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 9, 2016
Eleven members and five guests attended this year’s Conscience Canada (CC) AGM with 14 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 Toronto ON, Anna Kirkpatrick of Nelson BC, Murray Lumley of Toronto ON, Jan Slakov of Salt Spring Island BC, Dwyer Sullivan of Kitchener ON, Eric Unger of Winnipeg MB. Two new board members were elected at the meeting – Kelly Krauter of Montreal, PQ and Peter Tiessen of Winnipeg, MB. Treasurer Dave Bechtel distributed the 2015 financial statements and the auditors were appointed for 2016. Don Woodside of Hamilton, ON has resigned from the board. A note of thanks written by Jan Slakov was read aloud and Mary led us in a song she wrote which celebrated Don’s many contributions to Conscience Canada.
‘Non-business’ part of the meeting: –
At about 3:30 pm our guest speaker Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (known as the Gaza Doctor) spoke to an audience estimated at 150 people, which packed the auditorium and foyer. He spoke on the topic, “The Cost of Peace vs. The Cost of War”. He spoke for more than an hour and the first 28 minutes were captured on video which is presented on this web page.
Conscience Canada Board Report for 2015
The board of Conscience Canada faced 2015 with serious ambivalence about whether or not the organization should continue on, given the declining interest in COMT. During the year only 19 persons re-directed their military taxes (7.8% of federal taxes) into the Peace Tax Trust fund. The decline in support was thoroughly discussed at a conference call on March 28, and at the AGM immediately following. The task of inserting a miniscule number of Canadian consciences into the rest of the population’s and the government’s (misguided) preoccupation with security seems to be such a hopeless task. Yet those whose consciences are activated when they perceive the connection between their taxes and war remain firmly committed to seeing CC continue and spread.
The amount of genuine and positive support members expressed for continuing, and the willingness of board members to continue their faithful volunteer work for another year or two, resulted in the idea of folding to be put on hold. The maintaining of our Peace Tax Trust fund is not very onerous, as our treasurer attests. Closing it down and starting it up again at a future time could be.
As for promoting CC, we have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and fruitful efforts of two young activists, Kelly Krauter from Montreal and Emily Mininger from Waterloo, hired as interns for six months. Since the fall they have been using their social media and technical skills to carry our message into spheres we oldsters find hard to reach. We are grateful to them and to our webmaster Todd Lumley for their eagerness and competence to do what they do for minimal remuneration. We were happy also to add Peter Tiessen of Winnipeg to our board deliberations, which continue to be mainly by e-mail. Conference calls are organized on rare occasions.
One of our best promotional tools, the DVD “Work for peace, stop paying for war”, was mysteriously removed from our website in 2015. Some agent claims the music on it breaks copyright law. We are trying to trace exactly what is the offence, how to remedy the situation, or how to revise the DVD, the content of which does, after all, date back ten years.
Our mandate to persuade government to legalize our tax re-direction means we need again to discover a sympathetic MP to take our CO bill to parliament. Although our new government seems to be more peace-minded than the last one, we have as yet to find a member willing to represent our weak voice behind a private member’s bill. Suggestions for such a member would be welcome.
Is our focus too narrow? There are many groups across the country working admirably for peace, and from time to time someone asks for Conscience Canada’s endorsement. Increasingly the lines between environmental and peace organizations are becoming quite blurred. This past year the board drew up some guidelines to help us when a member is asked to sign, on short notice, our organization’s name to a new campaign. CC members are involved in many worthwhile causes aimed at promoting peace and justice and elimination of poverty and environmental degradation, and we are proud of that. But in the midst of this diffuse grassroots movement to improve the world for humanity, Conscience Canada must continue to challenge people to scrutinize their own personal fiscal responsibility for government’s military response to conflicts across our planet.
Mary Groh, President,
for Conscience Canada Board of Directors,
Dave Bechtel, Anna Kirkpatrick, Murray Lumley, Jan Slakov, Dwyer Sullivan, Eric Unger, (Don Woodside – leaving the board), Kelly Krauter, Peter Tiessen
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.
As the October 2015 election dust settles and many new MPs are setting priorities for their role in parliament, now is a great time to meet with your MP and discuss their support of conscientious objection to military taxation!
First, if you don’t know who is representing you in parliament, find your local MP using your postal code. Then ask around and see if you can get any other friends, co-workers, family, or acquaintances to go along with you. The more the merrier!
Contact your MP directly to arrange a meeting, and bring a copy of at least a few of the items from our “Lobbying” page.
In particular, you might want to bring a copy of our pamphlet and the report on Nonviolent Alternatives to Canadian Defense and Security. You can print them off from the website or Conscience Canada can mail some copies directly to you, just contact us and let us know!
When you’re chatting, ask if they would be interested in promoting a private members’ bill to enable conscientious objectors to redirect the military portion of their taxes towards nonviolent peace and security-building programs. If they were to say “yes” that would be amazing, but if they say “no”, you can ask if they know of any colleagues who are concerned about the escalating cost of military expenditures and the problems associated with military procurement.
Best of luck!
PS Since our film has been removed from Youtube, if you would like a DVD copy, we still have some. Again, just get in touch if you would like us to send you a copy.
Dear Joe Oliver,
Once again I write in support of a legal peace tax fund. It could be so easily implemented by your majority government. It could allow for the development of a desperately needed new vision for peace in our country and our world. For thousands of years governments and militaries have pursued the erroneous belief that one more war, one more bombing mission, one more act of violence and destruction will make their country and our world a safer place. And every time we go down this path of violence we become more fearful, we feel less safe, and we are detested and hated by those we choose to define as the enemy. And so the cycle continues……..
The 2015 Annual General Meeting report is ready for viewing.