Senate Statement on National Vision
2nd Session, 36th Parliament,
Volume 138, Issue 13
Tuesday, November 30, 1999
The Honourable Gildas L. Molgat, Speaker
On the Order: Resuming debate on for an Address to Her Excellency the Governor General inreply to her Speech from the Throne at the Opening of the Second Session ofthe Thirty-sixth Parliament.-(5th day of resuming debate)
Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, some 80 years ago there wasinscribed in the Peace Tower, that magnificent symbol of peace which givesworld-renowned character to Canada's Parliament, the words from Proverbs:"Where there is no vision, the people perish."
As we prepare to move into a new century and a new millennium, we shouldthink deeply about this scriptural admonition. What is our vision? What dowe see for Canada; a bounteous land blessed with space, industry, resources,technological advancement, and immense human energies? How do we see Canadarelated to the world at this pivotal moment in world history where humanbeings have in their power the means to fashion human security for everyoneon God's planet?
The advent of the new century cries out for us to focus our attention notjust upon ourselves in this blessed country but on the whole world communitythat has been made by the marvels of technology.
The vision I offer the Senate in this Throne Speech debate is a culture ofpeace. This is not just a dream, but a practicality. Much work is being donealready to develop a culture of peace. However, we in Canada need to do muchmore.
When we look at the world as a whole, we should be startled and ashamed ofthe huge amount of suffering tolerated by the political systems of theworld. The 20th century was the bloodiest century in the history ofhumanity, with more than 110 million people killed in wars, three times asmany as all the war deaths in all the previous centuries from the firstcentury AD. While wars are being fought, consuming vast amounts ofresources, the world's poorest people are falling farther behind. Sixtycountries have been getting steadily poorer since 1980. Housing, health, andeducation services are desperately needed throughout the world.
Although we in Canada are blessed beyond belief by world standards, we haveno reason to be smug or complacent. In the past ten years, the number ofpoor people in Canada has risen from 3.7 million to more than 5 million,which is 18 per cent of the population. More than 1.5 million children,which is one in five of all the children in the country, live in poverty.Homelessness has been called a national disaster by the mayors of Canada'sten largest cities. Across Canada, governments have slashed social, healthand education funding. Government deficits have been reduced on the backs ofthe poor.
In the 1990s, Canada's Official Development Assistance programs were cut 37per cent, yet our military spending today is only 19 per cent lower than inthe peak years of spending during the Cold War. Canada spent $690 millionparticipating in the Gulf War and $18 million just for the bombs that weredropped on Kosovo and Serbia last spring.
Gross disparities and misplaced priorities at home and abroad are staring usin the face. Social justice in a world of plenty seems farther off thanever. We fight wars that should not be fought. The major powers maintainnuclear weapons that constantly endanger humanity. Governments of the worldspend money on excessive militarism at the expense of the poor. In brief, government priorities for military spending are wildlydisproportionate to expenditures on economic and social development at atime when the lack of development is now recognized as the most acutesecurity threat facing the least developed states. A double standard ofimmense proportions prevails in which governments in one breath plead aninability to fund social needs because of deficits and in the next breathappropriate huge sums for warfare and its preparation. The very yearfollowing the 1990 Children's Summit, which amounted to rhetoric and littlecash, government suddenly found $60 billion to prosecute the Gulf War. So powerful is the arms industry and so all-pervading its influence that ithas seeped into nearly every aspect of Western society. Western countriesspend $483 billion annually on defence but only $48 billion on OfficialDevelopment Assistance, which is supposed to lift up the human securityneeds of the most destabilized areas of the world. Even this small amount ofaid money is questioned, but the military appropriations go through thegovernmental processes unchallenged. The reality is that sustainableeconomic development could remove many pre-war tensions. That should be thelesson we take from the 1990s.
There are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit ofpeace; however, unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminentposition as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, the world ison a dangerous path to anarchy. NATO cannot be permitted to determine byitself when force will be used, yet the NATO 50th Anniversary Summit,occurring shortly after the Kosovo bombing began, took a deliberate decisionto set itself up as the arbiter on when it would use force. NATO's excessivearrogance is now reinforcing inequality and distrust. The Russians and theChinese will never accept a NATO-dominated world.
Already the consequences of the Kosovo War have spread far beyond the humantoll. The hopes for a cooperative global security system have been dashed onthe rocks of power. The trust engendered during the supposed end to the ColdWar is now shattered. Russia and China are reasserting nuclear-weaponstrength as a result of the Kosovo crisis and the intention of the UnitedStates to develop a ballistic missile defence system. In fact, the wholenon-proliferation regime is under siege today. A new nuclear arms race iscertain, unless Washington, Moscow and Beijing can quickly put collaborativeefforts back on track.
The world is staring into an abyss of nuclear weapons, as India and Pakistanhave vividly demonstrated. The danger of nuclear weapons is growing. Therecognition of that should galvanise intelligent and committed people inboth government and civil society to action. Canada can no longer avoiddecisive action with abstention votes at the United Nations, as was done onthis year's New Agenda resolution calling for an unequivocal undertaking bythe nuclear weapon states to commence negotiations on the elimination ofnuclear weapons.
Like the Kosovo War, nuclear weapons are about the rule of law. How willinternational law be imposed in the years ahead? Will it be by themilitarily powerful determining what the law should be, or by a collectiveworld effort reposing the seat of law in the United Nations system? That isthe fundamental question Canada faces as we begin the new millennium. Honourable senators, although the facts I presented are grim, I want to facethe new millennium with hope. My own hope lies in the blossoming ofintelligence about ourselves as a human community in a world that isinterconnected in every sphere of activity. Despite the news of wars,hunger, homelessness and disease affecting millions, the world is, in fact,moving toward a new, more participatory, people-centred way of conductinginternational affairs. The potential power of this movement can create theconditions for a culture of peace.
It is often said that war is inevitable, is part of our human nature, andthat people have been fighting throughout history. That is a superficialanalysis. Human beings are not genetically programmed for war. There is noinherent biological component of our nature that produces violence. UNESCOpoints out that war begins in our minds; so, too, must the new idea begin inour minds: that peace is absolutely necessary in a technological age of massdestruction.
The present pessimism must be lifted by the recognition that war is notinevitable. Violence, on the scale of what we have seen in Iraq, Bosnia,Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo and elsewhere, does not emerge inexorably from humaninteraction. Because the hatred and incitement to violence fostered bysocial and economic inequality, combined with a readily available supply ofdeadly weapons, are so evident, it is essential and urgent to find ways toprevent disputes from turning massively violent. The real problem here isnot that we do not know about incipient and large-scale violence; it is thatwe often do not know how to act. Either we ignore mass killings if the areaconcerned is not central to our interests, or, as in the case of Kosovo, weunleash a rain of destruction in the name of saving humanity.
Examples from hot spots around the world illustrate that the potential forviolence can be diffused through the early, skillful and integratedapplication of political, diplomatic, economic and military measures.Although terrible suffering occurred, it is a fact that warring parties haveput down their arms in El Salvador, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa,Guatemala and the Philippines. The peace accords in Northern Ireland and theMiddle East, though precarious, illustrate that the human desire for peacecan overcome histories of conflict. Since 1945, the UN has actuallynegotiated 172 peaceful settlements that have ended regional conflicts,including an end to the war between Iran and Iraq and a withdrawal of Soviettroops from Afghanistan.
These lessons have taught us that violence and war are not inevitable. Anunavoidable clash of civilizations is not our fate. War and mass violenceusually result from deliberate political decisions. Rather than interveningin violent conflicts after they have erupted and then engaging inpost-conflict peace-building, it is more humane and efficient to preventsuch violence in the first place by addressing its roots. That is theessence of a "culture of peace" approach.
The continuing work of UNESCO in promoting knowledge of a culture of peaceis inspiring. Responding to a request by the UN General Assembly to developthe concept of a culture of peace as an integral approach to preventingviolence and armed conflicts, UNESCO succeeded in defining norms, values,and aims of peace.
A culture of peace is the set of values, attitudes, traditions, modes ofbehaviour, and ways of life that reflect and inspire respect for life andfor all human rights. It involves the rejection of violence in all itsforms, and commitment to the prevention of violent conflicts by tacklingtheir root causes through dialogue and negotiation.
A peace consciousness does not appear overnight. It is evident thatconstructing a culture of peace requires comprehensive educational, socialand civic action. It addresses people of all ages. An open-minded globalstrategy is required to make a culture of peace take root in people's heartsand minds.
The UN General Assembly has helped to foster this ethical transformation byproclaiming the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture ofPeace. Mobilizing public opinion and developing new education programs atall levels are essential to promoting humanity's rejection of war. Insteadof planning to fight wars, Canada should put its full strength behind theefforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recently stressed the needfor a culture of peace in these words:It may seem sometimes as if a culture of peace does not stand a chanceagainst the culture of war, the culture of violence and the cultures ofimpunity and intolerance. Peace may indeed be a complex challenge, dependenton action in many fields and even a bit of luck from time to time. It may bea painfully slow process, and fragile and imperfect when it is achieved. Butpeace is in our hands. We can do it.
Honourable senators, these ideas were powerfully expressed at the 1999 HagueAppeal for Peace last May, where 7,000 people of 100 nationalities gatheredfor a four-day jamboree of seminars, exhibits, concerts, and a generaloutpouring of human yearning for peace.
To build a culture for peace, Canada must develop and extend policies thatpromote human security, new coalitions and negotiations, the rule of law,initiatives at peacemaking, democratic decision-making, and humanitarianintervention mandated by the Security Council. Finally, there must be areversal of present global policies in which billions of dollars are spenton arms and militarization while worthwhile development initiatives andprograms for peace and human security are starved for lack of funds. Honourable senators, a culture of peace is not only possible, it isessential. Without the vision of a culture of peace, millions upon millionswill perish in the dangerous era ahead.
Can Canada work to ensure the primacy of the United Nations in resolvingconflict? We can and we must.
Can Canada work with like-minded states to urge the nuclear-weaponscountries to start comprehensive negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons?We can and we must.
Can Canada give a higher priority to economic and social development at homeand abroad than to military spending to fight wars? We can and we must. Let us, above all, not lose faith in ourselves and turn inward as if thisnew world challenge is no business of Canada's. The principal mandate of theUnited Nations - to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war -should be a central concern to the Government of Canada. The vision of aculture of peace can give us renewed strength as we enter the newmillennium.