***This is an adaptation of several essays I have written over the past semester. It combines many of the facts I learned in my research in peace with a plea to Canadian people to take back democracy and voice their opinions. Free speech is only free speech if we use it! Peace studies is a rising academic discipline. We need to start spending money on peace studies and conflict transformation strategies instead of war and destruction!
For the record– I’m not anti-Canadian. I love Canada, it is my home. I just disagree with certain political choices that are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Several Canadian politicians and companies are ruining our international reputation by their actions that detract from our long-standing position as peacekeepers and humanitarians concerned with human rights and freedoms. They are actually even participating in crimes around the world.
Slowly but surely, we have been lessening our international commitment to peacekeeping. We have dropped from being one of the largest troop contributors–way down to 56th in troop contributions behind Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Nepal, Jordan, Ghana, Rwanda, Uruguay, Italy, Senegal, China, South Africa, Ethiopia, France, Morocco, Benin, Brazil, Spain, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia, Poland, Argentina, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Philippines, Niger, Zambia, Ukraine, Chile, Tunisia, Bolivia, Austria, Korea, Gambia, Belgium, UK, Portugal, Togo, USA, Slovakia, Russia, Romania, Fiji, Mongolia, Greece, Guatemala, Peru, Cameroon, Qatar, Netherlands and Malawi. This despite the fact that 69% of Canadians surveyed nationally recognize peacekeeping as a strong Canadian value.
In place of peacekeepers worldwide, we now feel it is important to give our military an unlimited budget, following the example of the mighty war machine in the United States. Instead of keeping our value as peacekeepers, we are now making one as war-mongers. What sort of response will this elicit from the world? Surely, it only detracts from our longstanding neutrality and makes us targets.
Canada is guilty of helping to support war crimes in several areas around the world, either through aid projects, inaction or direct policies that support major human rights abusing governments. I will profile the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as an example– there are (unfortunately), MANY more examples of Canada condoning or supporting major human rights violations. The Congo is currently experiencing a MASSIVE human rights disaster, with close to 45,000 people dying per month of war related causes. You read right- that’s 45,000 DYING every month.
At least 10 Canadian mining corporations were implicated for supporting major human rights offenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the UN’s 2000 “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Congo” and have yet to be further investigated or punished for these crimes.
Anvil Mining, a Canadian copper mining company working in the DRC, was accused of providing logistics to troops in the massacre of close to 100 people; a charge that they vehemently argue was accidental, unknown at the time and forced upon them by local legalities. All of the ten corporations in the report were accused of violating the guidelines of the OECD; some even accused of bribing officials to gain access to land and its containing resources from leaders who were not in possession of said land. That’s right- they were accused of bribing rebel groups who were fighting in the area (who often force the locals to mine as slave labor) to gain control of mines so they can make a profit for themselves. These fighting groups are making up to $20 million a month in profits, often with Canadian assistance, to help continue funding their war.
Barrick Gold, another Canadian mining business, is supplied by and partnered with Adastra mining, which received a one billion dollar deal for control of mines in the Congo at Kolwezi (for cobalt) and Kipushi (for zinc) from Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire (ADFL) before they were officially in power and in legal control of said resources.
The Canadian government is guilty for politically supporting major human rights offenders, specifically Joseph Kabila and the RPF, who are guilty of massive crimes against their own people. Our government is guilty of complicity for supporting the implicated mining companies accused of violations, by allowing mining-friendly tax laws and for not further investigating and punishing those implicated in the UN report. The Canadian government is also guilty of refusing the UN’s request for peacekeeping assistance and aid, and instead funneling these resources for the continued war in Afghanistan.
Canadian troops and support are needed in the Congo (and elsewhere) to help stop the human rights abuses, but the responsibilities to the international community are being ignored by the current Canadian government.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Canada’s lead agency for development assistance abroad, committed $33 million for projects and initiatives in the DRC in 2006-7. These projects focused mostly on political and economic governance and access to primary health care, and mostly ignored the broader humanitarian situation. Some of these political and economic governance programs that were supported by our politicians contribute to Joseph Kabila’s governmental control- securing his place in government and ensuring the crisis continues.
The humanitarian situation in the DRC has been described as “the worst humanitarian crisis ever “. The situation has gotten so bad in recent months that thousands of local Congolese demonstrators have taken to physically attacking the UN compound in Goma for what they say is the UN’s failure to protect them against rebel attacks and provide them with the basic necessities of life. The UN says its first priority is re-supplying clinics that have been looted by retreating government troops. Unfortunately, this means that refugees who haven’t eaten for days are met with shipments of soap and jerry cans (to prevent disease) while they wait for death by starvation. These refugees have recently taken up with the demonstrators in violently attacking anything identified with the UN.
This is not the UN’s fault (necessarily). The UN relies on its Member States for support. If they do not provide troops or funding to properly implement missions– the UN has no legs to stand. Overdue arrears are currently worth more than half the entire peacekeeping budget. The largest arrears account is owed by the United States, who is currently behind in their payments by US$1,288 million (total peacekeeping expenditures for 2005 was $4,737 million). No wonder the UN can’t meet the needs of their missions–they are not being staffed or funded to send a properly trained mission!
Why are we not supporting the Congolese and many other peacekeeping missions with the necessary troop support? — because your government has decided that it would rather spend its money on war.
The only way to stop these crimes is to make your voice heard and write to your government today demanding that they respect the Canadian values of peacekeeping and humanitarianism and stop supporting war and terror!
If you’d like more information on where you can find more resources or suggestions on what to write, or who to write- I’d be happy to discuss.