On Being a Conscientious Objector during an Election Campaign

Letter to the editor

April 11, 2011 | Web First
Henry Rempel | A Canadian Mennonite reader

The promotional supplement in the March 21 issue advances  important matters of conscience.  The proposed involvement, though, reflects an acceptance that we are out of step with what the majority of Canadians want from their government.  Electing members of parliament who are open to pursuing peace would create some space for these issues of conscience.

When Stephen Harper was elected first as our Prime Minister he openly campaigned on a platform that would transform our military from an emphasis on peacekeeping to being an extension of United States military objectives.  In fairness to Prime Minister Harper, he kept this election promise.  The military equipment required for this type of army is expensive.  That is one reason why government spending by the Harper government has increased by an average of six per cent annually.  Spending an additional $16 billion on fighter aircraft is consistent with the military priorities we have now.

Given these military priorities, an alternative shopping list, as set on page 34 of the March 21 issue, is not an option.  A ready commitment to support the United States in its military strategies makes it impossible to grant asylum to U.S. citizens who are opposing, for reasons of conscience, any one of these military strategies.  If our government’s priority is to carry Canada’s weight as a member of NATO and on being allied with the U.S., a federal Department of Peace is unlikely. 

During an election campaign being a conscientious objector would suggest working actively to elect members of parliament who declare an interest in peace.  We could determine this by asking our candidates several pointed questions.  Some examples might be: do you favour a military trained and equipped for peacekeeping or a military trained and equipped to join the war efforts of the U.S. and NATO?  Or, you might ask whether the candidate is committed to Canada becoming a full state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions?

This strategy might start in our home churches as ridings with concentrations of Mennonite voters accepted, possibly supported, the Harper government’s military platform.  Second, if candidates come to your door, have two or three pointed questions ready.  This can help identify who to vote for and it will inform candidates that there are concerns related to current military priorities.  Likely the most effective strategy would be to motivate our younger people to exercise their privilege to vote.  A large turnout by younger voters would shift the priorities evident during this last session of parliament.

--April 11, 2011


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