to meet new board member Peter Tiessen and to celebrate close to $2000 raised for Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s Daughters for Life Foundation through our April AGM.
As a member of Quebec’s Échec à la guerre coalition, Conscience Canada has signed on to their article calling for Canada to truly support peace and justice, not killing and militarism. You can read more, including the English translation of the article by CC board member Kelly Krauter here: http://echecalaguerre.org/lettre-du-21-septembre-2016-le-canada-defenseur-de-la-paix-vraiment/
The article calls on people to show their commitment to peace & justice, and to remember the millions of people who suffer and die from war and militarism, by wearing white poppies from Sept. 21 through to Nov. 11.
In consultation with other board members of Conscience Canada, we make the following recommendations. They are based on these premisses:
– that all lives are precious, and no human life or civilization is more valuable than any other
– that nonviolence is not merely an absence of violence, but a power which we can learn to cultivate and use to protect and embody the values we hold most dear
– that killing and participating in evil is an enormous sacrifice. Conversely, the sacrifices made in living in accordance with values of respect for life and nonviolence have value and meaning even in the face of short term setbacks and losses.
We grieve to see our country, Canada, so entwined in the military industrial complex. We devote between 6 and 10 per cent of our overall budget, the largest portion of the federal government’s discretionary program spending, to the military. And Canada’s commitment not to sell weapons to regimes or groups engaged in active warfare and human rights violations is a joke, especially with the approval of the sale of military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, we are now the world’s second largest exporter of weapons to the MidEast!
We are grateful that this government kept its promise to withdraw from the bombing in Iraq and Syria. But we are convinced that many of our policies and decisions are actually undermining our security. Defence Minister Sajjan spoke of the need to increase dialogue with Russia, to reduce tensions in the region, but Canada’s involvement in NATO’s encroachment on the buffer area between NATO countries and Russia will doubtless raise tensions, rather than lessen them.
We need to shift away from a Defence posture based on trying to find and counter enemies to one that is based on Common Security (1) , on improving our capacity to work for peace and justice using the tools of nonviolence. This can best be accomplished by redirecting funding from weapons and the military towards a Department of Peace, which would include a Civilian Peace Service, capable of intervening nonviolently to protect people at home and abroad.
Check out our latest news in our February 2016 newsletter!
- “Gaza doctor” Abuelaish speaks
- Conscience Canada AGM – April 9th
- The Power of One
- New Energy for Conscience Canada
- Don stepping down
- Is Paying for War Illegal?
Peter Tiessen, in the Manitoba riding of Provencher, prepared a powerful, concise presentation on conscientious objection to military taxation for his church. He writes:
“We need to proactively engage ourselves and society in changing how we can deliver the message of peace and non-violent conflict resolution. Our thoughts create our actions. Without the mind shift that comes with routine small actions, our efforts will perish and failure will be inevitable. If left unchanged, these mental actions will soon turn into patterns and create a very powerful and destructive feedback loop. Social and political change can begin with small actions and can result in big changes in consciousness. That is the power of one.
I wish to continue share our message and concerns surrounding military taxation and how we can amend Canada’s historical perception of defense, sovereignty and security to one of respect for human life, recognition of our most basic human rights and freedoms and social development. My faith gives me hope and enthusiasm to pursue Peace Tax legislation and speak out for those whose voice is lost under the thundering sounds and desperate screams of violence and warfare. ”
Peter’s words call to mind a line from the UNESCO constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” The 4-slide presentation Peter prepared can serve as a valuable framework for presentations about the value of being a conscientious objector to military taxation.
View the Peace Tax Legislation Slides
Conscience Canada board member Eric Unger urges our new Prime Minister to help create a culture of peace with justice. He quotes a great article by Matthew Behrens, which reminds us of the many ways we could work nonviolently to promote peace and justice in the Mid-East, including in regions controlled by ISIS or Da’esh.
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I’m sure that every Canadian who writes to you fervently hopes that their brief notes will influence you in some way. As citizens write to encourage and congratulate you, to implore and beseech you, or to scold and criticize you, they want to make a difference. This writer is no different.
I encourage you to do your honourable best as you become familiar with the responsibilities you have accepted on the national and international stage. By now, you are more keenly aware of the consequences of all the promises and assurances you made prior to your election. I’m sure that this awareness will challenge you and your team in unexpected ways. As I’ve mentioned before, Canada appears to be ready to adjust the course, rather than stay the course and we are grateful for new opportunities to show the world that the reins which steer us are now taking us along new (or perhaps old) paths.
I implore you to continue along a path that removes Canada from the spheres of violence in which the previous government was determined to insert us in order to convert us into a warrior nation. I’m not sure what you believe, but I believe that this world already has far too many warrior nations, every one of which exists in servitude to the bloody merchants of violence, the military industries who reap breath-taking personal profits as they destroy the very planet that gives them breath. In your fight (our fight, really) against the forces of chaos and destruction, have the courage to resist the voices that tell you that peace will come only through weapons of violence. This is completely illogical and unwise. Equally unwise is the long established tradition of training foreign militaries in the use of such weapons. I am fully convinced that if we could trace the personal journey into violence of every single perpetrator in the Taliban, Al Qaida, and Da’esh, we’d find a pretty direct, and perhaps even long-standing, connection to a military trainer authorized by a foreign government.
I look forward to the headlines in the local press saying that our bombers, and eventually all Canadian Forces members, have been brought back home from their destructive sorties overseas.
Here’s a quote from a visionary writer:
“With four years under Trudeau, and two-thirds of Parliamentarians new to the job and less likely to be completely hard-bitten and cynical, perhaps this is an opportunity to renew discussion on a culture of peace with justice, and to initiate a Department of Peace that sits not beside a War Department, but replaces it completely.”
I’d love for you to read it all (http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/11/canadas-deluded-wars-november), but this is unlikely. Maybe you could have a staff member read it and paraphrase it for you; maybe even the person who reads this note and must decide what to do with it.
Conscience Canada was one of 35 organizations which signed on to this letter initiated by ClimateFast and Step Up, Canada. We recognize climate change as a real security threat which, if addressed meaningfully, would surely help bring humanity together to work towards the common goal of a livable future. Although every MP has already received a copy, your MP will surely be more attentive if you send it yourself, and ask what he or she is doing to make sure Canada’s role at COP21 is constructive.
This article, by Naomi Klein and Jason Box explains how the Paris climate summit is very much related to the peace agenda: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-a-climate-deal-is-the-best-hope-for-peace.
To: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
Congratulations on forming the new Canadian government. We look forward to working with you to make Canadians proud of our country’s response to climate change.
There is no time to waste before the 2015 Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) starting November 30 in Paris. Canada needs to go to Paris with a strong position and the federal government must take the lead.
Canada must bring a new science-based emission reduction target to COP21 with the goal of achieving a universal, legally binding climate agreement that keeps global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.
This would replace the previous government’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which would result in 2030 emissions levels 6% higher than 1990. For Canada to do its fair share, we must cut carbon pollution nationally by at least one third by 2025 (35% below 2005).
We also ask that at COP21, Canada:
– Increases our pre-2020 ambition and actions, creating a carbon reduction target higher than the inadequate 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 set by the Conservative government.
– Supports the inclusion of the goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050 within the Paris agreement.
– Promises to enshrine our emissions reduction targets in law.
Furthermore, to make our international commitments meaningful and set our country on a path that avoids catastrophic climate change, the federal government needs a national action plan that commits to:
– End subsidies and other measures that promote the growth of the fossil fuel industry
– Put a price on carbon, based on the polluters pay principle, to limit carbon-intensive forms of production
– Invest in a national renewable energy plan at a scale that will secure a low-carbon future.
Significant progress can be achieved by collaborating with the provinces, local governments, Inuit, Metis and First Nations, civil society and other concerned citizens to reach these goals.
The Paris COP21 agreement presents an enormous opportunity for Canada to chart a path towards a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable future. We are counting on the Government of Canada to step up to its responsibilities as a member of the international community, and represent the true interests of Canadians and future generations on the international stage.