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Dear friends. I have been watching the media traffic on the Mali mission with interest and offer a few reflections. I served in the military for 33 years retiring in 2001 before 911. In my time we were either peacekeepers or cold warriors serving in Europe. The forty years or so of peacekeeping missions saw about 113 killed. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there was a period of somewhat ill-fated missions, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia. Then in 2001, we became war fighters, and the military marginalized peace keeping, essentially getting rid of the Pearson Peacekeeping Center. Well, within a decade, and Afghanistan. Libya and Iraq later, we saw 156 killed, more than that in suicides, thousands wounded or with PTSD, and responsible for civilian fatalities and causalities, unintended but 100% foreseeable.

Now with a new government we are tentatively exploring peacekeeping again, almost from the perspective of little experience, and not much evidence of understanding of UN multidimensional peacekeeping under civilian control. So, over cautious and hesitant, and with seeming resistance from the war culture generation of officers, the military continues to budget for heavy warfighting capabilities and the government in turn delays funding and procurement.    Peacekeeping is almost viewed as a nuisance, or an attentive military would already have permanently rerolled, reequipped, and trained a brigade or two, and assigned dedicated air support, for peace operations, and the money would be flowing. In addition, government departments such as GAC should be well on their way to establishing some type of non-DND federal institution for peace and peace operations.

So here we are heading for Mali, and without a new military generation, or a change in mentality in DND officer-ship from war to peace operations. We are entering a conflict where there is a significant risk of being sucked into anti terrorist or anti insurgency operations, and the killing and casualties will begin again. When something happens, watch how fast the warriors take over if we are not careful.

We will not end wars but can respond to them with humanity. Certainly, there will be causalities, there have always been causalities. The military trains for war zones, civilians do not.   Civilians deserve better.

So in principle, seeking to contribute to peace or the relief of suffering in Mali or any conflict zone, is something Canada should be doing in my view. Hopefully we will learn our way from this start. The question is how and with what sense of humanity. Peace professionals have the characteristics of presence in the conflict, of impartiality, talking to all sides, of uncompromising values for human rights, and with non-violent communication and mediation skills. This is what Canada should be in conflict zones.

Good luck to us.  In peace


Peacemaker Table of Contents

Posted: November 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

Click on desired Blog

2016 Government considering Interim Super Hornet buy.

2016 Countering Violent Extremism

2016 DND Military Trauma, PTSD, Moral injury and Suicides

2016 Canada Voting NO to UN elimination of nuclear weapons report

2016 Training foreign militaries to wage war is not peace making

Towards Peace and Security through Canadian International Assistance. 2016 Canadian Public Consultation

Good government, Peace, Electoral reform

2016 Canada and its Veterans – The Duty of Truth

2016 Canada Defence Review – What Canada can do for peace in the world!

2016 and Canada’s new Mid east strategy

So Canada will cease bombing, then what? Is a coherent Mid East strategy possible?

2016 Iran Sanctions relief. Open for business? Open for Peace?

Words, negotiation and peacemaking

Jan 2016 The Syrian Quagmire

2015 Canadian Federal Elections and Peace Building. Time to ask Questions !!!

P5+1 plus Iran Comprehensive Nuclear Program Agreement. Time to re-establish Canada as a global citizen for peace.

July 2015 the Iran Nuclear deal?

2015 Canada, ISIS and assumptions about being in the fight

Expansion of Canada Mission against ISIS 2015

2014 Revelations of torture and drones. Finding closure?

2014 ISIS – is negotiation possible?

2014 Air strikes and ISIS, now it begins – civilian casualties.

2014 Canada, ISIS – war fighting or peace operations – the reason you can’t do both

2014 Alternatives for Canada to war fighting against ISIS

2014 Think about what a war response means against ISIS

2014 Towards an ethic for peace operations

2014 Canada CF18s and ISIS

When they hurt enough or when they love enough

Honoring the Shared Gifts of our Wisdom as we meet

2013 Defence Matters: A Canadian Appreciation

Time to talk about Canada’s disappointing approach to international peace and stability

Canadian Arms Trade Treaty leadership is disappointing

2012 Peace Professional Accreditation Acceptance Speech

We need a Strong and Effective Arms Trade Treaty

The fog of truth in conflict zones

Civilization is on the move

Responsibility to protect – Getting it right

From Activism to Governance


An open letter to the 2011 Gaza flotilla organizers and the Israelis

Canada responds to Libya – Canada is diminished

Exploring Non-violent Alternatives to Terrorism

Hello world!



Today we will speak words,

but words are only words.

We cannot drink the word water. 

Actions will speak loudest.

Actions will speak of the real truth in your heart.

And only then will we know the meaning of your words.

And only then will our hearts speak truth to each other. 

Today we will speak words.

Tomorrow and the days after our actions and hearts will speak,

and only then will we know each other for the men and women we really are.

The situation at the moment seems intractable. The death, damage and suffering seems incomprehensible by any measure of rationality. My heart certainly goes out to the Syrian people and their Canadian-Syrian families.

In terms of what Canada can do, perhaps the new government will seek something constructive. The current approach of relentless diplomacy, expanding to include all parties must continue. Unfortunately, negotiation is often a question of timing, inclusiveness and understanding possibilities.

Some principles come to mind in the peacemaking domain:

  •  You cannot just pound stakes in the ground and call it dialogue.
  • Do not fall in love with solutions that do not work, however elegant and caring and just they may be.
  • Until readiness and willingness, engage the meta questions.
      This is unfolding as “desperate and helpless waiting” as the war drags on. Perhaps the political solution is not the current concern. Perhaps the violence and refugees are the main concern. What comes to mind is a model of

peace operations which include as a minimum, strict obligations and every reasonable effort to:  

  • Stop or prevent violence or killing as a first priority.
  • Care for the victims.
  • Create safe spaces for peace talks or diplomacy.
  • Strengthen or rebuild governance at all levels.
  • Make efforts to create safe, healthy and socially responsible communities.
  • Reconstruction of economies and infrastructure.
  • Enable truth, reconciliation and justice activity.

The ethic of care should supersede the ethic of justice. The care/heart level concerns outweigh the transactional issues at this moment. This may be a key point of dialogue with all parties which has possibilities. (Which I hope is a big part of current efforts.) Could Canada be the neutral party to advance or broker this? We may be a small country, but should not refuse to do what we can do.

I read an article on the Iran nuclear issue,  summarizing a webinar” held recently.   It was sponsored by a group interested in “driving significant change towards a non-violent and non-nuclear Iran”.  The panel included a US Ambassador and  former US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control &International Security a, Professor and former White House National Security Council senior staffer; all of which painted a dismal picture of the negotiations .

As a former military officer and accredited Peace Professional (Civilian Peace Services Canada)   I feel that the approaches to  negotiations were designed to make success as difficult as possible, if not very remote, and outcomes will be a source of further political conflict in the US.

I noted speakers expressing firm fixed views and in a classic example of misusing the practices of non violent communication language  (NVC Rosenberg) .   This involved “threats, accusations, blame” and ascribing apocalyptic, fear based outcomes as fact.    I detected the western predisposition to seeking a transactional outcome, without first achieving a relational partnership or any degree of sympathetic or shared  understanding between involved parties.

The Mideast is a hotbed of human rights abuses and war crimes violations, some from friends and allies.  The Mideast is not a nuclear weapons free zone.  We already have bad state actors with nuclear weapons, such as Korea,  and endured a long cold war under the threat of such weapons.  It is a fact that nuclear weapons are within the reach of any country with sufficient wealth and technology.  Right or wrong, it is not against international law to acquire or have nuclear weapons.  Right or wrong, we live in a world where states with sufficient power assert their will; and reserve the right to challenge any such ambitions, and to decide who they want to have political, social and economic relationships.

It would appear that a deal still allows the possibility of such weapons in a longer term, but no deal allows the possibility of weapons in the shorter term.  We know the cost of a strike or invasion in the mid east in this case could trigger a wider regional war with many 100,000s of lives being lost.  This would pale in comparison with the tragedies currently being experienced in the region.

I feel that there is no such thing as a bad deal in this case.  There is only a deal.  A deal that could open to possibilities of a non violent and relational partnership that in the longer term may have hope, or a deal that leads to disaster.  Words on paper are only words.  You cannot drink the word water.  Only behaviours will define the true nature of the relationship beneath the deal.

In my view, to ascribe hard goals and demands is to go down a road to failure.  Nothing in any deal will be perfect.  Whereas, to go down a road that is “response based” and relational, rather than “expectation based”, is to succeed every day that violence is held at bay.

Iran will do what Iran will do.  Nuclear weapons?  Maybe yes, or maybe no?  The question is:  Where is the debate about Plan B, the situation in which Iran acquires nuclear weapons?  How will we then live in peace with such a state?  Somehow this has to be about peace and not confrontation.

In peace.

Paul Maillet

Colonel (retired)


I listened to CBC “power and politics” recently about Canada and ISIS and am somewhat concerned about the underlying consensus and untouchable assumptions, by all parties and the moderator Terry, that Canada should and must be in the fight in the first place, and that Canada must not have diplomatic relations with Iran.    There were some mild caveats that this be subject to avoiding collateral damage and killing civilians.  Otherwise, it seemed that parties were only determined to criticize each other’s articulation of this to appeal to what they think voters want.

To me, the debate was ill informed and shamelessly political.  This region has been in conflict before the birth of Christ. The Mideast has over two million men under arms, and trillions of dollars of weapons surrounding ISIS, and we think six Canadian jets are important here and makes a difference.  The mid east is on a somewhat chaotic road to  sorting ISIS out and will probably lay the seeds for further Sunni Shiite conflict in the process. Whatever the outcome, this will remain a problem for the world.   Perhaps the question for us is not about fighting wars here, but how can we contribute to peace making in the region.  We have to remember that military action under international law must have a reasonable prospect of success, which is just not there in this case, and well acknowledged by the US president and military professionals.    Yes, we need boots, but peacekeeper boots that protect people and protect aid.  Also boots that talk to all sides and prepare for peace talks.    So I throw my lot into protecting people, caring for victims, humanitarian aid, non-violence and sponsoring peace talks when the readiness and willingness is there.  There is the notion that “when they hurt enough, or love their children enough”, we will have peace.

Regarding the reinstatement of diplomatic relations with Iran, I find the debate incredulous.  It has to be more important to talk to those with which we have differences than just our friends.  Miscommunication and misunderstanding is how wars start, and no communication leads to missed opportunities to end wars or advance chances for peace.  The more we know each other the better the chances for change and peace,   Iran will do what Iran will do with regard to nuclear weapons and we better think about plan B if they choose to do go down the road to such weapons.  This is a debate we must also have.  How do we live in peace with another nuclear state for which we have differences?

So whither Canada in all this?  How can Canada assert what we claim are our true and cherished values for peace, in the face of a world always bent on military intervention as a response  to conflict?  It takes courage.  We can do much much better.

Why do we find it so difficult to debate the use of military intervention as Canada’s contribution to international peace and stability?  Now the mission creep begins.  Did we not learn anything from the mess we left in Libya?  Is killing our only response?

The expansion of attacks into Syria begs a few questions.  Are we willing to accept casualties?  We are now flying in another country with possible sophisticated Russian surface to air missile capabilities and a Russian equipped air force. We cannot be certain what missiles or air defence capacities ISIS has captured and operates  in this regard.  We may or may not have air superiority as in Iraq.  We will need allied help to suppress enemy air defences, and fighter cover support.  I assume we will operate as part of allied strike packages.  However, we may run into, or clash with, hostile Syrian air force fighters or air defence systems.

All this begs the question of what 6 CF18s are doing in a theatre of some 20,000 ISIS fighters facing surrounding national armies  with over 2 million  men under arms and massive modern air forces that makes 6 CF18s absolutely  insignificant to any possible outcome.  All we can do is kill a few people.  We are better than this.

Maybe the real contribution of Canada is to look to the two Nobel peace prizes we have shared for peacekeeping, and look to a role of impartiality, diplomacy,  peace operations and humanitarian activities.  Eventually the readiness and willingness to sit down and talk, and  need for political negotiation will arise, and we can be prepared for that day, and maybe such readiness may be in time to save lives.   The number of lives we could save with the money we are spending is surely the best of who we think we are.  Why are we not a nation of peace vice a nation of war?  When did we lose our way?