Posts Tagged ‘canadian government’

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

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I attended a panel discussion recently on this topic and noted an appeal for ideas to deal with the issue. I was struck by the universality of inspirational comments, the language of terrorism or enemies, and the almost reflex response of dealing with risk, radicalization or violence from the perspective of “identification and response”, in punitive or treatment approaches, “appeals to behaviour” regarding religious tenants or values, or community obligations. For all the good words, I felt more concern than hope in the room. There is a saying; “you cannot drink the word water.” In this regard, I felt a need for something practical to emerge.

I view language as critical here. In my view there needs to be more awareness of Rosenberg’s theory of Non violent communication. Labelling people as enemies, terrorists or violent extremists is, in a sense, an act of creation that leads us down a path to violence and war, with an implicit licence to invoke lethal force. This means more military, more weapons, more suffering and more collateral damage. That said I do agree that many struggle to find peaceful solutions.   Surely we can do better.

There is another saying; “those who would kill; know that harming others will not bring an end to your suffering.” Perhaps this is an interesting way to view those who choose violence, as also victims of suffering.   It was agreed that causes of such behaviour were everything from numerous, to incredibly complex,  to completely unknown.   However, it can be known that suffering and impermanence exists for us all, the question may become one of how we can all deal with suffering in our lives.

So what is practical in this reality? To start perhaps we need a better balance between controlling wrongdoing and building peace. This means appreciating the difference between positive and negative peace. This means a keen awareness of mimetic structures at play. Mimetic structures are how we pass on cultures of peace or cultures of violence. People have a predisposition to mimic their cultural or family values and beliefs in order to belong or survive.

What is practical in building communities of peace? Perhaps we need an approach of the “whole person” and “whole of community.” Perhaps we need an understanding that one can only build peace, by beginning with “peace within”, before expecting to create “peace between” others in our communities.

This opens many doors. The door to building life practices in people, that seeks to cultivate a “mind of peace”, inner peace, equanimity, mindfulness, presence; and practices and techniques for the understanding of, and dealing with, suffering and trauma in its impermanence and pain, in all the roots of conditions or causes that are not-self.

Also there is the door to building community practices. This may involve training all (children, youth men, women, elders) in the basics of building peace, such as non violent communication, conflict resolution, reconciliation and closure, ethics and ethical decision making, good values, and living well in the company of each other. At a higher level building good governance, human security, economic viability and social needs such as health, education, wellbeing.

Also there is the door to building a group of peace practitioners in the community, especially in the youth. Peace practitioners that lead by example, with capacities around principles of being presence in arising conflict or issues, impartiality, advocating human rights, and have communication or dialogue skills. This may give youth alternatives to conflict through building positive purpose and meaning. Youth with peace building skills, non violent social activism, a voice, and participation in governance can be a powerful contributor to community wellbeing. Training and certifying peace practitioners is easy, and may begin with a “peace within” focus followed by skills education and experience.

So are we in the business of countering violent extremism or building communities of peace, or both? Which has priority? Perhaps the saying “I am one and only one; but will not refuse to do what one can do” has merit. We need small but visionary steps. Good luck to us all.

As a  contribution to the 2016 public consultation to electoral reform in Canada.   In my view , having run as a federal candidate twice and doing international election monitoring for such as OSCE, I certainly see assumptions as:

  • The current system is unfair
  • Not everyone is fairly represented in parliament (political parties and/or demographics)
  • 35% of the popular vote should not get 100% of the power.
  • Canadians want reform.

The question is how we reform the system. Some criteria may involve:

  1. Canadians want to be governed only by elected members and not appointed people. (ie such as party lists)
  2. Canadians want political party representation in proportion of the popular vote.
  3. Canadians want parliament to reflect our national diversity such as to gender, major language groups, and aboriginal peoples, in proportion of the most recent national census.

This obviously should involve:

  • Some sort of elected top-up of MPs to ensure equity in representation and diversity.
  • Provide for outcomes where good productive government is possible, and not highly subject to gridlock, or tyranny by any minorities or majorities.
  • The consideration of decision making and culture changes in parliament from the primacy of adversarial relationships to more cooperative relationships and more consensus based decisions must be a consideration, if we foresee a future of more minority governments than not.

Good luck to us.