Category SfP Bulletin September 2012

President's Corner: Can Anyone Help Syria?

All summer, peace workers have watched quietly as the Arab Awakening changed from the optimistic phase of people power in Tunisia and Cairo to the violence in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and especially Syria. We have not marched in the streets, promoting our own solution, for we have none. Nor do our political leaders and generals. Even individually, in our own minds, we are uncertain.

The dilemma became most obvious when Libya’s dictator threatened to massacre the rebels in Benghazi, who were already abandoning their initial commitment to nonviolence. Gadhafi seemed to mean business. If ever anywhere, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine seemed to apply here, for something must be done to protect lives. Yet the political leaders of democracies were torn by uncertainty, embarrassed by the urgent need to betray their recent allies among the Arab dictators. They were able to feign purposeful unity only because the Libyan rebels declined NATO’s troop presence on the ground and requested only a “no-fly-zone” beneath which to fight their own war. The UN Security Council authorized this limited intervention with a resolution to which even the Russians and Chinese acquiesced. The rebels eventually prevailed and gave Libya an opportunity to try democracy.

If this outcome gratified the Western governments, it left peace workers ambivalent. The pacifists among us had opposed NATO’s military intervention without proposing any alternative way of preventing Gadhafi’s massacre of Benghazi. As the Libyan battle grew bloodier, many peace workers who had endorsed the No-Fly Zone expressed shock that NATO had exceeded its mandate. Later Russia would adduce their criticism when refusing to endorse an intervention in Syria. (Experienced diplomats, however, consider this excuse phony, since they say that Russians, peace workers, and everyone else must have known that a No-Fly Zone requires aerial bombing and other military actions.)

In any case, when Syria’s regime began to slaughter its own insurgents, foreign political leaders and peace activists alike found reasons not to intervene with arms. Their reasons differ. Those of the governments are practical: Europe and America are preoccupied with their financial crisis; Obama is campaigning for re-election in a country worn out by warfare; if Bashar al-Assad were defeated, Syria’s fragmented population would probably continue fighting among themselves; Russia and China would veto every adequate measure in the Security Council. And so on. The politicians’ reasoning makes sense, and they are unable to help save Syrian lives. The presidents and generals are stymied.

But peace workers are stymied too, though, unlike the pragmatic politicians, our reasons for not intervening are principled. Some of us deny that there ever is a “responsibility to protect” if that so-called “protection” involves fighting rather than diplomacy or conflict resolution. Moreover, even those of us who consider military methods sometimes necessary do not consider them always necessary. The question then becomes: Under what limited circumstances is it justifiable to use violence for humanitarian purposes? Yet people who have cogent theoretical answers to this question may be uncertain what to do in any particular real situation.

Worse yet, the principled pacifists among us, who scrupulously reject all violent interventions, propose no effective means of protecting the vulnerable. After the killing has started, they know it would be futile to urge the fighters to stop and negotiate. So they can only watch in horror or, at best, send medicines and tents for the people fleeing the battlefield.

The dilemma of a government leader is a pragmatic one, whereas the dilemma of a peace worker is moral. Yet both ask: What is a decent way to end the killing? There is no decent way, but we each have to contrive some answer anyhow. We usually refrain politely from challenging another’s modus vivendi until the war is over, but I will declare mine here. It may not match yours.

I concede that violence sometimes saves lives. Indeed, I would dread living anywhere that lacked a police force. A military campaign can sometimes protect vulnerable people, and when that is the case, it may be morally obligatory to undertake such a mission. Yes, in principle there is an international responsibility to protect people whose own government fails to do so or, even worse, attacks them.

On the other hand, a military intervention that is meant to protect may actually cause more casualties than it prevents. If so, surely it should be prevented. But we will never know whether the Libyan intervention saved more lives than it cost. I expect that a “protective” intervention in Syria in late August (when I am writing this) would kill more people than it would protect, but no one can be sure. Historically, most armed interventions to protect people have probably amplified the total casualties. Therefore as I watch TV scenes of Syrians shooting each other, I can imagine no military solution to their plight. One side will eventually win, but at a terrible price.

So what should I wish for them? That they had not resisted Assad? Certainly not! I care about their human rights. I want to bring down every dictator in the world. But how? Is there a decent way to oust a dictator? Yes, but unfortunately, the Syrian rebels did not use it while they had a chance and now it is too late.

The Arab Awakening is a contagious phenomenon. The frustrated people of several countries, watching Tunisia and Egypt pursuing their freedom successfully, tried to emulate what they saw on TV. But they did not realize that the success was a result of strategizing that had taken place off-screen—preparations for nonviolent civil resistance. Groups of young persons had analyzed the sources of power on which their dictatorships depended, and had contrived to avert armed confrontations with them. Early in Tunisia’s “Dignity Revolution” the protesters formed an alliance with the country’s lawyers, with trade unions, and soon with the military and police. In Egypt, likewise, the protesters brought ice cream to the soldiers in Tahrir Square, praised them effusively, and encircled each tank with ring of tents, where youths lolled about, constantly proclaiming their friendly feelings toward its crew.

This kind of preparation cannot be matched by an impulsive crowd. Everywhere, civil resistance requires intelligent organizing. In Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, for example, key “Pora” activists began two years in advance by visiting the wives and mothers of top military leaders, winning them over. They also recruited a retired general, who spoke privately with former colleagues who were still serving as officers. When at last the crowd gathered in the square, numerous military wives were conspicuous among the protesters, and their husbands hardly willing to order the troops to shoot them. Winning over the police and military is vital to the success of a civil resistance movement. Woe to the insurgents who do not realize that fact and choose to take up arms instead.

Unfortunately, few angry protesters know the odds, as Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan do. In their book, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, they studied cases of more than 300 resistance movements and determined that between 1900 and 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as violent ones. Why so? Chenoweth and Stephan assert that it is numbers that count. Nonviolent actions can attract larger numbers of citizens to participate in protests, and this vastly increases the rates of success, even against a brutal regime that is quite willing to kill its own citizens. These peace researchers show that violent insurgency is rarely a wise strategy for overthrowing a dictatorship. Moreover, a nonviolent campaign is far more likely to result in a durable and internally peaceful democracy than a violent revolution.

To be sure, there is usually a degree of violence in every resistance movement. One cannot expect to avoid bloodshed absolutely, but when government violence is met in kind by the protesters, the fighting escalates and tends to become irreversible. In Syria we see a common outcome: civil war. It is rare for participants in a civil war to cease fighting before one side has defeated the other or both sides have become too exhausted to continue. A year after the Syrian struggle began, neither the government nor the Free Syrian Army is willing to sit down at the negotiating table to reach a peace agreement. And it is too late to attempt the only decent way of fighting—nonviolently.

There’s a lesson here for peace workers. If we want to be effective in preventing wars, we have to assist in training others how to defend their own values long before they find it necessary to do so. Whereas our governments, animated by kindness, offer weapons to help their foreign friends protect themselves, it would be a truer act of friendship to send nonviolence training manuals.

Metta Spencer is the President of Science for Peace.

The Muzzling of Science in Canada

Please note that endnotes are indicated by Roman numerals in brackets

Introduction (i)

We are living in the age of science. Our entire life is impacted by and largely based on science: the way we communicate (via the internet), what we eat (scientific farming, GM products), how we clothe ourselves (synthetic fibres), how we build our shelters (new construction materials and processes), our understanding of how we procreate and, for an increasing number of people, the actual process of procreation, how we move from place to place, etc.

At the same time, we are also living in an era in which scientists are being muzzled. It is a paradox: science determines much of our lives, yet scientists are prevented from conducting research and/or speaking about their research. Not all scientists are muzzled, of course, only those whose findings are unwelcome.

The muzzlers are many: corporations, governments and universities. Nor are these three isolated from each other: governments favour large corporations, reduce funding to other bodies and foster “partnerships”, which in turn makes universities eager to search for corporate funding. The same applies to museums. For instance, the Canada Science and Technology Museum was pressured by the Imperial Oil Foundation, which contributed $600,000, to change their exhibit about the oil sands. They found the language too negative, were uncomfortable with the links between wars and oil, and objected that the exhibit showed changes in the landscape caused by oil mining. (ii)

Corporations muzzle their own scientists (iii) and at the same time influence governments as well as universities to muzzle, and of course there are other agencies that muzzle science (fundamentalist religion would be another agent in this activity (iv) as well as others); however, I will concentrate here only on the muzzling carried out by the federal government.

The federal government’s actions are at the leading edge of muzzling—to the degree that the international community has taken note of it and protested. The magazine Nature published two editorials deploring the muzzling of Canadian scientists, while the BBC reported on the same issue. (v) In February 2012, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) held a session on the muzzling of Canadian scientists. (vi) In July 2012, a lab-coated crowd of scientists staged a mock funeral for the ‘death of evidence’. (vii) In February 2012, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, together with the Association science et bien commun, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, and the World Federation of Science Journalists wrote an open letter to Harper in which they deplored “the disturbing practices of the Canadian government in denying journalists timely access to government scientists” and asked him for “freedom of speech for federal scientists”. (viii)

Who is being muzzled?

So who is being muzzled? The overall funding for science and technology has increased since the Harper government took power in 2006 (ix), so the muzzling is highly targeted. Only those organizations and individuals which are promoting inconvenient views (inconvenient from the perspective of the federal government) are de-funded, severely curtailed, or completely shut down, or, in the case of individual scientists, fired, demoted, or prohibited from speaking freely—or at all—to the media. This is rarely admitted. However, occasionally it does slip out. So, for instance, Minister Baird defended the shutting down of the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy by noting that its members “have tabled more than ten reports encouraging a carbon tax.” (x) He added “Those of us on this side of the House won’t let them do it.” (xi) He further stated that their advice “should agree with the government”. (xii)

The muzzling of scientists must be put into the context of the systematic and system-wide silencing of dissent by the Harper government. Between 2006 and 2011 at least seventy-nine organizations that work in some way on the climate crisis or for human rights, both nationally and internationally, including women’s, immigrants’ and Aboriginal rights, have either been shut down or their funding has been dramatically curtailed. (xiii) Since that time, at least eight more organizations were abolished: Experimental Lakes Area, First Nations Statistics Institute, National Roundtable on Environment and Economy, National Science Advisor, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (xiv) and the National Council of Welfare. (xv) In the latter case, “The Conservatives didn’t even have the decency to mention the demise of the council in the budget speech. The budget papers included a table in one of the appendices that showed a cut of $1.1 million a year in the council’s budget beginning next year. What the papers didn’t bother to say was that $1.1 million is the council’s entire budget.” (xvi) Within Environment Canada, the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division (AIRD) was “discontinued”, in spite of “its high rate of productivity, its fiscal responsibility, and an auditor’s recommendation that it be given additional support. This division provided research and information on areas likely to experience hazardous floods, windstorms, tornadoes and similar climatic events in light of climate change.” (xvii) In 2012, the Rights and Democracy agency was scrapped, after Harper had created turmoil within it by appointing board members who hijacked the agency’s ideology. (xviii)

During the 2006-2011 period, fourteen individuals who headed important organizations were fired or resigned in protest of government interference. (xix) Since that time, the reappointment of Lucassie Arragutainaq as chair of the Nunavut Impact Review Board was vetoed by Minister Duncan. (xx) There is a depressingly long list of cases in which individuals were prevented from speaking out, within government and at supposedly arm-lengths organizations. (xxi) The muzzling of scientists must therefore be seen as only one of the ways in which dissent from the conservative government’s ideology is being repressed. But it is the one that concerns us here.

How does the muzzling work?

How does the muzzling work? It is helpful to look at a US study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists. They issued a paper in February 2012 in which they analyze how corporations corrupt science at the public’s expense. They identify the following methods:

1. Corrupting the Science a) Terminating and suppressing research b) Intimidating or coercing scientists c) Manipulating study designs and research protocols d) Ghostwriting scientific articles e) Publication bias (overreporting positive results, underreporting negative results)

2. Shaping Public Perception a) Downplaying evidence and playing up false uncertainty b) Vilifying scientists c) Promoting experts who undermine the scientific consensus d) Influencing the media by feeding slanted reports

3. Restricting Agency Effectiveness a) Attacking legislation to delay regulations b) Hindering the regulatory process by limiting agencies’ resources and demanding extraordinary burdens of proof c) Corrupting scientific advisory panels by placing members with ties to corporations on them d) Spinning the revolving door: officials shuffle between high-level government positions and regulated industries or corporations e) Censoring scientists and their research by deleting selected evidence or adopting flawed methodologies f) Withholding information from the public

4. Influencing Congress

5. Exploiting Judicial Pathways through multi-million dollar campaign contributions (xxii)

Since I am here concentrating my attention on the muzzling in which the federal government engages, and therefore ignore other muzzling agents, some of the practices are not applicable in this context. Clearly, the last two points are not relevant in our context, although it would be interesting to scrutinize campaign contributions to candidates for MP positions from this perspective. Many of the other points made are helpful in focussing our attention.

So here are some of the ways in which the Canadian government is currently muzzling science and scientists. All of the examples cited are no more than that: one example of a particular type of muzzling.

1. Closing crucial research organizations

The possibly most egregious example is the de-funding of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA). It is a collection of 58 remote lakes where water scientists conduct experiments in a natural environment. It is world-renowned. One of its achievements was the research which led to the Air Quality Agreement between Canada and the US. This, in turn, led to significant reductions in airborne pollutants that came down as acid rain. (xxiii) “According to a recent poll by Forum Research, a whopping 50 percent of Canadians disagreed with the decision to close down the world’s only whole-lake eco-system experimental facility that has made so many planet-improving discoveries.” (xxiv)

2. Drastically cutting budgets of crucial research organizations

Canada’s lead organization for funding university-led research an extreme weather, air quality, climate and marine predictions, the Canadian foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) had its budget drastically cut in the 2011 budget to less than half of what is needed to maintain the level of research it funded over the past decade. (xxv) Given that our economy is highly sensitive to weather and climate changes, and given that the number of extreme weather events has steeply risen in the last decade, (xxvi) this seems disingenuous.

3. Prohibiting and/or policing contacts of government scientists with the media

There is a long list of incidences in which scientists were prohibited from communicating with the media, or in which their contacts were restricted, controlled and policed. Probably the most famous case is that of Kristi Miller, head of molecular genetics for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). She investigated why the salmon populations in western Canada were declining. Science, which published her results, found the study so significant that they notified over 7,400 journalists worldwide about Miller’s study. The Privy Council prohibited her from speaking with any of the journalists who asked for an interview. The Privy Council also nixed a Fisheries Department news release about the study. (xxvii)

In April 2012, Environment Canada researchers who attended the International Polar Year conference received an e-mail that instructed them as follows: “If you are approached by the media, ask them for their business card and tell them that you will get back to them with a time for an interview. … Send a message to your media relations contact and they will organize the interview. They will most probably be with you during the interview to assist and record.” (xxviii)

4. Prohibiting and/or policing contacts of government scientists with MPs

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, notes that the muzzling now includes communication with MPs. “‘I asked a colleague in DFO a fairly innocuous question by e-mail a few months ago,’ May wrote. ‘The reply explained that, now that I was an MP, he would need permission to respond. He promised to let me know when he had the ‘all clear’. I imagine I will never hear from him again.” (xxix)

5. Delaying media access to scientists when stories break so that public interest declines

David Tarasick was prevented to speak with the media about his study about a record hole in the ozone layer above the Arctic. Three weeks after the study was published, he finally did receive permission to speak – with the head of media relations listening in. Asked whether he was permitted to speak to media, he answered “Well I’m available when media relations says I’m available … I have to go through them.” (xxx)

6. Interfering with the scientific integrity of data collection

The best known – and most egregious example of this – is the abolition of the long census form of Statistics Canada, and its replacement with a voluntary survey. Socially marginal groups are less likely to respond to a voluntary lengthy questionnaire that requires a bit of work to answer than groups with a higher socio-economic status. The census is the one data source that catches virtually all Canadians, and is used across Canada by researchers, businesses, municipal, provincial and federal governments, social justice oriented NGOs, university researchers, and many others. With a voluntary survey, the quality of the information will deteriorate, in particular for poorer groups such as Aboriginal people and disabled people.

According to Statistics Canada former head, the magazine The Economist examined in the early 1990 the performance of the world’s leading statistical agencies and declared Statistics Canada to be the best in the world. (xxxi) This status as one of the world’s best statistics services is unlikely to continue with the abolition of the long census.

The reason the government provided for taking this drastic step was that there had been public complaints about invasion of privacy. This turned out not to be true – in 2006 there were two complaints and in 2001 one complaint. Given that this form goes to over 13 million households, the lack of complaints is remarkable indeed! Close to 370 groups, however, complained – in vain – about the decision to discontinue the long census form. (xxxii) Complaints from the public therefore do not seem to weigh heavily once the government has decided what it is going to do. The head of Statistics Canada resigned after the government lied and said that he and Statistics Canada had told them that there would be no negative consequences. (xxxiii)

7. Stacking a supposedly arm’s length organization with people representing the government’s ideology

In 2009, the Harper government appointed to the board of the Rights and Democracy Agency new members who had opposed the organization’s decision to provide three small grants to Middle East groups critical of Israel’s human rights record. “The resulting discord led to then-president Remy Beauregard’s death from a heart attack in the middle of a contentious board meeting, and caused almost all of the agency’s staff to publicly state their non-confidence in the Harper-appointed board members. A Deloitte and Touche audit conducted into the agency’s operations concluded that the Harper government had engaged in an ‘ideological hijacking’ of the agency.” (xxxiv)

In April 2012, Minister Baird announced that the agency would be closed. “There have been many, many problems at this agency for some time,” Baird said during question period. “These problems are very well known. What we’re simply doing is taking that important project of Rights and Democracy, of freedom, and bringing that within our department.” (xxxv)

8. Manipulate data to put a positive slant on a negative phenomenon

Canada signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and pledged to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. In 1997, Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol, formally committing itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below 1990 levels by 2010. The Harper government unilaterally withdrew from the Kyoto Accord. Between 1990 and 2008, Canada’s GHG emissions increased by 24%. The new goal the Harper government established is to reduce GHG emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. That translates into a goal that is 2.5% above 1990 GHG emission levels – the weakest target in the industrialized world. However, unless people are aware that by 2005 our emissions levels were significantly higher than in 1990, a 17% reduction may sound impressive.

Then look at the chart which appears on a website of Environment Canada.

To the trusting reader, this looks as if our GHG emissions had gone down rather than up since 1990. The trick is that the data are not reflecting absolute levels of emissions, but emissions on a per capita basis and per unit of the Gross Domestic Product – and since both of these continue to grow, it seems as if our GHG emissions are either stable or even declining, when in fact they have been increasing compared to 1990. (xxxvi)

9. Change the legislative framework to weaken data collection

In August 2012, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency cancelled 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the Omnibus Bill C-38 that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development. 678 of the cancelled reviews involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada. (xxxvii) Minister Kent issued a statement that started as follows: “I would like to take this opportunity to clarify recent reports on changes to the environmental assessment act, which have given the impression that Canada’s environmental protection regime is now somehow weakened. This is simply not the case.” (xxxviii) Others observe that the bill destroys 50 years of environmental oversight and that statements to the contrary are farcical. (xxxix)

Summary of how the muzzling works

The identification of types of muzzling described here is only a beginning. There are certainly other forms that need to be added to this tentative typology of government muzzling. It is interesting to note that there is a remarkable similarity between the types of muzzling tactics employed by US corporations and by the Canadian government.

Effects of muzzling

The effects of the muzzling have been devastating. One analyst argues, “Under Harper, we have become strangers to ourselves, a foreign country run by an angry and hostile regime.” (xl)

With respect to climate change, the muzzling policy has been highly successful. Margaret Munro, an award winning science reporter, said “We used to have a very open system of government, where the scientists were actually free to discuss their research with the media … But it’s now become a very closed system with government taking media and message control to sometimes quite incredible extreme.” Consequently, many journalists have simply given up trying to access federal scientists. (xli) Between 2007 and 2010 there was an 80 percent drop in media coverage of climate change science, according to an internal Environment Canada analysis. (xlii)

Canada used to be an environmental leader – now we have received the Fossil of the Year Award as the most obstructionist nation in blocking progress towards international climate deals five years in a row.

Canada was a leader in government openness – now we occupy rank 51, behind Angola, Colombia and Niger, in terms of freedom of information. (xliii)

What can we do?

This question stymies me. Clearly, we need to continue to protest, in whatever manner is possible for people in various positions. However, that has so far been singularly unsuccessful in stopping the silencing of scientists concerned with climate change and human rights. Protests need to continue, but any potential new government will take decades to build up again what has been destroyed. Shutting up a world-renowned research institute is easy and quick – but building one takes a very long time.

As scholars, we also need to keep track of what is being done. There is no guarantee that any new government would do better, unless we can make the muzzling of science an election issue about which the public cares passionately. If we take 2006 – the year in which Harper became Prime Minister – as the base year, we need a number of indicators that can tell us whether the situation is improving – as is currently the case at the national level in the USA (xliv) – or whether it is deteriorating. Which indicators would be useful (xlv) is an issue that requires reflection and debate. They might include the following ones:

Access of the public and the media to all scientists paid by tax dollars

Are scientists permitted to speak to the public and the media about their work without censorship? Are scientists able to speak without the presence of media handlers?

Are scientists able to express opinions that run counter to government policy without negative effects?

This requires vigilance in observing what happens to critics – are they fired, demoted, discontinued, or rewarded or at least not negatively affected?

Can scientists unrestrictedly submit papers to scientific conferences, journals and other outlets which determine publication solely on the basis of scientific merit?

This would mean that scientists are free to submit papers when they have results they consider worth publishing, and that it is the organization to which they submit their paper that decides, via anonymous peer review, whether it is worth publishing – regardless of whether it confirms or challenges current government policy.

What is the Canada’s ranking in freedom of information?

Have we moved up or down in international rankings?

Are arm’s length scientific organizations free to conduct their research and analyses without government interference?

This also requires vigilance in following information about interference.

However, none of these indicators tell us how many organizations have been closed, derailed, made impotent because of underfunding. Just counting the number of scientific organizations that receive government support or looking at the total dollar amount spent is not useful in this context, because it depends on what the organizations do and how they do it. Are human rights and climate change research activities supported? To what degree? How to measure this?

At this point, I do not know how to answer this question. It is one that requires our collective thoughts and wisdom.

Margrit Eichler is a Professor Emerita -Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto


(i) I wish to acknowledge the helpful articles that were posted on the Science for Peace listserv or sent to me directly by my colleagues in this organization.
(ii) Spears, Tom. Science museum pressured by corporate sponsor over oilsands exhibit, Ottawa Citizen, January 24, 2012. sponsor+over+oilsands+exhibit/6044901/story.htlm
(iii) Union of Concerned Scientists. Head They Win, Tails We Lose. How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense. Cambridge: UCS Publications, 2012,
 Dechene, op.cit.
(iv) For an American example, see Stewart, Katherine. “the new anti-science assault on US schools: The Guardian, February 12, 2012, http://
(v) Gosh, Pallab. Canadian government is ‘muzzling it scientists’, BBC News,
(vi) Gosh, ibid.
(vii) Death of Evidence,, accessed August 28, 2012.
(ix) Nature, Editorial, July 19, 2012, Vol. 487, # 74407, pp. 271-272.
(x) Nature, ibid.
(xi) Visser, Josh. John Baird Happily admits Tories didn’t like axed environment wachdog’s advice. National Post, May 14, 2012,, accessed August 22, 2012.
(xii) Dechene, Paul. “ELA Soon To Be MIA”, Priarie Dog,, accessed August 22, 2012
(xiii) Gergin, Maria. “Silencing Dissent: The Conservative Record”, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Commentary and Fact Sheets, Issue(s): Law and legal issues , Other, April 6, 2011
(xiv) Stechyson, Natalie. Scientists protest federal research cuts with funeral march, Vancouver Sun, hhtp://, accessed August 22, 2012
(xv) Monsebraaten, Laurie. Federal budget 2012: Ottawa axes National Council on Welfare,—federal-budget-2012-ottawa-axes-national-council-on-welfare, accessed August 20, 2012
(xvi) Kerstetter, Steve. Scrapping welfare council is a cheap shot by a government that doesn’t care about the poor.—scrapping-welfare-council-is-a-cheap-shot-by-a-government-that-doesn-t-care-about-the-poor, accessed August 20, 2012
(xvii) Scharper, Stephen, Federal scientists must be free to speak out, Toronto Star, Feb. 27, 2012, p. A11.
(xviii) CBC news. Troubled Rights and Democracy agency to be closed. and Gergin, op. cit.
(xix) Gergin, ibid.
(xx) AANDC Minister Vetoes the Re-appointment of NIRB Chairperson
(xxi) Gergin, ibid.
(xxii) From Union of Concerned Scientists. op. cit., pp. 2-4.
(xxiii) Dechene, op.cit.
(xxiv) Harris, op.cit
(xxv) Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, hhtp://, accessed August 22, 2012
(xxvi) Number of natural disasters registered in EMDAT,, accessed 2011-04-15.
(xxvii) Munro, Margaret. Feds silence scientist over salmon study. Postmedia News, July 27, 2011. html
(xxviii) Munro, Margaret. Government ‘muzzling’ scientists, critics claim,
April 23, 1012,
(xxix) Davidson, Janet. Are Canada’s federal scientists being ‘muzzled’? CBC News, March 27, 2012,
(xxx) De Souza, Mike. “Scientists speaks out after finding ‘record’ ozone hole over Canadian Arctic”,, accessed August 22, 2012.
(xxxi) Sheikh, Munir A. Good data and intelligent government.—ex-chief-statistician-picks-apart-cancellation-of-long-census, accessed August 28, 2012.
(xxxii) Sheikh, op. cit.
(xxxiii) From a talk by Munir Sheikh for Science for Peace in February 2012.
(xxxiv) Gergin, op.cit.
(xxxv) CBC news. Troubled Rights and Democracy agency to be closed.
(xxxvi) Official website of Environment Canada accessed 2011-04-06
(xxxvii) De Souza, Mike. Harper government cancels 3,000 environmental reviews on pipelines and other projects
(xxxviii) Kent, Peter. Ministerial Statement on CEAA 2012, OTTAWA – August 28, 2012,, accessed August 28, 2012.
(xxxix) Duncan, Kristy. Review of C-38′s environmental impact is farcical, August 28, 2012
(xl) Hume, Christopher, “Stephen Harper is blind to science”, Toronto Star, July 14, 2012, p. GT5
(xli) Burgmann, Tamsyn, “Ottawa ‘muzzling’ scientists, panel tells global research community”, Canadian Press, March 1, 2012, accessed August 22, 2912
(xlii) De Souza, Scientist speaks out op. cit
(xliii) Canadian Press. Canada falls out of top fifty in global freedom of information rankings, June 22, 2012 August 28, 2012
(xliv) Union of Concerned Scientists, op. cit.
(xlv) I want to thank Jens Kohler for alerting me to this.
(xlvi) Dechene, op. cit.

List of organizations which have been cancelled or defunded, and individuals who have been silenced or removed from their posts (2006-2011)
Eighty-nine community organizations, agencies, NGOs, research bodies and programs which have been cancelled, or whose funding has been cut or dramatically decreased:

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Action travail des femmes
Adaptation and Impacts Research Division (AIRD) of Environment Canada
Afghan Association of Ontario, Canada Toronto
Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
Alternatives (Quebec)
Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre
Brampton Neighbourhood Services (Ontario)
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian Child Care Federation
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Council on Learning
Canadian Council on Social Development
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciencesi
Canadian Heritage Centre for Research and Information on Canada
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance
Canadian Labour Business Centre
Canada Policy Research Networks
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
Canada School of Public Service
Canadian Teachers’ Federation International program
Canadian Volunteerism Initiative
Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples (Toronto)
Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
Childcare Resource and Research Unit, SpeciaLink
Climate Action Network
Community Access Program
Community Action Resource Centre (CARC)
Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail  (CIAFT)
Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)
Court Commission of Canada
Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
Democracy Council
Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit
Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto
Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto
Ethiopian Association in the Greater Toronto Area and Surrounding Regions
Experimental Lakes Area
Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program
First Nations Statistics Institute
Forum of Federations
Global Environmental Monitoring System
HRD Adult Learning and Literacy programs
HRD Youth Employment Programs
Hamilton’s Settlement and Integration Services Organization  (Ontario)
Immigrant settlement programs
Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services (Peel)
International Planned Parenthood Federation
Law Commission of Canada
Mada Al-Carmel Arab Centre
Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency
MATCH International
National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
National Roundtable on Environment and Economy
National Science Advisor
Native Women’s Association of Canada
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
Northwood Neighbourhood Services (Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
Ontario Association of Transitional Housing (OAITH)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre
Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL)
Pride Toronto
Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
Rights and Democracy agency
Riverdale Women’s Centre in Toronto
Royal Canadian Mounted Police External Review Committee
Sierra Club of BC
Sisters in Spirit
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
South Asian Women’s Centre
Statistics Canada long-form census
Status of Women
Tropicana Community Services
Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
Women’s Legal Action and Education Fund
Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
York South-Weston Community Services Centre Toronto
Fifteen civil servants, scientists, and organizations/watchdogs whose staff have been fired, publicly silenced, or who have resigned in protest:
Lucassie Arragutainaq, chairperson of the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB)
Rémy Beauregard, President, Rights & Democracy  (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development) – died of a heart attack in the middle of meeting after Harper appointed board members who disagreed with the agency to it
Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, Director General, Canada Firearms Program
Richard Colvin, diplomat, Foreign Affairs
Yves Coté, Ombudsman, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
Linda Keen, Chair, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
Paul Kennedy, Chair, RCMP Police Complaints Commission
Adran Measner, President and CEO, Canadian Wheat Board
Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer
Sheridan Scott, Commissioner, Competition Bureau
Munir Sheikh, Deputy Minister, Statistics Canada
Col. Pat Stogran, Veterans Ombudsman
Steve Sullivan, Ombudsman, Victims of Crime
Peter Tinsley, Chair, Military Police Complaints Commission
Earl Turcotte, lead negotiator, Mine Action and Small Arms Team, Foreign Affairs
NOTE: These lists were taken from Gergin, op. cit, and supplemented with the newer occurrences (see Endnotes 14-18). Gergin describes that she collected her information “after extensive consultation of media sources, some affected organizations, and a review of other lists – most notably a list circulated internally amongst supporters of the coalition Voices/Voix. It is likely that there are other organizations which have been cancelled or defunded, and individuals who have been silenced or removed from their posts, but which have not yet received public attention.” Seventy-nine of the organizations and 14 of the individuals are from her list.

Science for Peace Activities for 2012 / 2013

Science for Peace has a busy schedule of activities for the 2012 / 2013 academic year:

Academic year 2012 / 2013: Vital Discussions of Human Security lecture series

This series of 24 lectures will cover a wide range of topics related to human security – including nuclear power, forest sustainability, sexual slave trade in Kosovo, biochar, and many more thought-provoking topics. Please join us in Room 144 of University College at the University of Toronto (15 King’s College Circle) on Thursday evenings between 7 and 9pm. This is a free public lecture series, so bring your friends! Visit for more information and videos of past lectures.

September 24th, 2012 – Grahame Russell

Please join us for a free public talk on Investing in repression in Honduras and Guatemala by Grahame Russell  on Monday September 24th at 7pm in Room 2-214 at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON). Grahame Russell will talk discuss how Canadian companies and investors, supported by the Canadian government, contribute to and benefit from repression and a lack of democracy in Honduras and Guatemala. Donations to Rights Action appreciated.

October 15th and 16th, 2012 – Mark Z Jacobson

In cooperation with University College, Science for Peace will bring Mark Z Jacobson (Stanford) to lecture on A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables. The public lecture will take place on October 15th from 4-6pm in Room 140 of University College at the University of Toronto (15 King’s College Circle). Please click here to register.

Professor Jacobson will also meet with students for a lunch-and-learn on October 16th from 1-4pm in Room 248 of University College; to register for this event, please contact Bryan Eelhart at

Winter 2013: Public Health in a Nuclear Age
This 12 week course will introduce students to the complexities of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and how they help shape our societies. Topics include:
-Risk Assessment in Technology, the Environment, Economics, and Security.
-Can We Have a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and Still Have Nuclear Power?
-The Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation Regime

This course will start in January 10, 2013 and will be held on Thursday afternoons between 3 and 5pm in Room 044 of University College at the University of Toronto (15 King’s College Circle). Please email Bryan Eelhart at for a course syllabus or to register.

In addition to this, we have regular meetings for our Scientists for the Right to Know and Climate Justice working groups. Please contact Bryan Eelhart, Science for Peace Coordinator, at or 416-978-3606 if you would like to get involved in any of these activities or if you would like to suggest new activities.

Guaranteeing Income

The Eleventh North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress took place at OISE 3-5 May 2012. The purpose of this series of conferences is to move the world toward a system of social justice in which nobody would lack the basics because of injustice built into the system itself.

The Congress, misnamed since it excluded Mexico, dealt with poverty reduction by other means as well as guaranteed annual income (GAI) or basic income (BI), which mean the same thing apart from nuances. I shall therefore use the two abbreviations synonymously from here on. The focus on GAI needs some explanation. If implemented it would provide unconditional income, thus overcoming some of the worst features of welfare, and it would be designed to provide a better income base than welfare, which is recognized to be highly inadequate at current levels. It would provide income for men or women who stay at home to raise children, rather than go out to work for wages. It would be of especial value to wives of farmers on small family farms, and it would greatly benefit post-secondary students; and would provide stability for single people of working age, who now make up the group numerically most affected by poverty in Canadian society. In particular, an adequate basic income is vital to prevent undernourishment among the lowest-income groups. This was demonstrated at the Congress by a session of four papers, which showed inter alia that food banks simply cannot or do not do the job of nourishing the poor. A GAI would greatly reduce a large portion of complex welfare administration and its considerable administrative costs, and it could reduce and eventually eliminate the need for the present style of employment insurance, which is not serving the needs of enough of our unemployed at this time.

I was motivated to find out whether there is real progress in formulating a practicable GAI for Canada. A few members of Science for Peace may recall that I circulated a draft paper on the GAI in January 2010 [1], because there had been a unanimous Parliamentary vote in Ottawa in November 2009 asking the Government to do something about poverty reduction in this country, and this was followed days later by the issue of the Senate report on Poverty [2]. By early January 2010 I had studied enough recent literature on the GAI to know that there was no study in existence at that time revealing the least expensive way of realizing a GAI, and furthermore, that the federal civil service had concluded in 1994 that the two studied forms of GAI were unaffordable [3].

These two forms of GAI occurring in past literature on this subject are:

a) the universal demogrant, defined as unconditional income given to citizens independently of their wealth (though there can be variation according to age group) and

b) negative income tax, which means different levels of support according to other income. Usually the negative income tax is conceived to allocate less income supplement as other income increases, and no support for individuals above a certain cut-off income.

Money given to citizens under the universal demogrant or negative income tax schemes can be tax-free or subject to income tax, a point that wasn’t clear from the review papers and other recent literature I studied in 2009.

My 2010 draft paper chose a negative income tax scheme as shown in Fig. 1 and I calculated its cost from the 2006 income distribution, as supplied by StatsCan. The gross cost for that year would have been $123 bn to the Federal Government, of which at least $73 bn would return directly to the federal treasury through additional income tax collected, reduction of supplements to the aged, elimination (or reduction) of transfers to provinces and additional sales and service tax collected. The provinces would benefit directly through the elimination of welfare, increased sales and service taxes, and increased provincial income tax. Some reduction in health expenditures is also to be expected. But there would nevertheless be additional new taxes required to close the gap between GAI’s gross costs and direct savings to the federal Government. Up until the 2012 Congress, mine may have been the only GAI costing of its type to show the savings to federal government, and I claimed that my choices of parameters in fig.1 were such to provide a basic income of $12,000 to the poorest adults in the least expensive, practicable way. To understand that, however, it is necessary to read literature [3] explaining why the graph of negative income tax (Fig. 1) must have low slopes space does not permit a full explanation here.

Fig. 1 The line with the break point was taken as the form of negative income tax that would yield the least cost to government, without reducing incentives to work. The expression “Wedge Support” appeared in my 2010 draft paper to mean negative income tax that would be taxable. The straight line from S0 to M is typical of what former proposals for negative income tax have looked like.

At the 2012 Congress, there were no parallel studies of negative income tax to compare with mine, but there were several members of a nascent group of about five Canadian researchers planning to do just that for Canada, and I gave them encouragement and offered to cooperate with any data or methodology I could provide. What scheme they will adopt is so far unclear, and that is as it should be, since there are many choices. Note that the choices I made in 2010 assumed no change in the personal income tax scheme, either in levels of taxation or in the thresholds. But researchers in this field are not bound by any such assumptions, as was beautifully demonstrated by an Irish couple at the Congress, who have completed a workable scheme for Ireland, based upon a universal, nontaxable demogrant.

The work of Seán Healy and Brigid Reynolds

For me the highlight of the Congress was the presentation by Seán Healy and Brigid Reynolds of a demogrant model of basic income for Ireland. Demogrants are usually expensive, since all citizens get the same amount of basic income as the poorest would do in the negative income tax schemes. The gross cost of the demogrant is thus very large, and would exceed $240 bn in the context of my study for Canada in 2006. Healy and Reynolds, however, hit upon a neat scheme for getting around that high cost. They proposed that the demogrant should be tax-free but that all income beyond the demogrant income should be taxed at a flat rate of 44 percent. That is to say, they abolished the usual low-income range over which no tax is payable, since the demogrant itself provides a suitable range. Such an approach would have to be modified in the Canadian case, because of provincial taxes, which differ from province to province, but the basic idea might nevertheless be applicable. The flat tax alone would not suffice to pay for the demogrant, but Healy and Reynolds proposed in addition the removal of all tax exemptions and loopholes, because in Ireland, they claimed, the rich in fact pay a substantially smaller percent of income in taxes than those of middle incomes. The abolition of exemptions, rebates and loopholes would bring about some economic justice, with the rich paying a little more percent than those of incomes slightly lower than theirs, because the demogrant is tax-free. These factors enabled Healy and Reynolds to conclude that no new type of tax need be levied to provide the basic income, an astonishing result.

Furthermore, their demogrant fully took into account the support of children, and they defined five age intervals, each having a different basic income. Converted into Canadian dollars these are shown in Table 1:

Category Demogrant
Child $ 2,184
18-20 years $ 6,760
21-59 $ 12,709
60-79 $ 15,568
Over 80 $ 16,244

For children, the demogrant would be added to the income of the parent claiming financial responsibility for the child, but would not add to that parent’s income tax. An interesting feature of the Healy-Reynolds scheme is that taxation of moderately high incomes, say above two hundred thousand dollars, would be slightly lower than in Ontario, because of the Ontario surtax.

Other considerations

A group of papers on the final morning concentrated on three sectors of the Canadian social scene: child poverty, single people of working age, and seniors (65 and over). The seniors fare well in the Canadian scheme of things, largely because of the Old Age Security, which all seniors can apply for, and the General Income Supplement, for which there is a family means test. For children, there are many programs attempting to reduce the child poverty as nearly as possible to zero, and these succeed up to a point, but still leave room for improvement. The large range of single people of working age, however, fare poorly in Canada, especially in this age of underemployment and of very uncertain employment, and low wages. For children, for many unemployed and for many working poor, a GAI would represent a great improvement in their social welfare.

Past Research

An experiment with basic income was carried out in Manitoba from 1974-78 in Dauphin and Winnipeg, with the following results. The study didn’t affect people’s work habits or employment, except that women took longer leaves of absence from work after childbirth under the BI scheme than they would have done without it. Another effect, observed in Dauphin, where the supplements were available to all, was in marked increase in completion of the 12 grades of high school, almost to 100 percent. Some former high-school drop-outs came back to finish during the period of the experiment. There was some improvement in health of the inhabitants of Dauphin relative to a control group who did not benefit from the income supplements.

There are currently no further experiments planned in Canada, but one participant at the Congress suggested that a pilot experiment might be worth pursuing, having regard to the different economic conditions now and in the 1970s.

Further comments on negative income tax and the demogrant

When increasing the base amount awarded under negative income tax, the total gross cost of the income supplements rise more steeply than linearly with the base amount, because the range of incomes covered by the grant increases as well. That the curve isn’t quadratic depends on various factors, but it is nevertheless upwardly curved. The demogrant, however, as proposed by Healy and Reynolds incurs a gross cost proportional to the amount allocated, which thus increases linearly with the amount of the grant. This very different feature of the demogrant makes its gross cost easy to calculate and may make it more attractive in the long run. One should note, however, that the Healy-Reynolds scheme depends strongly on the state of the economy, since it is funded to a great extent from income tax, a factor that eventually may need attention.

A reliable funding scheme for basic income needs to come, in part at least, from very steady sources. Over-reliance on income tax could prove fragile and unresistant to recessions. This is a question that can doubtless be addressed, and would be assisted by the backing of a nationally owned bank [4], one that can issue new money in hard times at nominal interest. At the Congress, I suggested that primary resources should be taxed, a proposal originating from Herman Daly in 2011 in order to slow down the throughput of those resources, retard climate change and encourage recycling.

Derek Paul, University of Toronto (Professor Emeritus)

1. Derek Paul, “Poverty Elimination in Canada,” unpublished draft 18pp. 2010
2. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, “In from the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness,” December 2009 283 pp.
3. “Improving Security in Canada/Guaranteed Annual Income: A Supplementary Paper” 1994. This document was retrieved from the Human Resources Development Canada Social Security Reform website, which is no longer active.
4. The Bank of Canada is one of the few nationally owned banks that could in practice do this rather painlessly.

Remembering Rosalie Bertell (1929-2012)

On Saturday, September 29, at 7 p.m., friends of Rosalie Bertell will gather at Bloor Street United Church, 300 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, to remember one of the most influential people of our time.

Rosalie was a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, a scientist, author, global citizen and inspiration to all who work for a healthy environment. She connected the links from uranium mining, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear waste to the damage to human health now and in coming generations.

She defied entrenched interests to oppose the harm to health whether in the Marshall Islands, Bhopal, Chernobyl, Fukushima or all who live near a nuclear reactor. A constant theme of her books and presentations was the harm of radioactive contamination and the silencing of opposition.

Please come and share your stories and concerns. It is vital that her work with the International Institute of Concern for Public Health be carried on.

Sponsored by IICPH. All welcome. No charge but receipted donation encouraged.

Book Review: What do we talk about when we talk about war? (By Noah Richler)

Book Review: What do we talk about when we talk about war?
By Noah Richler
Goose Lane, 2012
ISBN: 978-086492-622-7
Reviewer: Shirley Farlinger

How is it that Canada of Blue Helmet fame has been persuaded to become a military nation equipped to deal with “scumbags” in Afghanistan?

Author Noah Richler, son of Mordechai, addresses this question drawing from his extensive experience as writer and producer of radio and TV documentaries for the BBC and CBC as well as author of “This is My Country, What’s Yours?” He is not a historian but makes use of his Classics degree from McGill University to compare the ancient myths of good versus evil from Greek heroes to our present rewriting of Canadian stories which inform our ideas about war.

What has been going on? Harper has been looking back at the War of 1812-14 to celebrate that odd military heritage and how we, with our British and native allies declare victory and burned the “White House”. Americans see it differently.
Some citizens in Auxbridge object to this tack and remind us of their non-violent heritage as new settlers. But the Royal connection is now celebrated as our embassies will have mandatory pictures of the Queen and her 60th anniversary is a major CBC TV event.

The World War I Canadian National Vimy Memorial has been rededicated. In fact Vimy Ridge became the “guiding light” of Gen. Rick Hillier’s monumentalist vision for the Canadian forces. The story that might include the view that the war to end all wars was really an “absurd senseless slaughter” is eliminated in a peon to war as a permanent condition sure to return. Paul Gross’ film “Passchendale” was shown across Canada and “Passchendale in the Classroom” was distributed by the Dominion Institute claiming that Canada was born out of the trenches of World War I. There is some truth to the idea that Canadians from across a vast land did come together but at what a high cost!

World War II is one the author does not disagree with but he notes that after 1953, after the Korean War, a United Nations operation, our first combat operation was in 2005 in Kandahar where the population perceives us as occupiers. “To hell with Canada determining its own post-colonial path.” Forgotten is when Prime Minister Pearson tried to warn President Johnson to get out of Viet Nan and he was physically attacked by the President. How little influence we had.

The Pearsonian tradition has been trashed as the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was moved in 1994 to Ottawa where is became a “pathetic shadow of its former self.” By 2010 we had only 22 troops, 155 police, 20 military experts for a total of 197 peacekeepers. Yet peacekeeping around the world is gaining importance. About 100,000 serve in many places.

PM Chretien’s refusal to join the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq was not really drastic as we continued to supply the US with military goods.

After 9/11 the American public was convinced the terrorists came from Canada even as we offered sanctuary to their air flights. From 9/11came the need to attack Afghanistan and the rationale that our trade with the US would suffer if we did not cooperate. Prime Minister Paul Martin preferred trying to stop the slaughter in Darfur and the Sudan and establish peace and nation-building but he was persuaded otherwise.

In 2010 a Nanos poll showed that 52% of Canadians favored peace-keeping, only 21% favored further combat missions. No wonder. By 2011 Afghanistan had cost us $18-29 billion and 158 lives.

“This book”, says the author, “is not a judgment on Canadian troops.” A great number continue to want to make a difference beyond the borders, he argues. We may not “cut and run” but we do cut and walk- first behind the wire and then out of the country.”

At home the changes have been subtle but swift: -the dismantling of the gun registry, -the refusal to offer sanctuary to war resistors, -turning our back on bringing Omar Kadhr back from Guantanamo Bay, -our seeming acceptance of torture as a means of interrogation, -the peace-keeping lobby described as anti-American. – the revived scenario of the US annexation of Canada.

This last the author says “properly belongs in comic books.”

The new guide to citizenship, “Discover Canada” describes serving in the armed forces as a “noble way to contribute to Canada and an excellent career choice.” In the guide the military is mentioned thirty five times, peacekeeping once. The MacDonald Cartier route is now the “Highway of Heroes” rightly of great importance to those who lost loved ones.

War chroniclers such as journalists Rosie DiManno in the Star and Christie Blatchford in the National Post happily pillory the idea of peacekeeping. The role of the brave female foreign correspondent seems to captivate them and of course it is more exciting.

What do our gurus think? “There has been little response from conservative think-tanks in Canada where the policy seems to be to ignore whatever dissents from their point of view; soldiers and the public are more open-minded” notes the author. “The majority of Canadians believe war-fighting is a primitive and barbaric path for a democracy to take when, tragically but reluctantly, it must.”

Either peacekeeping was a fifty-year aberration or Canada has an innate disposition toward “soft power,” “making a difference” and the sort of work that is now so disparaged.

Richler argues that the Canadian public has not been all that supportive or interested in the war in Afghanistan. He offers proof in the huge outpouring of sympathy and aid to Haiti.

A crucial question remains: How influential has been the militarization of Canada to the majority election of Stephen Harper? What can we expect in the next four years?

Richler waxes eloquent on our desire to put an end to war and maybe the reader will disagree but it is a great book for the peace movement to use. Any author that gives concrete suggestions on the way forward is worth his/her weight in medals.

What can be done to reengage Canadians especially the younger generation in the discussion of Canada’s priorities before Canada engages in any more “interventions?”

Ideas on how Canada could put into action its desire to “make a difference” by working together.

1. Create a new regiment under the aegis of the Department of National Defence that was dedicated specifically to the practice of peace operations rather than wars of existence. 2. Found a new college in which at least a minor degree in some aspect of peace operations was a necessary condition to graduate.
3. Create a national community corps complementing the new regiment in its developmental activities in foreign territories but also at home. Institute a form of voluntary national service of 1 or 2 years. They would be paid a modest but livable sum.

These policies would facilitate a new ethic of armed forces able to respond to the changing demands of world citizenship, ones that are only going to increase as relationships between countries in an ever-contracting globe become more interdependent and intertwined.

The point of the separate Peace Operations (OP) Regiment would be to create a specialized Canadian military force acting as a third party and designed for the particular tasks and challenges of conflict resolution in global theatres.

The PO Regiment would be fully equipped and trained and subject to the same rigorous standards of universal service.

It would corral the energy of Canadian youth already interested in humanitarian causes around the world.

The regiment should be backed by a parallel institution of higher learning in civil society – a College of Peace Operations. People who could hold chairs could be Louise Arbour, Lewis MacKenzie, Stephen Staples – many Canadians are suitable.

What we talk about when we talk about war lays the ground for what we must be talking about when we talk about peace.

Shirley Farlinger is the former Editor of The Bulletin and a long-time Science for Peace member.

Full text version of all articles from SfP Bulletin September 2012. A PDF edition is also available.

Science for Peace Bulletin | ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)