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Victoria chapter marks International Conscientious Objectors Day with rally at recruiting centre

The Council of Canadians Victoria chapter rallied against recruitment outside a Department of National Defence (DND) Recruiting Centre yesterday.

The outreach noted, “In solidarity with International Conscientious Objectors Day, peace activists will hold a rally outside of the DND recruiting office in downtown Victoria. It is an opportunity to celebrate those who have – and those who continue – to resist war, especially by refusing to be part of military operations and institutions and to encourage people to resist, not enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces.”

It highlighted, “According to the Department of National Defence, there is a plan to recruit more people, especially women and minorities, into the Canadian Armed Forces. A recent Senate report, Reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces: A Plan for the Future, is also pushing to increase the number of soldiers and reserves.”

The rally called for more jobs in the caring economy, notably the environment, health care and education, to protect the planet and ensure sustainable prosperity.

The Council of Canadians has long supported conscientious objectors and war resisters who refuse to perform “military service” and assert their right to refuse to kill on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience or religion.

In November 2005, we presented our Activist of the Year award to war resister Jeremy Hinzman (the first American Iraq war resister who sought refugee status in Canada) who accepted it on behalf of all war resisters in Canada. We also supported Bill C-440, legislation that would have allowed war resisters to stay in this country. That bill was defeated by a 7 vote margin in the House of Commons in September 2010.

Earlier this year, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow commented, “We must remember in all our foreign policy that peace can only come if accompanied by justice. May we serve that goal always.”

On May 7, CTV reported, “Transport Minister Marc Garneau says Canadians can expect ‘significant expenditures’ to come out of the government’s defence policy review.” That review is now scheduled to be released after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump meet at a NATO summit on May 25.

It has been speculated that Canada could double its military expenditures from $18.7 billion a year to just over $40 billion a year. Trump has also proposed a budget that would increase that country’s current $600 billion military budget by $54 billion.

When Trudeau and Trump met at the White House on February 13 they pledged to “work to modernize and broaden our NORAD partnership in these key domains [aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning], as well as in cyber and space.” The defence policy review is examining the possibility of Canada joining the multi-billion dollar U.S. ballistic missile defence ‘Star Wars’ program.

The Council of Canadians has also raised concerns about Canada’s involvement in the international weapons trade. Canada is the second biggest arms exporter to the Middle East and the sixth biggest seller of weapons and military equipment in the world.

Yesterday’s rally was organized by the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and endorsed by the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network.