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.
– Build on the unanimous support (parliamentary motions of 2010) and the recent appeal by 5 former disarmament ambassadors for Canada to act on its support for nuclear non-proliferation, especially since the US has belied its professed support for nuclear disarmament by increasing its arsenal, even developing a “mini” nuclear bomb, during the Obama administration.
– End Canada’s participation in NATO, which has been acting in an aggressive and provocative manner for decades.
– Stop sending Canadian soldiers and weaponry overseas, especially in any capacity other than disaster relief or UN peacekeeping missions. Ideally, Canada’s service members who would participate in disaster relief, peacekeeping and hopefully a future UN Emergency Peace Service designed to prevent and stop all forms of crimes against humanity would be trained specifically for that work. (They would not be trained as soldiers whose main job is to be “able to kill people” but as guardians or protectors, integrated into an international force with a wide range of emergency intervention capacities.) [ http://responsibilitytoprotect.org/files/UNEPS_PUBLICATION.pdf ]
– Stop Canada’s involvement in any arms and military ventures where financial gain is a factor, especially weapons trade shows like CANSEC and selling weapons and parts. This means NO to current plans to spend some $26 billion on new warships and further billions on warplanes. [https://www.change.org/p/trudeau-stop-canada-s-30-billion-purchase-of-new-warplanes-and-warships]
– Provide non-military training for Canadians who want to help build a more peaceful world, in programs such as Katimavik and the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Before he became prime minister, Justin Trudeau expressed support for the Nonviolent Peaceforce program; we expect that most Canadians would support programs designed to increase our capacity to use nonviolence for positive change if they knew more about its history and potential.
– Education is essential. There has been so much militaristic propaganda, demonization of people seen as “enemies” and unquestioned assumptions in our media that most people have not thought much about how various security threats are related and how we can work most productively to promote genuine peace and justice. Sources for a fuller understanding of how security threats are inter-related include with 1992 scientists’ “Warning to Humanity”, a recent speech by Naomi Klein: [http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n11/naomi-klein/let-them-drown] and Mike Nickerson’s book, Life, Money and Illusion: Living on Earth as if we want to stay / La vie, l’illusion et l’argent and the website linked to those books: [http://www.sustainwellbeing.net/index.html]
– A key part of the education process is for Canada to fully recognize the rights of conscientious objectors. Historically, Canada provided for conscientious objectors to re-direct tax and other contributions dedicated to militias and the military, towards non-violent programs. In a world where it is too easy to fail to see the connections between people’s everyday choices and the fate of people and other life forms affected by those decisions, it’s vitally important for taxpayers to make a conscious choice about how to direct the “defence” or “peace and justice” portion of their taxes. Conscientious objection must be seen as a valid choice; as President Kennedy once said, “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”
– As mentioned above, we need a Department of Peace, which would be able to help all government programs work towards common goals, including strengthening democracy, preventing violence and strengthening our ability to use the tools of nonviolence, defending human rights and the rule of law. A good description of what a Dept. of Peace would entail is here: [http://canadianpeaceinitiative.ca/learn/]
We agree with others who have participated in this consultation, that this defence policy review is a great start, but that it cannot bring about the kinds of changes we need unless it is linked to a wider review of policies regarding our economy, our place in the wider world and the current social and political context.
We support suggestions aimed at upholding international law and directing Canada’s efforts towards protecting civilians. In particular, we encourage the Department of National Defence to re-engage in efforts to rid the world of mines, as Mines Action Canada advocates.
And we hope that the DND will stop engaging in actions that jeopardize people’s health and well-being. In particular, it should stop sending contaminated fill to a site which drains into the Shawnigan Lake watershed.
Other nations have led the way in demonstrating that it is possible to build well functioning societies without standing armies and to invest in departments of peace. Canada could build on this vision, playing a role it has played in the past, by leveraging our links to nations and cultures around the world and our tradition of restraint and even nonviolence, grounded in respect for others, including people of diverse backgrounds (cultural, religious, linguistic, etc.)
In closing, we cite Rachel Carson’s vision of the challenge of our times, and John Ralston Saul’s summation of Canada’s roots and the tension we face as a result of who we are. May we choose a defence posture that takes these views and realities into account.
“I think we are challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves.” ~ Rachel Carson
Speaking of the “founders of Canadian democracy”, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin, John Ralston Saul said, “they [came] up with this new model, which is a model of nonviolence, restraint, and egalitarianism.” “At key historical moments every society burns into its unconscious the outline of patterns for agreement and disagreement. […] The spring of 1849 was the defining moment for modern Canada. On one side was the European monolithic model, the colonial party, loyal to whatever empire was dominant, provided that this loyalty brought them power, income and psychic comfort – power and income without real responsibility. […] On the other side was a democratic movement that sought to develop new approaches to the public good. In Canada that meant loyalty to an unprecedented idea of complexity, which in turn meant that everyone, leaders in particular, would have to discipline themselves through restraint – restraint as encouragement to a civilization of complexity involving the other.” (Quoting an interview with Evan Solomon of Nov. 9, 2010 and from his book on Lafontaine and Baldwin, p. 21)
1) http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/07/05/imperial-nato-and-after-brexit by Dr. Joseph Gerson includes this note:
The Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues. Common Security: A Blueprint for Survival. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982. The Commission, initiated by Prime Minister Palme of Sweden, brought together leading figures from the Soviet Union, Europe and the United States at the height of the Cold War. Their Common Security alternative provided the paradigm which led to the negotiation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement which functionally ended the Cold War in 1987, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall and implosion of the Soviet Union.