How to challenge Harper’s pro-war lobby in 2015

Pro-war lobby meets with Harper

Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter,

You should have seen the look on their faces – they did not like what they were hearing . . . not one bit!

But I had to say it, because it is the truth.

Let me tell you, I was more than a little anxious . . . but I was determined to use my speech at the exclusive, high-level military conference as my chance to speak a little “truth to power.”

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You see, I knew they were out there in the audience . . . two of Harper’s key military cabinet ministers, sitting in that grand ballroom at the fancy Ottawa Château Laurier hotel.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney and his fellow Conservative, Veterans’ Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole, wouldn’t miss this pro-war gathering of the brass, chumming around with the old pro-war generals and Harper’s CEO buddies who have made a fortune from his wars.

And what I was about to say from the podium was going to send shockwaves through their military party!

Before I tell you what happened next, let me just say again what an honour it is to be part of the Ceasefire.ca community with you.

I took the reins of the Rideau Institute from its founder, Steven Staples, just a few months ago. But I have been part of Ceasefire.ca and have worked with Steve since the very beginning – over twelve years now!

Like you, I am a supporter of Ceasefire.ca and its parent organization, the Rideau Institute. I give through our Peacekeepers monthly donor club. But this is my first opportunity as the Rideau Institute’s new president to thank you personally for your support.

Together we have watched our community – and our influence – grow tremendously. Your support over the years has been a crucial part of Ceasefire.ca’s success.

And I hope that we can count on that support, once again, for 2015 – this crucial election year when Canada is at a crossroads. Harper offers fear and war mongering, fueled by mega arms deals to repressive regimes. Our way is peacebuilding and good global citizenship.

As Steve has said many times before in letters, we need to challenge Harper’s pro-war lobby at every opportunity.

So accepting the unusual invitation to that military conference I mentioned was my chance to shake up the Ottawa establishment a bit.

Harper’s new “minister for war” Jason Kenney took the stage first, and delivered an awful speech, repeating the words “terrorists” and “bombs” over and over again, to the absolute delight of the pro-war lobbyists and Harper-boosters in the crowd.

But Harper’s minister went much further – praising his government’s dangerous Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism bill which actually creates Harper’s own secret ‘spy police’, and potentially puts every Canadian who disagrees with Harper on CSIS’s watch list.

I took the stage afterward, and slammed Harper’s war in Afghanistan as a complete “debacle and tragedy.”

I’ll admit it . . . I was angry at what I had heard from Jason Kenney . . . I could feel the temperature getting hotter in the room.

What Kenney had been preaching was clearly Harper’s re-election plan: fighting hopeless wars in places like Iraq and Syria, while stoking fears about terrorists and fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment here at home.

Then I challenged Harper’s pathetic record at the United Nations, “The demand for UN Blue Helmets has never been greater – but Canada currently contributes just 34 troops or military experts and 84 police.” Canada is freeloading on the UN, and it’s just shameful.

I went even further – telling the roomful of military brass that the military action in Iraq, like the NATO-led air strikes in Libya in 2011, was a recipe for regional destabilization and chaos, the very conditions in which violent extremists like Islamic State thrive and grow. “The only way out of these quagmires,” I said, “is through UN-facilitated, internationally backed peace negotiations.”

Wow, that struck a nerve! In the discussion period, someone from the audience shouted, “Nobody here gives a rat’s ass about the UN!” (a rude comment for which he later apologized to me).

Maybe that narrow attitude is true for Harper’s pro-war crowd, but that’s not what Canadians think. We support the United Nations, and know that these conflicts require comprehensive political solutions that are beyond the reach of the military’s warplanes and missiles.

While Ambassador for Disarmament, I spent many years working for peace as a Canadian diplomat at the United Nations. More recently I have traveled to Afghanistan to work with local and international civil society groups seeking an end to war.

So I get a little “undiplomatic” when confronting dangerous, small-minded thinking from Harper’s gang in Ottawa.

Let’s work together to make this next election about peace and hope – not war and terror!

With your support, we will continue our efforts to make this a reality:

By opposing the draconian anti-terrorist legislation which will neither deliver better security to Canadians nor safeguard our precious democratic freedoms;

By opposing a military role for Canada in Iraq and Syria and, instead, championing UN-led peace negotiations in the region in concert with a new approach to fighting terrorism based on respect for the rule of law and the promotion of good governance; and

By pushing for parallel defence and national security policy reviews that involve meaningful public consultations, reduced defence spending, and a reorientation of Canadian efforts from NATO to UN-led peace and security initiatives.

Steve and I and our whole team have been working on our plans for this election year. We don’t have a lot of money to spend, so we have to be strategic and careful about how we use the dollars you donate.

Media coverage will be key to reaching Canadians with our peace message. My speech was carried on national TV, and the news networks are calling us regularly.

Our action emails allow us to reach more than 25,000 members of the Ceasefire.ca community – and when our supporters share our information on social media, we reach many thousands more.

We will need to work closely with other, like-minded groups to increase our collective influence on peace and other key foreign policy issues like nuclear disarmament and UN Security Council reform. I have been meeting and making presentations to a diverse array of groups around Ontario, and plan to visit other provinces this year beginning with a presentation on nuclear issues to the Pugwash Thinkers’ Lodge in Nova Scotia this July.

Of course, working closely with members of Parliament is always important. My years working in the federal government, at the UN and as head of several different Canadian foreign policy NGO’s, come in handy when urging and encouraging elected officials to stand up for peace.

Is this a plan of action for peace that you want to make happen?

I hope so. Please renew your support for Ceasefire.ca in 2015 and join our Peacekeepers monthly donors club at just $7 each month. You can choose to receive a free copy of Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada by Donald Gutstein. Or make a special one-time gift of $25.

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Join our Peacekeepers monthly donor club and chose to receive your fee copy

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Let me conclude by saying I am counting on you!

Not just for your generous donations, but also for your support, your ideas, and your willingness to take action when it will have an impact.

As the new President of the Rideau Institute and a member of the Ceasefire.ca community with you, I want to hear from you!

Let’s not let Harper’s pro-war lobby steal Canada away from us. Together, we can make Canada a peace leader, once again!

In peace,

Peggy Mason photo and signature

Peggy Mason
Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca

P.S. Please renew your support for Ceasefire.ca in 2015 and join our Peacekeepers monthly donors club at just $7 each month. You can chose to receive a free copy of Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada by Donald Gutstein (a $19 value, min. donation of $7/month or $3/week until May 31, 2015). Or make a special one-time gift of $45. Thanks for your support, and everything you do for peace!

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