Transformation Moment: A Canadian vision of Common Security

Canadian Peace Alliance (author); The Report of the Citizens' lnquiry into Peace and Security, March 1992, 105 pp. Co-published by Project Ploughshares and The Canadian Peace Alliance. $14.95

By Shirley Farlinger (reviewer) | 1992-07-01 12:00:00

The title of this public inquiry assumes that Canada's defence and foreign policies should be transformed and that this post-Cold War time is the moment.

This timing was good for the 19-stop sweep across Canada made by the five commissioners: Douglas Roche, Iona Campagnolo, Johanna den Hertog, Jules Dufour and Konrad Sioui. Canadians were asked 'What makes you secure?' and 600 submissions, written and oral, were made. That so many would work at their own expense on their submissions and come to the hearings was simply a miracle. The report tries to capture the spirit of these voices as well as the specific suggestions that were made.

For my money, it succeeds. It is well organized into sections starting with an executive summary and continuing with a compilation of what was heard in communities from Halifax to Vancouver and from Sheshatshit, NATO's training ground, to Snowdrift, NWT. The new vision of security, which looks at all needs including the environment and justice, is described in 10 pages. Then the 30 recommendations to the government with the underlying philosophy is given. The report leaves the history of the process, the sponsors and list of presenters to the end.

It's right on the first page of the summary that the problem leaps out. 'Canada should set an example of social and environmental responsibility. ..take the initiative on debt relief and take a leadership role in efforts... to forge a new, more just and sustainable international economic order.' This will not sit well with our American buddies but the report suggests it's time we got a life of our own.

The statement 'Canada should stop further nuclear reactor sales and phase out uranium mining and uranium exports.' will not go down well with Conservatives or the business community but this is what was said by one group after another and could not be stated more succinctly. But the report has trouble dealing with the structural changes that need to be made in government departments of environment, trade, aid, finance as well as external relations. It just recommends that the Secretary of State for External Affairs and International Trade be the lead minister responsible to Parliament and CIDA, International Trade and National Defence portfolios have associate ministers under External's direction and that an annual security Green Paper be published. It's a start. The report recognizes that only the Cabinet can take a holistic view but it lacks coordinated advice from all the departments or any mechanism for public input.

The report may disappoint the strict pacifists. It cannot quite abandon the idea of military force. But it says we should undertake military operations only through the United Nations under the U.N. Charter, only when all else has been tried, only with parliamentary approval, only in defence and only if it will do more good than harm.

The defence establishment, in spite of what Col. Alex Morrison maintained in Toronto, was not shutout. A good selection of defence people were included in the quotes and on some roles suggested for our forces there will be a meeting of the minds. Peacekeeping, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, environmental clean-up and coastal patrol are probably all mutually agreeable tasks. At the end of the report we find seven pages from the Department of National Defence added, it was said, for balance. At first I thought why this, and at the Inquiry's expense yet? But at least It's in black and white that we are to be part of the 'Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land) and the NATO Composite Force' with a 'capability for contingency operations anywhere in the world'. This could be a replay of the Gulf even with a nuclear first strike using our two CF-l8 squadrons and the planned three to six submarines. It's a list of personnel and equipment with little to tell us how they will be deployed.

For the hundreds of presenters this report is a chance to find out what others said. Some presenters will even find themselves quoted in the sideboard section of each page. Lucky ones like David Parnas, the President of Science for Peace, got in twice. Of course only a few could be included and only portions of what they had said. I liked 'It makes my hair stand on end that roughly 10 % of my taxes are dedicated year after year to military spending' from Jean Chenier of Chicoutimi. There was a careful, oh-so-Canadian selection of quotes with gender, geographic and French/English balance. The written and taped presentations will be placed in the National Archives. I wish someone could make them into a book. As one of the chairs of the Toronto hearings, I can attest to the very moving speeches from such groups as The Food Bank, the El Salvador support group and Pax Christi.

The report has been sent to a selection of Members of Parliament, the Department of National Defence and educators across Canada in global education and strategic studies. The 14 sponsors will distribute it to their networks. But this will hardly transform the defence establishment.

Although the response from the media (except The Globe and Mail) was good at the time the report was released, it may die on the vine. Only if each politician is taken out to lunch and given a pep-talk and a copy of the report will it make an impression.

I believe the Inquiry was as important as any of the Constitution talks because it brought out all the deepest concerns of Canadians. It is this peculiar passion we have for curing the world that really holds us together.

Review by Shirley Farlinger. The Report is available from the Canadian Peace Alliance for $14.95, including handling and postage. Mail cheque to 555 Bloor St. W, Suite 5, Toronto, MSS I Y6.

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1992

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1992, page 26. Some rights reserved.

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