The need to expand Canada’s Peace Movement

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Winnipeg, April 13, 2024: Glenn Michalchuk, speaking to the Annual General Meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

The imperative is to build a movement against the growing preparations for war with Russia and China through a Canadian Foreign Policy that is independent of U.S. and NATO dictate!

by Glenn Michalchuk

Internationally, the world situation is increasingly tense. The danger that there will be direct war between the world’s major powers is growing daily.

What is called the Western Alliance — the European Union, U.S., U.K. and Canada, together with Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — is an ideological and military alliance that is expanding its military preparedness for direct conflict with Russia in Europe, and China in Asia.

Thus, you have the continued expansion of NATO with the admission of Sweden and Finland. Within the NATO alliance pressure is being exerted for countries to meet the longstanding target that they commit to tie military spending to 2% of GDP.

There is already conflict with this grouping of nations and Russia in the war between Ukraine and Russia. In that conflict Ukraine is serving as the proxy – providing the armed forces and the battlefield for the war. Indeed, it has become common to describe the war as a NATO proxy war with Russia. While this may not have been understood at the outset, the lead up to the war, the military and political support of NATO and individual NATO states for the war, the blocking of peace initiatives, the media spin provided to the war are certainly proof that the West has gone all in to support this conflict rather than seek resolution.

In addition to NATO there is the emergence of a new Western military grouping in the creation of AUKUS in September 2021.  A military alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – in the Indo-Pacific. Just a few days ago it was announced that Japan would join the Alliance. Japan’s participation will be in what the Alliance calls its Pillar II program which focuses on quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, artificial intelligence, hypersonic and electronic warfare capabilities.

Besides NATO, AUKUS, and the war in Ukraine there are other elements to the increasing preparedness for war. The Canadian government recently announced plans to spend $8 billion over 5 years to acquire new military equipment and boost recruitment. By 2029-30, this additional money will raise Canada’s annual defence budget from the present level of $30 billion to $49.5 billion.

Manufacturing Consent

Whether with NATO, AUKUS or in their respective member countries, the rationale of increasing military preparedness is described as: “to support stability and security and a necessary response to the rapidly evolving strategic environment.’ The Canadian government’s announcement to increase military spending was described as ensuring the military meets a “complex generational challenge.”

But who and what is behind this “complex generational challenge” or “rapidly evolving strategic environment”.

The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact – eliminated the “threat” that was behind the creation of NATO in 1949 and its enlargement through the Cold War. This change was recognized even by two of the staunchest Cold War ideologues of that period: U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. They said the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact as a military threat, and the end of socialism as an ideological threat, would create a “peace dividend” from the economic benefit of a decrease in military spending. What remained were the large nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia. Those would now be reduced. The START II treaty signed in 1993 by U.S. President George Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin reduced the nuclear arms by 50% for each country.

The prospects for change following the Cold War ended in 1999 with the NATO war in Yugoslavia. The NATO war in Yugoslavia was unilateral. The United States and NATO launched the war after failing to gain the authorization of the UN Security Council to take military action over the Yugoslavia/Kosovo conflict coupled with Yugoslavia’s refusal to accept the NATO drafted peace settlement that gave NATO free access to Yugoslav territory and immunity from Yugoslav law.

The NATO war in Yugoslavia was followed by the U.S led war in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 and the NATO led war in Libya in 2011, which, like the war in Yugoslavia, was labelled as a humanitarian operation.

Through the 1990s and 2000s NATO expanded eastward as countries that were part of the former Warsaw Pact — now with governments aligned with the U.S. and European Union — were invited by NATO to join.

The war in Gaza

The Israel-Hamas war which began on October 7, 2023 has exposed the sham of the Western Alliance and its so-called values of human rights and democracy.

While interventions in Yugoslavia and Libya were carried out supposedly to protect innocent civilians there has been no such intervention to stop Israel’s path of destruction in Gaza which has killed 32,000 Palestinians – an overwhelming number of which are children. Every hospital in Gaza has been attacked and damaged in the war and this is on top of years of destruction of Gaza infrastructure though bombings and sanctions. While the Russian invasion of Ukraine brought swift action by Western governments there has been no action against the state of Israel.

Israel has long enjoyed the unequivocal support of the West – so much so that for decades it has been able to pursue the most egregious violations of Palestinian human rights with impunity.

The Indo-Pacific

We are witnessing a repeat of the interference and destabilization by the U.S of China and Taiwan relations not unlike that which it used to set up conflict between Ukraine and Russia, or Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Long standing international agreements on China are being scuttled as the U.S. pursues a policy of escalating tensions over Taiwan. The U.S is re-opening military bases across islands it first occupied during World War II and, through new alliances such as AUKUS, is creating new dangers.

Canada in lock step

Through a foreign policy aligned with U.S. policy and strategic objectives Canada is fully part of these increasing tensions whether overtly through military actions – such as Canadian warships joining U.S. warships in the South China Sea, or the diplomatic crisis sparked by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huwaei, at the request of the U.S. government. Canada’s NATO obligations and its fear of U.S reaction prevent it from signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The work of PAW

Within this context the Peace Alliance Winnipeg works to organize. The PAW action on the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of NATO is one example. It was very important to hold this action, regardless of its size or the reach it achieved – though both results were very satisfactory. Over the years PAW has been the organizer of numerous actions and initiatives. PAW is not unique on this front. There is a broad and united Canada wide movement which is active on the same issues. The response to Israel’s war in Gaza by the Palestinian community and its allies shows that the alliance of the political class and the mainstream media can be shaken and their attempt to control the narrative disrupted. It was the first time actions from outside forced changes within the political sphere and against their interest to do so.


Glenn Michalchuk is Chair of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. This is the text of his report to the 2024 annual general meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg.

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