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Motion for Address in Reply

"Canada and a Culture of Peace"


Speech by:

Tuesday, November 30, 1000


On the Order:

 Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Kroft, seconded by the honourable Senator Furey, for an
Address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to tier Speech from the Throne at the Opening of the Second Session of the Thirty-sixth Parliament.-- (5th day of resuming debate)

Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, some 80 years ago there was inscribed in the Peace Tower, that
magnificent symbol of peace which gives world-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 should think deeply about this scriptural admonition.  What is our vision? What do we see for Canada; a bounteous land blessed with space, industry, resources, technological advancement, and immense human energies?  How do we see Canada related to the world at this pivotal moment in world history where human beings have in their power the means to fashion human security for everyone on God's planet?

 The advent of the new century cries out for us to focus our attention not just upon ourselves in this blessed country but on the whole world community that has been made by the marvels of technology.

 The vision I offer the Senate in this Throne Speech debate is a culture of peace.  This is not just a dream, but a practicality.  Much work is being done already to develop a culture of peace.  However, we in Canada need to do much more.

 When we look at the world as a whole, we should be startled and ashamed of the huge amount of suffering tolerated by the political systems of the world.   The 20th century was the bloodiest century in the history of humanity, with more than 110 million people killed in wars, three times as many as all the war deaths in all the previous centuries from the first century AD.  While wars are being fought, consuming vast amounts of resources, the world's poorest people are falling farther behind.  Sixty countries have been getting steadily poorer since 1980.  Housing, health, and education services are desperately needed throughout the world.

 Although we in Canada are blessed beyond belief by world standards, we have no reason to be smug or complacent.  In the past ten years, the number of poor people in Canada has risen from 3.7 million to more than 5 million, which is 19 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's ten largest cities.  Across Canada, governments have slashed social, health and education funding.  Government deficits have been reduced on the backs of the poor.

 In the 1990s, Canada's Official Development Assistance programs were cut 37 per cent, yet our military spending today is only 19 per cent lower than in the peak years of spending during the Cold War.  Canada spent $690 million participating in the Gulf War and $18 million just for the bombs that were dropped on Kosovo and Serbia last spring.

 Gross disparities and misplaced priorities at home and abroad are staring us in the face.  Social justice in a world of plenty seems farther off than ever.  We fight wars that should not be fought.  The major powers maintain nuclear weapons that constantly endanger humanity.  Governments of the world spend money on excessive militarism at the expense of the poor.

 In brief, government priorities for military spending are wildly disproportionate to expenditures on economic and social development at a time when the lack of development is now recognized as the most acute security threat facing the least developed states.  A double standard of immense proportions prevails in which governments in one breath plead an inability to fund social needs because of deficits and in the next breath appropriate huge sums for warfare and its preparation.  The very year following the 1990 Children's Summit, which amounted to rhetoric and little cash, government suddenly found $60 billion to prosecute the Gulf War.

 So powerful is the arms industry and so all-pervading its influence that it has seeped into nearly every aspect of Western society.  Western countries spend $483 billion annually Oil defence but only $48 billion on Official Development Assistance, which is supposed to lift up the human security needs of the most destabilized areas of the world.  Even this small amount of aid money is questioned, but the military appropriations go through the governmental processes unchallenged.  The reality is that sustainable economic development could remove many pre-war tensions.  That should be the lesson we take from the 1990s.

 There are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace; however, unless the Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy o[i the use of force, the world is on a dangerous path to anarchy.  NATO cannot be permitted to determine by itself when force will be used, yet the NATO 50th Anniversary Summit, occurring shortly after the Kosovo bombing began, took a deliberate decision to set itself up as the arbiter on when it would use force.  NATO's excessive arrogance is now reinforcing inequality and distrust.   The Russians and the Chinese will never accept a NATO-dominated world.

 Already the consequences of the Kosovo War have spread far beyond the human toll.  The hopes for a cooperative global security system have been dashed on the rocks of power.  The trust engendered during the supposed end to the Cold War is now shattered.  Russia and China are reasserting nuclear-weapon strength as a result of the Kosovo crisis and the intention of the United States to develop a ballistic missile defence system.  In fact, the whole nonproliferation regime is under siege today.  A new nuclear arms race is certain, unless Washington, Moscow and Beijing can quickly put collaborative efforts back on track.

 The world is staring into an abyss of nuclear weapons, as India and Pakistan have vividly demonstrated.  The danger of nuclear weapons is growing.  The recognition of that should galvanise intelligent and committed people in both government and civil society to action.  Canada can no longer avoid decisive action with abstention votes at the United Nations, as was done on this year's New Agenda resolution calling for an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to commence negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons.

 Like the Kosovo War, nuclear weapons are about the rule of law.   How will international law be imposed in the years ahead'?  Will it be by the militarily powerful determining what the law should be, or by a collective world effort reposing the seat of law in the United Nations system'?  That is the fundamental question Canada faces as we begin the new millennium. 

Honourable senators, although the facts I presented are grim, I want to face the new millennium with hope.  My own hope lies in the blossoming of intelligence about ourselves as a human community in a world that is interconnected 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-centered way of conducting international affairs.  The potential power of this movement can create the conditions for a culture of peace.

 It is often said that war is inevitable, is part of our human nature, and that people have been fighting throughout history.  That is a superficial analysis.  Human beings are not genetically programmed for war.  There is no inherent biological component of our nature that produces violence.  UNESCO points out that war begins in our minds; so, too, must the new idea begin in our minds: that peace is absolutely necessary in a technological age of mass destruction.

 The present pessimism must be lifted by the recognition that war is not inevitable.  Violence, on the scale of what we have seen in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Kosovo and elsewhere, does not emerge inexorably from human interaction.  Because the hatred and incitement to violence fostered by social and economic inequality, combined with a readily available supply of deadly weapons, are so evident, it is essential and urgent to find ways to prevent disputes from turning massively violent.   The real problem here is not that we do not know about incipient and large-scale violence; it is that we often do not know how to act.  Either we ignore mass killings if the area concerned is not central to our interests, or, as in the case of Kosovo, we unleash a rain of destruction in the name of saving humanity.

 Examples from hot spots around the world illustrate that the potential for violence can be diffused through the early, skillful and integrated application of political, diplomatic, economic and military measures.  Although terrible suffering occurred, it is a fact that warring parties have put down their arms ill El Salvador, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Guatemala and the Philippines.  The peace accords in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, though precarious, illustrate that the human desire for peace can overcome histories of conflict.  Since 1945. the UN has actually negotiated 172 peaceful settlements that have ended regional conflicts, including an end to the war between Iran and Iraq and a withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. 

These lessons have taught us that violence and war are not inevitable.  An unavoidable clash of civilizations is not our fate.  War and mass violence usually result from deliberate political decisions.  Rather than intervening in violent conflicts after they have erupted and then engaging in post-conflict peace-building, it is more humane and efficient to prevent such violence in the first place by addressing its roots.  That is the essence of a "culture of peace" approach.

 The continuing work of UNESCO in promoting knowledge of a culture of peace is inspiring.  Responding to a request by the UN General Assembly to develop the concept of a culture of peace as an integral approach to preventing violence 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 of behaviour, and ways of life that reflect and inspire respect for life and for all human rights.  It involves the rejection of violence in all its forms, and commitment to the prevention of violent conflicts by tackling their root causes through dialogue and negotiation.

 A peace consciousness does not appear overnight.  It is evident that constructing a culture of peace requires comprehensive educational, social and civic action.  It addresses people of all ages.  An open-minded global strategy is required to make a culture of peace take root in people's hearts and minds.

 The UN General Assembly has helped to foster this ethical transformation by proclaiming the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Mobilizing public opinion and developing new education programs at all levels are essential to promoting humanity's rejection of war.  Instead of planning to fight wars, Canada should put its full strength behind the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who recently stressed the need for a culture of peace in these words:

 It may seem sometimes as if a culture of peace does not stand a chance against the culture of war, the culture of violence and the cultures of impunity and intolerance.  Peace may indeed be a complex challenge, dependent on action in many fields and even a bit of luck from time to time.  It may be a painfully slow process, and fragile and imperfect when it is achieved.  But peace is in our hands.  We can do it.

 Honourable senators, these ideas were powerfully expressed at the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace last May, where 7,000 people of 100 nationalities gathered for a four-day jamboree of seminars, exhibits, concerts, and a general outpouring of human yearning for peace.

 To build a culture for peace, Canada must develop and extend policies that promote human security, new coalitions and negotiations, the rule of law, initiatives at peacemaking, democratic decision-making, and humanitarian intervention mandated by the Security Council.  Finally, there must be a reversal of present global policies in which billions of dollars are spent on arms and militarization while worthwhile development initiatives and programs for peace and human security are starved for lack of funds.

 Honourable senators, a culture of peace is not only possible. it is essential.  Without the vision of a culture of peace, millions upon millions will perish in the dangerous era ahead.


Can Canada work to ensure the primacy of the United Nations in resolving conflict'?  We can and we must.

 Can Canada work with like-minded states to urge the nuclear-weapons countries 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 home and 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 this new world challenge is no business of Canada's.  Tile principal mandate of the United Nations - to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war - should be a central concern to the Government of Canada.   The vision of a culture of peace can give us renewed strength as we enter the new millennium.

Senator Douglas Roche, O.C - A Canadian Senator for peace and human security.  Three themes - equitable economic and social development, reform of the Senate, and setting out a forthright Canadian policy to support the abolition of nuclear weapons - are central to my views on the healing processes needed to rebuild Canadian unity and advance a human security agenda for the twenty-first century.  Contact information - Office Phone: (613) 943-9559 or 1-800-267-7362; Fax: (613) 943-9561; E-Mail: ; Office: Room 202-Victoria Building, 140 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A4 ; Web site