Canada's Role in the World

Speech from the Throne

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
2nd Session, 37th Parliament,
Volume 140, Issue 16
Wednesday, November 6, 2002


On the Order: Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Morin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Hubley, for an Address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her Speech from the Throne at the Opening of the Second Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament.(6th day of resuming debate).

Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, since this is the last Speech from the Throne that I expect to participate in, I would like to offer some comments about Canada's role in the world at this critical moment.

First, as an independent senator, I would like to express my appreciation to the Speaker and the leadership on both sides of the aisle for the fair and courteous manner in which I have been treated. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to contribute to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, and particularly to its ground-breaking study on health care.

I pay my respects to Her Excellency and commend the mover and seconder of the address in reply to the Speech from the Throne for their valuable presentations. It is the international dimensions of the Speech from the Throne that I wish to address.

The speech stated that Canada would continue to work through organizations such as the United Nations to ensure that the rule of international law is respected and enforced. We will work with the United States to address shared security concerns. We will double our development assistance by the year 2010, with half of that increase going to Africa. Engaging Canadians in a discussion about Canada's role in the world, the government will set out a long-term direction on international and defence policy that reflects our values and ensures that Canada's military is equipped to fulfill the demands placed upon it.

One would have to say at the outset that this is a laudable vision, however lacking it is in detail. Let us look at some of the details. Let us try to get past the headlines of the day, which dwell incessantly on conflict and have produced a climate in which it appears to be downright unpatriotic if we do not rush to pour new billions of dollars into Canada's Armed Forces as a Canadian response to the security threats of today. Let us not be so mesmerized by the tragedy of September 11 that we think a military response is the only way we can guarantee our security in the future. Let us not follow the path of the United States Administration, which is putting that country on a permanent war footing in the name of peace, a stance that is sure to become more strident in the wake of yesterday's election results.

Honourable senators, the over-arching principle that should guide Canada's security policies is that militarism alone cannot provide security in the complex world of globalisation that we are in. Rather, security can be achieved only by the implementation of programs for sustainable development in every part of the world, and the protection and advancement of human rights in all their dimensions as outlined in the United Nations instruments. In this context, the military have a role to play, to not only guarantee, but if necessary, enforce peace through the rigorous application of international law.

In the context of the legitimate fears for personal security evoked by the terrorism of September 11, an idea has taken hold in Canada that funding for our Armed Forces must be greatly increased. The focus has been put on more money, lots of it, for the military, and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief because we will be protected from the adversities of unknown enemies. In short, the logic presented to us suggests more money for defence equals more security. An important debate the country should be having about how to enhance domestic and global security is thus skewed by the September 11 syndrome. The debate needs to be put in broader terms to produce the best public policies.

The idea that Canadian taxpayers are presently underfunding the military should be examined. Canada's defence budget is just over $12 billion, which puts Canada in the top 10 per cent of military spenders worldwide. The International Institute of Strategic Studies in London rates Canada as the seventh highest military spender of NATO's 19 member states. While Canadian military spending declined in the 1990s, this decline mirrored global trends. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports a global decline of 11 per cent from 1992 to 2000. The Canadian decline in the same period was 12 per cent. Thus, as Project Ploughshares points out, ``the charge that Canada's military spending has shrunk to unconscionably low levels relative to the rest of the world does not stand up to scrutiny.''

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World military expenditures are now shooting upwards. This is driven by the enormous increase of $50 billion by the U.S. this year alone. The U.S. is now spending $400 billion a year on defence, which is more than the next 25 countries combined. It is somewhat disingenuous for the U.S. Ambassador to Canada to be constantly chiding this country for low military spending, as if the gargantuan budget of the U.S. should become the standard for Canada. The U.S. is also, of course, driving the NATO spending pattern. At $500 billion a year, NATO accounts for 60 per cent of all military spending globally. If Canada added $2 billion or $3 billion annually to the NATO figure, how could this credibly be argued as adding to global security? It can hardly be argued that peace and security are threatened simply by a dearth of global military capacity.

Defence advocates do not like to admit it, but in terms of the absolute levels of Canadian military spending, Canada is well above the global average. Does this mean that Canada's Armed Forces should be denied proper, well-functioning equipment or equitable pay scales? Of course not. The question should be: What are we spending money on? What is our policy? Is it to continue Canada's highly regarded role in peacekeeping and peace building, or is it to modernize our combat capability to fight the wars of the future, wars, one would have to add, that the U.S. is preparing to fight? If the U.S. is determined to fight in Iraq, even without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council, thus undermining international law and opening the door to more battlefields, including space, then Canadians should know now that that is why they are being asked to increase Canada's defence budget. To equip Canada for war-fighting capability for the future would be a significant change in Canada's defence policy.

This serves to emphasize how important it is that the government set out a long-term defence policy, as promised in the Throne Speech. So far, we have not heard a word about the prioritization of future needs. If those needs are to defend Canada, appropriate funding should be put in place. If those needs are to join in U.S.-led wars, extra funding should be denied. In short, there should be more money to Canada's military if necessary, but not necessarily more money.

In latter years, Canada has distinguished itself by advancing a human security agenda, which recognizes that the security and well-being of persons depend more on economic, social and political conditions than on military strength. This agenda, as the analyst Ernie Regehr points out, embraces economic equity, human rights, democracy and a sustainable physical environment. This is an agenda requiring a major infusion of new resources, which can prevent future regional armed conflicts as well as end terrorism.

The centrepiece of this human security agenda is Official Development Assistance, known as ODA. The government recognizes this by saying that it will double development assistance by 2010. It was one of Canada's great Prime Ministers, Lester B. Pearson, a Nobel Peace laureate, who first crafted the UN target of providing 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product for ODA. If Canada's defence community is unhappy at the 14 per cent cut they absorbed in the 1990s, consider the 31 per cent decline in ODA in the same period.

Canada is only at 0.25 per cent in ODA today, which ranks us as seventeenth among 22 aid donor countries. We are well behind the average donor performance of 0.39 per cent. This is not a record to be proud of. Moreover, it belies Canada's posture that the human development agenda is a prime consideration of our global security policies.

Our country joined in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which identified millennium goals in disarmament, development and poverty eradication that are essential to building sustainable peace. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, arguing that every step taken toward reducing poverty is a step toward conflict prevention, said that $50 billion extra was required to achieve millennium goals. This $50 billion represents one-sixteenth of what the world currently spends preparing for war. In Canada's case, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation calculates that Canada's share of the $50 billion would be an additional $2.5 billion per year. Even if we were to meet that obligation, which would require a doubling of current Canadian ODA, we would still be well short of meeting the overall UN target of 0.7 per cent.

The government says that we must be content with an increase of 8 per cent in ODA this year. That is better than nothing, but it is still insufficient given the work that must be done in the world to build the conditions for peace and security. This is not difficult to figure out. The evidence shows that states in the bottom half of the human security index are three times as likely to experience wars than those in the top half. If we want peace, we must pay for peace. This means paying for the destruction of surplus gun stocks, paying for the dismantling of nuclear weapons, paying for the disposal of fissile materials, as well as paying for economic or social programs to give people the human security they so ardently crave.

Honourable senators, Canada must face up to the need for increased security spending. This is a bigger subject than military spending alone. The government wants to review its policies. Let that review commence now, with public input appropriately organized, funded and publicized.

Canada must help the world community to find solutions to the principal challenges of our time: widespread war and violence, terrorism, poverty and environmental degradation. With the Nobel Peace laureates, who recently met in Rome, let us stand firmly against the cynicism and despair that crushes hope and vision. Our common humanity demands public policies for peace, humanity and equality.