Winnipeg’s decades-long history of holding an annual “Walk for Peace,” interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, resumed last year during a September arts festival called Nuit Blanche. We enjoyed it so much we decided to do another such walk this year, on September 23rd.
Following is the text of the leaflet we distributed as we walked along.
ILLUMINATED WALK FOR PEACE
Statement from Peace Alliance Winnipeg
September 23, 2023
Despite not having been invaded or attacked since the war of 1812, Canada currently has the world’s 15th highest military budget, spending $36.7 billion in 2023. Canada is obliged to raise this amount by another $20 billion by next year to match the quota set for NATO members. According to Canada’s most recent defence policy, the government plans to have increased military spending by 70% over a ten year period, from 2016-17 to 2026-27. Over 20 years, Canada will have spent well over $500 billion on war.
This money isn’t for peace keeping. Canada has only 58 personnel committed to the UN Peacekeeping corps. Meanwhile, the Canadian military has helped kill 43,000 civilians in Afghanistan, contributed to dropping literally hundreds of thousands of bombs on Syria and Iraq, and led a bombing campaign of Libya that destabilized the country, leaving it unprepared to deal with the recent flooding that has taken the lives of an estimated 20,000 people. The Canadian government has sent $8 billion to Ukraine, stoking a war against the world’s largest nuclear arsenal in Russia instead of playing a diplomatic role in negotiating for peace. Canadian fighter jets have encroached on Chinese air space, provoking tensions that could quite possibly lead to World War III.
The only ones who benefit from war are the arms manufacturers, the construction companies given lucrative contracts to rebuild countries destroyed by bombs, the resource extraction cartels and the bankers who invest in each of them. Imagine if, instead of investing in death for the sake of making the rich richer, the Canadian government used our money to improve the lives of Canadians?
By conservative estimates, there are 235,000 homeless people in Canada, while some advocates place it closer to triple that number. Across the country, Premiers are taking advantage of decades of austerity to justify privatizing healthcare, in violation of Canada’s health act, but to the praise of Justin Trudeau. Canada lags far behind other developed countries in public transportation. There are still 28 reserves without clean drinking water. Almost 7 million people are food insecure. The hundreds of billions of dollars spent on war would go a long way in solving every one of these issues.
In a world on the brink of environmental collapse, the military emits half of the Canadian government’s greenhouse gasses. Despite this, the military is exempt from the government’s emission reduction targets. Canada’s most recent federal budget has allocated $132 billion over 11 years for public transportation, green infrastructure and renewable energy, a mere fraction of the amount of planned spending for Canada’s military.
For a safe and healthy future, Canada must reduce its military budget drastically, and instead invest in people’s most basic needs, take serious steps to address climate change and sign the UN Treaty on the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. Humanity depends on it.