Posts Tagged ‘conflict zones’

Dear Honorable Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs;

I am very disappointed with Canada’s NO vote to the report of United Nations Open Ended Working Group to find a path for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The fact and arguments for the elimination of this cancer on the planet are well known, but surprising is the Liberal government setting aside its new commitment to peace on this issue. Also surprising is that we are not exercising leadership here. Fixing our support to peacekeeping is one thing, but people dying somewhere in a nuclear holocaust is another, and our position here is not helpful.

I am very disappointed at the lack of consistency here. You are eroding the trust and high hopes we had for change. Regaining our reputation for peace and presence in the global community does not begin with Canada’s NO to finding a path to the elimination of nuclear weapons.     The journey to a safer and more peaceful world is hard enough, and harder without Canada’s support and leadership. We can do so much good with a little courage and political will.

Trust once broken is almost impossible to regain, and nothing good politically can come from obstructing what is clearly in our best interests. The previous government did enough international obstructing and selfishness to last us all a lifetime.  Please no more.   I implore you to do the right thing. This is what the clear majority of Canadians and the global community expect. Little by little this will define or redefine Canadians as who we are, and what we hold to be the best of human existence.

Good luck to us all.

Paul Maillet

Colonel retired

Former Director of Defence Ethics


“I am who you are. When you suffer, I suffer.

We are one people on one planet.”

As both a 33 year military veteran and subsequently, since 2001, working in International Development and First Nations in the area of governance, ethics, and peace services, I certainly appreciate the challenges faced in the achievement of mandate of GAC. I appreciate the opportunity to be heard. I would like to offer brief comment on this consultation in the area or peace and security and governance.

I would like to make the point that traditional practices to international assistance must change. The four structural needs of security, economic, governance and social (health, education, housing, etc) are so interconnected and interrelated that expensive short term, narrow and project oriented applications, have limited or only temporary benefit. Transactional solutions of knowledge, material and funding transfers can only be accomplished in parallel with longer term Relational solutions that involve readiness and willingness and “whole of country” or “whole of community” approaches.

I believe we must change our assistance world view from donor-recipient, north-south, in which others bring suffering and we bring superior technology and money, to one of accompaniment. If we are “one family on this planet“ then perhaps the relationship should be one of equality and accompaniment rather than of power and teacher in a superior sense. This means less of very expensive consultant studies, and more sharing, engagement, education, tools and training at the lowest levels.

This may imply changing assistance from being results-based with goals and hard expectations based, to relational, peace oriented, direction-based that builds cultures that responds and works at the structural needs each day and makes progress as it can. Perhaps it is direction and effort each day that better defines success and sufficiency, as opposed to despair with goals that are largely unreachable and often result in failure. One cannot eradicate crime, but can work at it each day with hope.

My most recent work ending Dec 2015 involved a multimillion dollar CIDA project to build an Ethics and anti corruption secretariat in the office of the President in Tanzania. It was very apparent that dealing with elected government and public officials in isolation would not achieve the desired results without involving the meta-environment around these officials. This meant pilot projects with the corporate sector around corrupt practices and social responsibility, projects with civil society around voting for honest people as contributing to honest government, projects teaching ethics and resiliency at lower, middle and higher education; project with ethics and police and military forces; projects in government relating to wrongdoing disclosure and reprisal prevention, and projects with elected and government officials regarding ethics and conflict of interest. The idea that controlling wrongdoing must go hand in hand with building integrity; applies to peace building in that “security and justice’ must go hand in hand with “building peace and reconciliation` and development work.

Currently, we are also involved in “whole of community” peace and reconciliation initiatives with First Nations and the Sri Lankan diaspora in Canada. Our Sri Lankan approach is centered around relational solutions beginning with connecting elders, and creating a group of youth peace practitioners through training and skill development. First nations work involves building trauma resiliency practices in children and youth.

Peace and Security

If we accept a holistic working model of peace that comprises human security, economic livelihood, social needs and good governance, the foundation begins with security. Not much is possible in climates of conflict, hate, fear, war, or oppression.

First, I believe Canada needs to be more sensitive to security needs as essential to assistance. This may mean taking a larger view of 3D (diplomacy, defence, development) so that diplomacy or military activities do not work at cross purposes to development assistance.

The lack of peace has many sources, from poverty, economic depression, to youth lack of jobs and hopelessness, crime, corruption, to lack of resources when others have much, to religious or racial differences, to outright conflict or war.   Traditional constructs of violent conflict involve three phases; pre-conflict, during conflict and post conflict activities. These phases usually define certain military activities such as deployment, hostilities, and reconstruction. What is needed is a peace and development overlay to these phases of conflict, an overlay of peace building, peacemaking and peace keeping. This may involve such as: peace building (governance strengthening, ethics, anti corruption, economic development, policing, diplomacy), peacemaking (mediation, ceasefire negation, refugee assistance, safe havens, humanitarian aid, police training) and peace keeping (reconciliation, justice, development, reconstruction, monitoring). What is also needed is a development approach that first fosters relational solutions, and whole of community approaches, that connects and engages elders, women, youth, men and children in the development of such peace practitioner skills, trauma resiliency, non violent communications skills, dialogue, reconciliation and conflict resolution. This can serve to better enable the clinical trauma responses, and judicial responses regarding crimes, victims and offenders.

Transactional solutions, the military and enforced political solutions where hatred and animosities remain, are usually insufficient and temporary, without good relational solutions. This implies that training military forces and taking sides, and facilitating hostilities, may not be all that helpful to providing peace and assistance to all parties in the longer term. Real security may be better served with constabulary training at village or country levels. Serve and protect is better than search and destroy.

Therefore, essential throughout all 3D activities is attention to peace building and possibly reconciliation needs. This means that all of 3D must have a coherent approach. Peace building in a larger sense, may mean that all 3D actors have a commitment to be present in the country or crisis, to be impartial and not take sides (working with all parties), to be a strong advocate for human rights, to respect and non violence, and to have a capacity for communication and conflict resolution and mediation down to the village level. This may require the development of specialized capacities in 3D departments, or a separate federal department of institution of peace in Canada.


I would like to offer the following main recommendations:

  • That assistance be oriented to a “whole of wellbeing“ approach that includes a holistic attention to human security, economic livelihood, social needs and good governance.
  • That assistance projects be longer term and be oriented towards accompaniment relationships, which remain during implementation phases.
  • That 3D assistance activity be fully oriented towards peace. Defence security activity may be better oriented towards constabulary training and assistance, or refugee camp protection, rather than offensive military force operations.
  • That priority be given to local “whole of community” approaches that connects and engages elders, women, youth, men and children in community development and the development of peace practitioner, reconciliation and trauma resiliency skills.
  • That the Canadian government create a ministry or institution of peace to augment all 3D peace requirements for peace building, peacemaking and peace keeping including mediation and reconciliation. This may include creating a civilian peace service to field such a capacity as part of development assistance projects.

All we need is to live our cherished values, a little courage and the political will.  Good luck to us all.   

In the cause of peace;

Paul Maillet

Colonel retired

Former DND Director of Defence Ethics

Accredited Peace Professional, Civilian Peace Services Canada (CPSC)

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”    Jose Narosky


As both a 33 year veteran and former Director of Defence Ethics   I certainly appreciate the challenges faced in the achievement of the requirements of the Veterans Affairs Mandate Letter from the Prime Minister. I appreciate the opportunity to be heard, and to also use this opportunity to reach out to veterans.

I submit that veterans serving in the armed forces in wars and peacekeeping over the decades deserve a very new and different relationship with the Government and the Canadian public. This is an opportunity to challenge tradition, challenge current practices, an opportunity for hard honesty, and to think critically on issues. This is an opportunity for courage and change.

We must rethink the view that Veterans just retire quietly, to a well earned rest or second career, to frequent the Legion associations; to show up each November to validate the past wars entered into by Canada, and that they consider closure in terms of government medical assistance, funding and pensions. I would suggest that most veterans feel this view is somewhat narrow.

Given what veterans have experienced, and in too many cases, suffered, I believe most veterans should and want to continue to contribute to Canadian military affairs, if only to ensure they did not serve in vain. Veterans have much to offer, and would be a significant and credible voice for the horrors of war, and the promotion of peace and peace operations. We need this balance.

The Veteran

Most veterans have had satisfying careers, a good education, world-wide travel, raised families, made lifelong friends, have good pensions and comfortable retirements, and never saw war. However, many were not so fortunate, and their release or retirement is pain and suffering. From the 1960s to 2000 many saw peace operations. Since 9/11, Canada changed its outlook on military intervention, and many saw war in the Middle East.  Veterans today are a diverse mix of peacekeepers, cold warriors and mid east combatants.

At its very heart, must be a shared understanding that all veterans do not want war; in particular those who suffered in war, do not want what they experienced to happen to others.   I believe there is more pride in military veterans for peace operations than war operations. No injured veteran wants others to suffer what they suffer. Injured veterans need to give voice to their suffering and be heard. Veterans are the voice that war must be the absolutely very last response to conflict.

So what might veterans want from Canada? Perhaps:

  1. The complete hard truth about “why”, the outcomes, the failures, the lessons we have to learn, and apologies if necessary.
  2. A life that has meaning and achievement and not to feel a burden on society and family.
  3. Respect and dignity, that enables self esteem and living well in the company of others.
  4. Wellness and wellbeing. To receive necessary medical care, in an enabling meta-environment of friends, family and community.
  5. To be a listened to. To be taken seriously. To have a role for voice and truth in foreign and defence affairs.

The Government

I note that the 2015 Prime Ministers Mandate letter to Veterans Affairs is very transactional in content. The letter focuses on the details of economic, educational, and medical care of veterans who have found themselves disabled or disadvantaged in retirement or release from the CAF. The mandate seems to solely address a certain duty of care owed to veterans for their service in wars entered into by Canada. I would say that this is extremely important, but misses something. I think we can do far better than that.

Perhaps the relational obligation was not sufficiently addressed before the transactional aspects. In the example of First Nations, we have learned that truth, respect, healing, apology, forgiveness and trust must precede financial restitution and material goods. More money may not equate to more wellness or a better relationship. We may well ask ourselves; what is the relational equivalent in terms of veterans?

In my view, there remains an uneasiness, and sometimes bitterness in the government-veteran relationship. It is almost as if wellbeing and freedom from suffering, fear and trauma can be bought with more money and services. Trauma cannot be erased nor can lost limbs be restored. That is the burden of injured veterans. What Canada has done sending these soldiers to war cannot be undone. The ethic of care begins with acknowledging the truth of this, apologizing sincerely, and making restitution. Why do countries never apologize after wars for the harm to their veterans in which they were directly complicit? Why do they rarely apologize for the harm caused to others, particularly non-combatant civilians? Does a “just cause” absolve governments for the harm and destruction they cause?

The government-veteran relationship is complex. At one level, we certainly have a transactional obligation, which currently involves a government duty to provide for pensions, benefits and allowances, care for injured veterans in terms of basic health care services and livelihood, and to address PTSD, trauma and suicide issues.

At another level, is a relational obligation, which is perhaps less well understood. From a veterans perspective, what is important is remembering the dead for certain, but also remembering the injured who continue to suffer. This has to include enabling purpose and meaning in their lives of the living, enabling dignity and respect; and ensuring veterans are listened to and taken seriously. We have to listen, or they will never heal. Many veterans have had terrible experiences and understand the true nature of war and suffering in ways that politicians do not. What they know transcends the ever changing technology and methods of modern warfare, and we need to be mindful of this.  Veterans bear witness to the fact that their suffering is not due to the weapons we have in the world, but in the violence in our hearts to use them. Otherwise the lessons we never learn just keep repeating themselves.

It is acknowledged that the government works hard at what they do for veterans, but within limits, and issues remain; as we see surface in the media from time to time. I am reminded of an old movie quote; “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Why do the problems and complaints and suffering and suicides continue?


Certainly a healthy relationship can be defined as one of shared values, shared issues or risks, and open communication.

Our overarching shared value is a commitment to international peace and stability. When conflict arises, the question is usually about ways and means – peace operations or war operations? The debate on this is not to be taken lightly, and should never exclude the counsel of those having lived wars in the past.  More time must be spent of dialogue of just cause, just means and reasonable prospects of success. Shared values can therefore be defined in terms of the government having a duty of consultation, a duty of last resort and just cause when considering placing soldiers in harm’s way, and a duty of absolute protection of non-combatants.

Our shared risks involve the conduct of military operations and the possible killing of enemy combatants and collateral damage involving the deaths of civilians. War involves risks of moral injury or trauma resiliency. Risks must be addressed and mitigated.   In war, horrible mistakes are made and soldiers and civilians are killed or badly injured. This may be unintended, but is 100% foreseeable, and as such we are complicit and accountable. Canada must stand accountable for everything we do, and for what our soldiers do in the name of Canada.

Regarding open communication, war is a serious undertaking and it should be a duty of all parties (government-soldiers-veterans-public), to have voice, to be in agreement, to have prior, free and informed consent, before such ventures are undertaken. This is what it means to be in a free and democratic society. Soldiers do not surrender their constitutional or human rights in war.

We should therefore solicit and value the wisdom of our veterans as “elders of military affairs”. Veterans can be the voice of sober second thought when war or military interventions are contemplated.  Veterans can play a role in federal institutions for peacekeeping, and in military training. Veterans can provide a healthy balance to the warrior ethos, by being a voice for the ethic of peace operations and “finding other ways”.


“War is wretched beyond description,  and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality.”  John McCain

After 33 years service, one thing I am absolutely certain is that there is no glory in war, nothing honorable in killing for whatever reason. I am not the first military person to say this. Because of this, I do not enjoy attending Remembrance Day ceremonies, and have not attended for some years now.   I do not need to hear being told “thank you” for the suffering, dying and the lives forever shattered. I would rather have a heartfelt apology and resolve to never inflict this on others ever again. I do not want to talk of wars in terms of glory, but in terms of the horrific failures of humankind, and of which we continue to choose to be complicit. I want to face directly the sacrifice we have made, the good we have done (if any), and the harm we have done. I want to apologize deeply to the civilians we have killed and the lives we have destroyed. This is a time for healing and not celebration of any imagined glory and empty words. Too many words are said amid the war drums and preparations for the next war. What changes?

Many soldiers need to heal, not celebrate. Military personnel serving in war were confronted with ethical and moral challenges and traumatic events, all which may involve life and death situations, and all of which have risks for trauma, suicide and PTSD and even moral injuries.

There may be something to “over-valorizing”, that in some cases may undercut incentive to make new lives, to seek jobs, and look to a new and positive future, rather than living in the suffering of the past. Valorizing is healthy only to the extent that is facilitates the full reintegration of veterans back into society. There is a fine balance and sensitivity to be aware of here.

The importance of remembering is not to be understated. Remembering has many levels. It should first involve remembering the good we have done, the sacrifices we made, and the harm we have done.   It should involve remembering the great and small contributions to the cause of peace, human rights, the care for others such as refugees, the relief of suffering or the reduction of conflict. It should involve celebrating those worthy contributions that may have prevented violence, suffering or harm. Perhaps this is also an opportunity for reasserting the utter insanity of war, of people killing their fellow man, and of our complicity. We need speak the hard truth of what we have done, and this has to be an occasion for heartfelt apology and healing.

Canada must also recognize those who everyday makes contributions in the cause of peace. We must honor our humanity and compassion in the cause of peace.   Every life is so precious. Remembrance should also be about the lessons we never seem to learn.

Trauma and PTSD

Regarding our response to trauma or PTSD, it seems like we are missing something really important, that being the meta (or surrounding) environment around the soldier or veteran. We need something effective in the meta environment around the veteran that better enables medical and psychiatric responses. We seem to be in the treatment response mode; and not with any effective prior resiliency, preventative or mitigation efforts. As we know, once traumatized, the chances of soldiers seeking help are not good, and the result is often serious mental health risks. The effects of PTSD are well known and can include dysfunctionality, marriage breakups, depression, violence, addictions and suicide.   This increases the chances that family, close children and friends will also be seriously affected and possibly traumatized in turn.

The care for serious PTSD cases is certainly best served by the medical community and hospitals. However, at that point, medical care is seriously late to need. Dealing with trauma in a clinical setting may not always be successful, in particular, if any outside stigma, family issues, or social isolation factors are present. If social support and safety is lacking, or if family, friends, employers, schools and community lack an understanding of PTSD or how to help, then risks escalate.     People sometimes just need to know how to help; and veterans need to know how to help themselves and how to reach out for help.

Significant benefits may lie in “whole of environment” trauma resiliency approaches.   As the saying goes, “the human heart and the heart of the land must heal together.” A complete and healthy approach to trauma involves everyone.   Everyone must be resilient and heal together, friends, family, unit, community, teachers, employers, and society; everyone around the veteran.   Trauma resiliency approaches should begin on recruitment, and extend into the daily military culture. Everyone should understand practices that can be applied before, during and after trauma events that occur.  Harder yet, is to create a resilient society around a resilient soldier or veteran, in which everyone understands how to deal with trauma and understands resiliency practices. We should not refuse to do what we can.

I attended a talk by the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) and inquired about trauma resiliency programs for service families and children, and was told this was the responsibility of the leadership. I could only assume it was handled to varying degrees across units, and wondered if is being handled consistently, or effectively at all. This presents a challenge if nothing or little is being done directly for veterans or their families. Help lines are one thing, resiliency practices are quite another.

This can be a problem in western military cultures where “strong bodies and strong minds” means cultivation of toughness, endurance, aggression, and warrior cultures which work against the soldier in post traumatic circumstances. We do not generally have traditions which are comfortable with the practice of meditation, mindfulness or handling suffering; practices which many in eastern cultures have been learning from childhood. Learning to recognize and deal with suffering in life is essential to military cultures. Ideally, veterans should practice together, with friends, families and their children, and with a view to their own and individual collective wellness and resiliency.

A “whole of environment” approach acknowledges that we all experience traumatic events in our lives. The question is – will we then be traumatized? Do we have the internalized practices that will know trauma or suffering for what it is, and be able to deal with it as an inevitable occurrence in life? This may mean a change in military cultures and the cultivation of continuous resiliency practices, similar to the attention we pay to physical fitness regimes. Otherwise unacceptable rates of PTSD will continue for military deployments and for veterans after release from service. We need something supportive in the meta-environment, around, before and after the PTSD clinical response.

This implies a new focus on the meta-environment around the clinical response. In this regard, we may seek to first build an environment around the soldier or veteran that is safe, positive, understanding and with capacities to help.   The notion of building resiliency is to teach soldiers to how to first care for themselves, by being able to recognize suffering or trauma indicators in themselves and others; and having simple practices or habits for responding effectively.

One possibility involves techniques of meditation and presence; which are increasingly common for athletes performing at high levels, for many religious or spiritual practices, or for general wellness.  Why not for soldiers and veterans? There can be significant benefit in building capacity to sit in silence, go to the breath, be fully present in the moment, and to know that suffering and related emotions, although a reality for everyone in life, are impermanent, imperfect and not self, and subject to arising and cessation. To know what is arising, however painful, and to be attentive to its inevitable and gradual cessation is the beginning of resiliency and the mitigation of victimization or suffering. Conscious mindfulness and meditation should perhaps be a daily practice for veterans. To practice meditation as a unit, or with family or friends may be a challenge in our military and social cultures, but one must start somewhere if change is ever to be possible. . There are many other useful coping strategies when stressful emotions or suffering arise. This is a question of routine and habit and culture.

Moral Injury

Without moral validity in war or conflict, we have a direct path to trauma. Intentions, means and outcomes must reflect deeply held moral values. In matters of war and military affairs, the government makes the highest level of moral decisions, involving the possible taking of lives.   Soldiers and the public in turn make moral decisions to be complicit or not. No one can avoid their moral responsibilities in this, and all are accountable for their actions. In the case of veterans, they may hold themselves deeply accountable, and therein lies the risk of trauma.   Killing in war, for whatever reason, affects deeply held moral values and even can affect ones core identity, in particular, what it means to be human.

More and more, the literature is referring to moral injury among soldiers as a violation of deeply held human values and subsequent damaging psychological effects. Soldiers in war may do things like the taking of life, evaluate themselves negatively, and no longer regard themselves as decent human beings.   They feel irreparably broken. In the background may be a lack of sufficient closure with veterans as to why governments did what it did in going to war; and “why I, as a soldier, did what I did”. Who accepts responsibility for all this; the killing, injuries and horror? What is the hard truth of the Iraq, Libya and Iraq and Syrian missions? What mistakes were made? We are left with a lingering feeling that we failed and made things worse. Why did we not go further in exhausting the chances for peace diplomacy or peace operations? No one wants to admit where we failed in these wars, and we tend to avoid discussions about the truth, about the dead, wounded, traumatized and suicides.

The result is lack of closure, and moral injuries unfold into trauma and PTSD, and this continues to take its toll in our veterans.   This subject of moral responsibility and moral injury needs an open and honest conversation, and within a context of accountability, apology, trauma, healing and within both the clinical response and the “whole of community” approach.


“I pledge I will not harm myself or think about taking my life without talking to a good friend or trusted person first.”

This pledge has to be ingrained in military culture. A version is being used in US military veterans programs. They speak of talking to “battle buddies”. In the past, I have written to DND and Veterans Affairs inquiring about numbers of suicides due to recent wars, and the response from VA is that they do not track them. Serving member suicides are tracked by DND, but veteran related suicides – not much unless they receive VA benefits. Between DND and VA they have all the data they need, or could have, about veteran suicides.

The war is not over for many veterans and we continue to sustain casualties and we refuse to formally acknowledge them. Where is the list of suicides among the war dead? Where are the names? This is not honorable by any measures. It is beyond unacceptable that the government does not track veteran suicides. That the department or government does not track veteran suicides is an affront to all veterans and serving members. Every veteran taking his or her own life is a cause for national awareness and mourning. They are casualties of war.

Suicide prevention is a trauma issue and is a “whole of community” responsibility and should also involve everyone around the soldier or veteran. The first line of defence is the understanding of trauma and resiliency practices on the part of the veteran or soldier. Next is the entire military and social environment around the soldier or veteran. This environment should also understand resiliency practices, suicide indicators, and what to do if someone approaches them for help. Last is an effective clinical and medical response capacity.

“I pledge, if called or confronted by a veteran at risk to commit suicide, I will act.  I will be a friend, listen, talk, sit with them, counsel them to seek medical help, or notify the authorities myself if necessary.”


If we want true closure for veterans of Canadian military intervention since 9/11, I suggest it begins with a renewed relationship with serving members and veterans, all who served or suffered, and continue to die and suffer. Simple approaches to closure speak of the need for:

  • The truth: To speak the truth. To acknowledge the truth by all parties. To treat all parties with respect and fairness.
  • Accountability: To accept responsibility and make any necessary restitution. To make space for apology and forgiveness.
  • The outcomes: All parties are satisfied with the outcomes. All parties are able to heal, rebuild their lives, and live in peace, respect and dignity. Lessons learned, social good, a shared future, and harmony is restored between all parties.

At the level of truth.   Closure for those who suffered or are injured is often needed beyond medical care.   As listed above, closure should begin with acknowledging the hard truth, the good we did, the sacrifice we made, and the harm we did.   Both soldiers and innocent people suffered and died as a result of Canadian intervention, and our soldiers continue to die through taking their own lives. Closure means not only listing war dead, but also those who subsequently took their lives from PTSD, those physically wounded, and those currently suffering from PTSD.   The truth must be spoken by veterans, their families, the government, the community and those we harmed. All must be listened to, and taken seriously.

At the level of accountability: At the national level, closure also means speaking and accepting the truth, acknowledging the mistakes we made, the collateral damage, accepting responsibility, making restitution, and all being satisfied with the outcome. This means the soldiers, the government, Canadian society, and those innocent civilians and families we harmed in the countries in which we conducted combat operations.   We must understand that apologies alone do not suffice unless they are from the heart. Otherwise words are hollow. To truly care for veterans is make sure this never happens to others.   Canada is directly responsible for what happens in these wars and need to show that we owe those harmed and their families a “duty of loyalty and care” for the rest of their lives if necessary.

At the level of a shared future: Perhaps to truly honor veterans is to build strong institutions for peace.  Perhaps to develop better options that make war a truly last resort for us. In the global community, being a nation of peace, not a nation of war, is the highest honor and respect we can bestow on our veterans and military.

Way forward

Perhaps it is time to look at a new “whole of community” statement of relationship between veterans, the Government and the Canadian public. Perhaps we may wish to look at something like:

  1. That the government accept a “duty of moral responsibility” to soldiers and veterans to only engage in military operations that are just, with meaning, purpose and conduct that reflects the highest moral standards and values, and clearly in the cause or peace.
  2. That the government accept a “duty of accountability”. The government accepts to enable public remembrance and accept full responsibility for past military interventions that is coupled with the complete truth about the good we do, the sacrifice we make and apology for the harm we have done.
  3. That the government accept a “duty of care”, that is “beyond normal” for soldiers with physical injuries, mental injuries, moral injuries or economic hardship.
  4. That the government accept an expanded “duty of remembrance” to track, remember and record, not only direct war casualties, but ongoing war casualties through suicide, or deaths from war sustained injuries, and to the extent possible those non-combatant civilians we have grievously harmed.
  5. That the government accept a “duty of dignity” for veterans, enabling the voice of veterans as “military elders” in a independent “council of veterans”, with a clear and effective voice in applicable government foreign and military affairs and training.
  6. That veterans accept a “duty of wellbeing and agency” to seek help with physical or mental emergencies when necessary, to contribute to their own economic and social wellbeing, to be a voice for peace, and to pledge to talk to someone before attempting suicide,
  7. That society accept a “duty of living and healing together” with veterans, to enable the economic, mental and social wellbeing of veterans.

The reminder and renewal of all this should be Remembrance Day.


Thank you for the chance to say something. In summary, I am proposing four directions as important to Veteran relationships:

  1. Towards a more comprehensive relationship based on a shared moral foundation of military affairs and building peace;
  2. Towards a “whole of military and community approach” in response to physical injuries, trauma and suicide risks.
  3. Towards a more comprehensive approach to remembrance and rededication to peace and truth.
  4. Towards an inclusive and active “elder” role for veterans as a voice of experience, truth and peace; in decision making regarding foreign and defence affairs.

I can only offer that perhaps when we meet a disabled veteran, and feel inclined to say “thank you for the service” perhaps we can also consider – “I am truly sorry for the suffering you have endured. We should not have done this and hope to never let this happen again”.    If we cannot say this, we can feel this. This is the beginning of authentic closure.  It is time to face the truth together.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”   Dwight D. Eisenhower

I believe there is much good we can do for veterans and them for us. The biggest is we can listen and learn from them, the lessons they have to teach us, and to continually remind us of the hard lessons of war. This is a call to commit to the primacy of peace operations in the world as a response to conflict. The true validation of the sacrifice and suffering of veterans is the achievement of meaningful peace somewhere, celebrating peaceful means, and not in any way celebrating destruction and killing. All we need is honesty, a little courage and political will.  Good luck to us all.

In the cause of peace;

Paul Maillet

Colonel retired

Former DND Director of Defence Ethics

Accredited Peace Professional, Civilian Peace Services Canada (CPSC)

The opportunity of the 2016 Canada Defence Review

In the cause of international peace and stability.  We may be few and only few, but we will not refuse to do what a few can do.

The opportunity to contribute to the 2016 Defence Review is welcome. I believe a serious defence review is both timely and of critical importance to the future of Canada. I firmly believe that Canada can make a difference if it is willing to think in new ways, to show courage and exercise leadership. If anything, this may serve to set a much needed example of leadership for peace to the international community.

 One of the difficulties of a consultation of this type is a tendency to structure lines of inquiry and dialogue in such a manner that traditional or desired responses are validated or maximized; or that assumptions and responses will validate “more threats” and thus “more defence”.   To be credible, the consultation should be willing to challenge all assumptions and be open to a “clean sheet” discussion of issues. Structuring this consultation around a DND version of its geo-military world view, for Canadians to validate and tinker with, is somewhat risky in my view.

The consultation framework seems to assert that we want to see the world in terms of threats and fear. It is argued that, in order to succeed, DND needs to be a threat based organization, with related roles, funding, structure, resources and capabilities. Perhaps, we need to rethink this.   Perhaps, it is time to look at the world as an opportunity and obligation to advance peace, rather than of facing threats and fear. Perhaps it is time to explore and redefine DND as part of a larger “peace and security” response to both the world and our domestic affairs.

Canadian Interests 

It is instructive to begin with Canada’s deep interests, both expressed and implied, in relation to DND. Although we may have many formal lists around; implicit in any such lists is the understanding that:

  • The threat of nuclear annihilation of the cold war has pretty well passed. Canada faces no current existential threats.  Life in Canada, if compared to much of the world, is extremely fortunate.
  •  From a military perspective, we are blessed by geography, three oceans, and a relatively benign neighbor to the south.       We may have geography, but not the population, economic resources or military capacity to defend ourselves militarily from most military powers in the world. Certainly insurgents and radicals can emerge anywhere, and war and suffering breaks out in the world with depressing frequency; but generally this does not reach our shores with any ongoing or serious consequences.
  • From an economic perspective, we are an export nation and depend on global economic health for our economic wellbeing.  However, the world is shrinking in terms of military and economic reach. The world is connecting itself exponentially. Effects once occurring far away can now have immediate effects for us. Falling oil prices were seen to trigger an adverse effect on Canada.
  • It is clear that Canada depends on the world for prosperity and security. Therefore, the number one factor for our survival and wellbeing is the security and economic prosperity of the global community. As the world goes, so does Canada.
  •  Therefore, it is in our overriding national interest that Canada creates a military with a focus on contributing to international peace and stability as a matter of priority. From this, it follows that a second interest is contributing directly to peace and stability of Canada.

Military Intervention and the Security Environment

Our existence, in terms of our international and domestic interests, encompasses both security issues and a legal and moral framework from which to respond to these issues. Embedded in the security environment are the laws of armed conflict and ”just war” tradition. The Laws of Armed Conflict do state that they are to be invoked only as a very last resort.   However, if it is the only resort that is adequately funded, then it becomes the only course of action.   The time is now to rethink the place of the laws of armed conflict in our response to international conflict.   Why do we resist creating federal institutions of peace or other alternatives to military intervention?  Where is the comparable and robust body of laws for peace operations, peacemaking and “just peace” tradition?  Perhaps it is time to assert that the ethic of peace and care has at least equal weight, if not greater, to the ethic of war or justice in conflict situations.  It is time to develop effective legal framework, practices and capacities regarding the responsibility to protect.  It is time to explore how laws of peace operations could be codified as a strict obligation for dealing with conflict in pre-conflict stages, conflict stages, and post-conflict stages by the international community. It is time to provide strict obligations for states or transnational parties with differences that have potential for violence, to pursue credible peace operations before military operations.

Currently the Laws of Armed Conflict basically involve: 

  • The use of lethal force and violence with a just cause.
  • Justification of defence against armed attack, prevention of significant harm, or significant threats to international peace.
  • Aim of peace, stability, security. Good achieved is greater than harm done. 
  • Last resort and reasonable hope of success.
  • Appropriate force levels. Limits to weapons and combatants. Prohibits torture or unnecessary harm.
  • Mandates non-combatant immunity and protection: POWs, refugees, civilians.
  • Minimize collateral damage to non combatants and property.

At its core, our present military is primarily a small, lethal, force-based capacity in the tradition of Clausewitz, who defined war as “an extension of politics by other means”. Perhaps peace operations can also be “an extension of politics by other means.”

 The drumbeat of “threats”: In this consultation format, is the fundamental assertion of threats (and challenges) and an implicit agreement to all the roles, force structure, equipment and funding that goes with this. Certainly we have threats, real, perceived and imagined. However, threats imply enemies. Are we in the business of naming enemies, and thus possibly creating enemies? Is this what we need to justify a military?   If we do not accept having enemies, is a military just a case of “insurance” or deterrence against unforeseen and future domestic or global armed conflict events?  Or is our military much more than enemies and capacities for violence?

There is a big difference in seeing threats in terms of “present and ongoing” (clear intentions and hostile behaviours); or as “possible” threats (given analysis of motivation and/or capacity); or as “imagined” threats (what if they became a threat, or how is everyone else a threat). There are threats that directly target or impact Canada,, and threats between other international states or actors. There are also threats to the general peace and stability of the world.

Threats are advocated as multilevel. At one level, some are asserting that former cold war adversaries are rebuilding and modernizing their military forces and once again becoming a destabilizing factor in geo-politics. At another level, there is the assertion of threats is from some combination of ethnic driven insurgencies, radicals and trans-national terrorism.

 There is absolutely no doubt that small hostile forces have learned how to fight superpowers, taking advantage of the laws of armed conflict by melting into cities and areas, homes or buildings inhabited by civilians and non combatants, by using global social media, international financial strategies and cyber warfare. Certainly the tactics of insurgents, radicals, or terrorists are to hide in civilian areas. This presents a serious moral dilemma for nations purporting to value human rights and the sanctity of human life, especially when they have the advantage of complete air superiority and rely on it heavily. What does one do, when one cannot help, without making it worse?   Whatever you do, you do not sacrifice innocent people who do not consent to be sacrificed. Collateral damage and civilian casualties, although may be unintended, are 100% foreseeable with the use of air bombing and heavy indirect fire weapons. This is a serious moral problem.

 “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless,   whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?“ Mahatma Gandhi

 Responses to the Security Environment:   In response to the fear and threats as they are perceived, the world is staggering under unsustainable defence expenditures and related debt. We need to re-examine cold war thinking, large and fixed armies, solutions involving heavy weapons and bombing campaigns. These tactics are of declining value in ethnic or insurgency warfare. Trillion dollar wars are unsustainable. The current trajectory of western foreign policy, and increasing debt related to conflict and war, is reaching points of military and economic overstretch that are not sustainable. The current US debt trajectory is a case in point.

Against such a world view of threats, we have in the past decade, focused on issues of military or confrontative response, issues of funding viability, and related equipment acquisition, training and capacity development and deployment.  Prior to 2001, Canada was a cold warrior (until the late 1980s) and a peacekeeping nation. Since 2001, the military Pearson Peacekeeping Training Center was closed, and the resultant NGO, the Pearson Peace center, was soon defunded by the government and also closed its doors. Canadian physical peacekeeping presence plummeted, and the era of 60s peacekeeping was declared obsolete by military sources and sympathetic academia. We elected to send money to fund UN peace operations, and a little foreign training to pacify critics. We devalued the two Nobel peace prizes we share for peace keeping.

The Voice of Canadians: A realistic policy analysis should be mindful of such direct and indirect expressions of Canadians. It is clear that:

  • After Canadian bombing in Libya, bombing ISIS in Iraq/Syria, and ground operations in Afghanistan, the public has made it very clear that it has no appetite for offensive air bombing campaigns or offensive ground operations. The misjudgements of western military interventions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are historic.

Military realities: There are certain military realities regarding Canada that we should understand.

  •  We do not have foreseeable military requirements in the borders of Canada that need close air support (CAS), air bombing capacities, or main battle tank armies.
  • We do have a need for a limited fighter air to air capacity to control possible airspace violations, or sovereignty incursions. We are not in the range of foreign armed fighter aircraft.
  • We do have a need for Intelligence, monitoring and surveillance assets (possibly leveraging space based and drone technologies).
  • We do have a need for strategic air transport and helicopter assets, mobile land force units, and maritime security capacities.

Perhaps in considering the DND mandate and Canadian expectations; possible actionable policy directions lead us to peace operations.

The Peace Operations Environment

The threat conversation is only one side of the coin, the other perhaps is the peace making conversation in the face of the reality of suffering and conflict in the world. Perhaps we should discuss a defence policy foundation in terms of what we want our military to do in response to advancing world peace and global wellbeing, and how to develop a balanced capacity to help.

A new ethic for Peace Operations. First, recall that we need a mandated, viable and funded precursor to the laws of armed conflict.   Possibilities for a model for Laws of Peace Operations could involve principles such as:

  • Stop or prevent violence or killing as a first priority.
  • Care for the victims and refugees.
  • Create safe spaces for peace talks or diplomacy. Conduct relentless 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.

We must change our language:  Language is so important here. Language choices irrevocably shape responses.  The language of threats and enemies creates a fear based response and a spending of our humanity on creating capacities for offensive military operations and killing. The language of peace and humanity creates another response, based on mitigating “possible, emerging or existing” conflicts, by contributing protection capacities, stopping violence, conflict prevention and peace building operations.

  •  To those we call enemies means responding with military options: sanctions, war, killing and death. The operative paradigm is “search and destroy”.
  • To those we call criminals invoke a constabulary (policing) response. The paradigm shifts to “apprehend and prosecute, serve and protect”. This invokes due process, incarceration, rehabilitation. This may involve police training, governance ethics and anti corruption assistance.
  • To those which we call oppressors, with serious disregard for human rights, religious freedom, democratic values; invokes a response of conflict prevention, relentless diplomacy, and possible targeted sanctions. The operative paradigm becomes one of “engagement with non-indifference”. This may imply relations that encompass non-military economic trade, diplomatic relations, democratic governance building assistance, but not remain indifferent to human rights abuses, suffering or other transgressions.
  • To those belligerents threatening or waging war against others or against ethnic groups. This should first invoke a peace response and consideration of peace operations options. This implies a paradigm of “peace operations”, that includes impartiality, negotiation, mediation, transactional and relational solutions, reconstruction, justice and reconciliation activity.

This suggests DND exercise extreme care in labelling peoples or nations. Calling others enemies or threats is a form of violent communication and implies violence-based responses. It often results in the cessation of contact, dialogue or relations, and always risks causing suffering and harm to civilians, destroying infrastructure and crippling their economies. There is no doubt that “civilized people talk”. This is foundational to conflict resolution and no avenues of communication should ever be shut down.

Rethinking our response to conflict:   We must face the fact that often there are no military or political solutions readily available in modern conflict. When   military or political solutions fail or become intractable, we are surprised that all our power, money and human sacrifice did not prevail over “enemies”.   In the absence of “relational” solutions or peace oriented activity , we should not be surprised.   In the current mid east example, we need to acknowledge that in 2016, there are no current military or political solutions to the numerous mid east crises underway, in all their unbelievable complexities.   Belligerent states or insurgents will change or stop violence when the readiness and willingness for peace arises. It is tragic that this usually happens when they hurt enough, or when they love their children enough”. If we cannot help, we should not make it worse.

We need to think beyond traditional conflict models.   Traditional models of conflict involve discussion of pre-conflict stages, during-conflict stage and post-conflict stages. From a military perspective, this means buildup of forces, war operations, and then a military outcome and reconstruction in favor of the victor. This rarely works as planned or desired. The other alternative is peace operations, which paints a different picture of response to this model.   In the conflict stages involved, it means peace building, conflict resolution, peacemaking, humanitarian and civilian security operations, and peace keeping and reconstruction and justice and reconciliation.

It is clear that, in the cause of peace, we can and should be present in international crises and with those suffering. We should not refuse to do what we can do. We can demonstrate a strong commitment to the values of peace, non-violence, compassion, and respect. Perhaps this is a question of an impartial, even handed and consistent response to conflict.

A renewed peace strategy could encompass all the possibilities of peace building, peacemaking, peace keeping, in pre-conflict, during conflict and post conflict situations in the world, and could be practically applied in such as:

Peace Building

  • We can confront (or not be indifferent to) all countries regarding violations of human rights, international law, or the laws of armed conflict, no matter who they are.
  • We can be a relentless voice for diplomacy, truth, mediation, reconciliation and conflict resolution. We can be a voice for dialogue and consular activity.
  • We can stop pouring billions of dollars of weapons or arms into conflict zones or regions.
  • We can promote principled non-military economic trade and development that can contribute to international peace and stability. We can promote trade and relationships that benefit people.
  • We provide economic and governance development assistance to strengthen ethics and reduce corruption.
  • We can advocate and support the building of institutions for peace operations and conflict management.

Peace Making

  • We can create and protect safe havens. We can protect civilian populations and refugees. We can welcome and provide for immigration of refugees.
  • We can increase the provision of humanitarian aid.
  • We can assert that we do not contribute to the killing. We can believe that policing, “serve and protect” and “apprehend and prosecute”, is better than military “search and destroy” practices.
  • We enable the provision of safe spaces, ongoing contact and communication for negotiated peace processes. We can be impartial and talk to all sides. We can have a commitment to relentless peace diplomacy.


  • We can negotiate or monitor cease fire agreements.
  • We can train constabulary police forces to enforce the rule of law at village, provincial and national levels.
  • We can contribute to reconstruction and nation building.
  • Eventually and given readiness and willingness, we work to enable truth, justice and reconciliation activity.

No matter how intractable the crisis, there is always something positive we can do. The over 500 million dollars we have spent on bombing in the anti ISIS campaign up to 2015, could have gone a very long way to saving countless lives with a peace operations approach. It is time we rebuild institutions for peace operations in Canada. It is time to again earn the two Nobel peace prizes we have for peacekeeping. We can become a leader in next generation peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace building operations and practices. We can regain our place in the world as a country for peace. This is only a question of courage and values.

Evolution of Peace Operations: There are more peacekeeping forces in the field today than ever in history. The issue is that this has become for many countries a source of revenue, and mounting allegations of sexual abuse, questionable quality and professionalism, and corruption by some peacekeeping forces. Certainly what is needed is not only better training and stronger ethics from the troops of some countries, but also a strong example in the field from high quality forces such as from Canada.

Canada can provide a neutrality and impartiality that would greatly benefit many peace operations. As an example, in Norway’s Peace engagement in Sri Lanka, it was instructive that the peace makers were selected on the basis of criteria such as “coming from far away, no imperial or economic interests, a lightweight power.” No big power involvement was welcome, and no conflict of interest. This uniquely positions Canada for such missions, particularly as an honest broker for peace operations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The opportunity here for Canada is huge. We can seize the opportunity to reframe how Canada and the world deals with conflict and conflict zones. However, no one seems to be thinking in this direction. I would suggest we might frame debate and consultations around the following key elements.

  • To assert a general obligation to deal with pre conflict, conflict and post conflict situations in a much different way, to adopt a non-violent peace operations approach as a precursor to armed intervention. “To give non-violence a chance”.
  • To assert a policy of neutrality or impartiality.
  • To assert initial obligations to conflict of “serve and protect’ through a constabulary or policing response (even using defensive military forces if necessary), before the “search and destroy” response so reflexively in use today.
  • To assert the primacy of diplomacy in facilitating talks, mediation and negotiations and ultimately justice and reconciliation in post conflict responses.
  • To assert Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as a legal requirement to establish neutral safe havens, where people are actually protected from violence and belligerents from both sides. This means caring for victims.
  • To assert the need for the legal codification of peace operations in conflict zones as a counterweight to the laws of armed conflict.
  • To sponsor a UN convention on this, similar to the land mines or child soldier conventions.

Canadian Political Alignment:   In that DND acts in response to foreign policy, this may be an opportunity to strengthen linkages between DND and foreign affairs. Perhaps a linked and peace centered response to international peace and security may involve such as:

  • Presence principle: The need for Canada to be present in international crisis should be an overriding expression of our values and interests. We assert that Canada’s peace and security depends on international peace and security.
  • Impartiality principle: Canada should respond to international crises with a posture of impartiality between conflicted parties and in conflict zones, with a view to facilitating readiness for dialogue and negotiation.
  • Bias for peace principle: Canada’s presence in conflict zones be based on a strong predisposition for non violence, human rights, dialogue and peace.
  • Peace operations/Dialogue principle: Canada strongly support the UN as a space for dialogue and voice as an precursor and alternative to conflict. Canada should advocate the principle that members are accountable for their behavior to the global community.
  • Peace engagement principle: Canada should reject the militarization of foreign policy, and support a response based on values of non-violence, conflict resolution and peace support. Canada as a middle power should not refuse to do what Canada can do in support of peace, conflict resolution and the relief of suffering.

Recall that the laws of armed conflict assert that military intervention must be a last resort.   This means we need to develop viable alternate responses as a precursor to military responses.   Perhaps it is time to stop talking about ways that peace operations will not work, and how we can make peace operations work. The 60s model of first generation peacekeeping is certainly passé, but third and fourth generation peace operations such as peacekeeping, peacemaking, peace building, peace operations, merit serious attention. Perhaps it is time to take peace seriously and think about a federal institution of peace, or a civilian peace service with professionals in conflict resolution and peace operations. With the world class professionalism of our diplomatic corps and our military, Canada can lead here. If we have the courage, we have so much to offer.

DND Mandated Roles and Responsibilities

From this view of the global human security environment, a formal and informal sense of Canadian interests and values, and of traditional departmental interests, the challenge is for elected politicians make policy decisions and economic tradeoffs. This is often done in a climate of uncertain and conflicting information. The current government has begun this process in their mandate letters to departments.

Mandate letters clearly express the political will and the expectations of DND. The task at hand is “to get on with it!. This is not negotiable. Clearly expressed priorities cannot be minimized. The public expects no less. This consultation is a “clean sheet” opportunity to reflect the political will of a new government. So what are these clearly expressed priorities relating to DND? These include:

“As Minister of National Defence, your overarching goal will be to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces are prepared, to protect Canadian sovereignty, defend North America, provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue, support United Nations peace operations, and contribute to the security of our allies and to allied and coalition operations abroad. “

  • Ensure a close link between defence policy, foreign policy, and national security.
  • Ensure a seamless transition for Canadian Forces members to the programs and services of Veterans Affairs.
  • Work to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria, refocusing Canada’s efforts in the region on the training of local forces and humanitarian support.
  • Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations. This includes making Canada’s specialized capabilities – from mobile medical teams, to engineering support, to aircraft that can carry supplies and personnel;
  • Working to help the United Nations respond more quickly to emerging and escalating conflicts and providing well-trained personnel to international initiatives that can be quickly deployed; and leading an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations,
  • Conduct an open and transparent review process to create a new defence strategy for Canada, replacing the now-outdated Canada First Defence Strategy.
  • Work to establish and maintain a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.
  • Work with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence to develop a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans.

Responding to the DND mandate – thinking beyond the mindset

It is the task of the military to get on with this, to not tinker with the status quo and simply seek to validate what it wants to do, such as in the “e-workbook” offered to Canadian. This is an extremely biased listing that serves to limit the conversation. The answers are implicitly contained in the questions. The questions bypass inquiry into underlying assumptions. It frames the discussion around validating “more and more”.

This review seems to be structured towards a very traditional approach to defence. In the last 50 years or so, the list has always been some version of priorities such as:

  • Sovereignty protection.
  • Contributing to defence of North America in NORAD.
  • Contributing to collective alliances such as NATO.
  • Contributing to UN operations.
  • Aid to civil power, such as disaster response, search and rescue, drug interdiction assistance.

The review lays out the assumptions, and fundamental areas of inquiry and consultation, from which such a list is inescapable.   The lines of inquiry almost write the outcome.   As previously noted, the military threat is assumed and fear based. Over and over the war drums beat; an emerging hostile Russia, a re-emergent cold war, perhaps a “China rising”, almost the entire mid east, insurgencies, terrorists and radicals. We point to ISIS, Libya, Afghanistan, and Syria, perhaps eastern Europe ie Ukraine.   All this is overlaid by organized crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking, cyber crime, the arms trade control, financial corruption, youth radicalization, nuclear weapons proliferation, human rights abuses. In this we are told to live in a state of perpetual war and perpetual fear.

Certainly the emerging and current conflicts, with the attendant death and suffering, is beyond tragic. Perhaps this begs for a different and reasoned moral response.   Regardless of the causes, if we cannot solve the problems, at least we should not make them worse. The Canadian public has made it clear that bombing and killing is not the response we want to make.

Defence planning has become an exercise in balancing threats with force structure, equipment, manpower and training and funding. The equipment and capabilities well is bottomless. Affordability imposes hard decisions between heavy traditional forces with smaller “niche capabilities”. We cannot begin to have a full spectrum military force.   The issue of military and associated economic overstretch is even beginning to make itself felt in the USA. Canada cannot afford, nor do we want, unbelievably expensive carrier fleets, nuclear weapons, long range missile systems, billion dollar strategic bombers, nuclear attack submarines, massive attack drone fleets, main battle tanks in the thousands, or significant numbers of the most expensive and modern fighters in the world. This is not who we are.

We want to reassert peace interests and renew our response to peace interests. Given globalization, we want to contribute who we are as a country, and have a respected place in the global community. We have to be much bigger than such a list. Are we a country of selfish interests or global interests? Do we believe in a response of military solutions or peaceful political solutions as a way forward?

New infrastructures and capabilities for peace operations: It is a deeply held principle in Canada of civil control of the military through its elected members. The military creates policy in response to civil authority directions. From the current government, the civil direction is clear and expressed in no uncertain terms in Ministerial mandate letters from the prime minister.

The world has changed and this needs some debate and rethinking. It is clear that Canadian do not want to bomb people as a response to conflict and want the military to “FIND OTHER WAYS”, and always “more of the same” is no longer acceptable.

In an ideal sense, this begins with aligning Foreign Affairs and DND policy. This could be followed by the creation of institutions or infrastructures of peace. Even a fraction of the funding spent on defence, would make a significant contribution towards having a real peace operations capacity, and having a significant precursor to military intervention.   Such an infrastructure, could offer a leading edge capacity for peace operations consistent with deep Canadian values. It may be our opportunity to regain leadership in peace advancement in the world. 

Ideally, this would include such as a federal Department of Peace, or also include an Office of Peace, Violence Prevention, Mediation, and Reconciliation within DND or Foreign Affairs.  It could include creating a DND ADM Peace Operations and Training. It could reopen the Pearson Peace Center for training and peace services. It could include the provision of a Canadian professional Civilian Peace Service, in addition to military peace operations professionals.

At the level of DND, this could mean a robust military force-based constabulary response. This could mean “boots on the ground” that are not afraid to share the risk and sacrifice of those non combatants not able to protect themselves. Canadian soldiers are trained and equipped to survive in conflict zones, whereas non-combatants are not. So why do we resist putting our forces in harm’s way for humanitarian reasons?

This could mean the development of a military-based constabulary capability designed to “serve and protect”, refugees, civilians and non combatants. This capability could also protect and support humanitarian operations, disaster response and enable diplomatic and justice and reconciliation activities.

This could mean a force structure with a capacity for mission protection, surveillance and monitoring (with such as drone assets), for strategic and helicopter air transport, global communications, providing trained peace keeping troops, and maritime patrol and security activities. In this regard, traditional foreign war fighting contributions becomes a dual use application of a peace operations infrastructure.

Renewed Defence Policy Priorities

I believe in order to contribute to inextricably linked global and Canadian interests, we need to be bold. This now defines sovereignty for us. In this regard, DND should develop and maintain capacities against two primary roles:

Contributing to international peace and stability:

  • Provision of a robust capacity suitable to employment to international pre-conflict, during conflict and post conflict zones. To include air transport (strategic and in-theatre) and surveillance capacities, maritime security operations, land force constabulary capacities, and mission deployment protection.
  • Maintain a full spectrum capacity for peace operations (peace operations training, peace building, conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping.)
  • Provision of direct support to UN peace operations, refugee protection, safe havens, and disaster response and humanitarian operations.
  • Provision of direct support to Canadian international development, diplomatic, mediation and conflict resolution missions.
  • Contributing peace operational capacities to collective alliances, such as NORAD and NATO, through provision of niche dual use capacities such a strategic transport, air surveillance, land force constabulary missions, naval security operations, ( ie, arms trafficking, medical support, anti piracy, refugee protection, safe havens.)

Contributing to domestic peace and stability:

  •  Provision of sufficient airspace, land force, and maritime capacities and operations to ensure surveillance and integrity of Canadian national borders.
  • Provision of aid to the civil power, for such as disaster and climate change response, support to police force operations (such as anti terrorism, crime or drug interdiction).
  • Contribute to training and operations of Canadian federal institutions of peace building and peacekeeping.
  • Provision of trained, equipped and resilient service members capable of dealing with the physical and mental challenges and traumatic stresses associated with service roles and responsibilities, and as veterans following service.
  • Provision of departmental and CAF workplace cultures that are fair, healthy, safe and respectful.

Way forward

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron“.   April 16, 1953. General Dwight Eisenhower

Let us reject this cross of iron and this fear. It is time for a historic change of world view and mindset towards how we task, fund, train and employ our military. DND has been clearly directed to “renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations”. There is so much good we can do in the world, with a little courage and political will.  Good luck to us all.

In the cause of peace;

Paul Maillet  Colonel retired

Former DND Director of Defence Ethics

Accredited Peace Professional, Civilian Peace Services Canada (CPSC)

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I am absolutely amazed at the incredible level of conversation that goes on about Canada ending the bombing and the current government plan, and the so called military experts commenting on this. We cannot kill our way out of the ISIS crisis. Obviously no one commenting knows the horror, fear and trauma of living under a bombing campaign, where your town is destroyed, your homes and livelihood shattered and your families killed. We would never in 100 years accept the use of CF18s and massive Paveway bombs, if terrorists were holed up in a mall or apartment building somewhere in a Canadian city, and then just call dead innocent civilians collateral damage. Yet we do this with impunity to others in the mid east.

I am extremely disappointed in the criticism asserting that killing and bombing is what we need to do as an alliance obligation. Where is the media talking about what we are doing to this country, devastating infrastructure and homes, and killing non combatants. This killing although unintended, is 100% foreseeable. Even one child blown to bits, should mean NO bombing. Coalition civilian casualties are acknowledged and mounting.  This number as of Nov 2015 was somewhere around 600 to 700 civilians and children killed. This is totally unacceptable. If you think this is just war, then look at your children and ask yourself what you would think and feel if it was them. We are complicit.

This need to “kill bad guys” mantra is very sad indictment of what we call civilized discourse in this country. We all know full well that there is no current military solution.   Did we learn nothing in Libya and Afghanistan? They wait you out, and return. There are no good possible winners here.  IF THERE IS NO CURRENT MILITARY SOLUTION, THEN WE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT WORSE. I totally agree with Mr Dion and Trudeau. I would go even further. This is a question of how Canada should contribute to peace and stability in the region. I suggest 528 million dollars we spent bombing could save the lives of countless refugees and war victims, build a safe haven for refugees in the region, lead a relentless diplomatic initiative for a ceasefire, and contribute more humanitarian aid.   If we want to do training we should train village level police forces, or the laws of armed conflict and military justice to military forces.. This is who we should be. We should be proud of being peacemakers.

Paul Maillet Colonel retired.

An open letter to Canadian Politicians

Dear Party leaders and elected members of Parliament;

What I find unusual is that the government cannot find and articulate a clear and compelling way forward for a Canadian contribution to peace and stability in the Mid East once our bombing ceases.

The Trudeau government has pledged to restore constructive Canadian leadership in the world, reenergize Canadian diplomacy and leadership on key international issues and to increase Canada’s support for United Nations peace operations and its mediation, conflict-prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. From this, viable options for Canada become a matter of common sense and of making choices.

I believe that in the mid east, we need to acknowledge that there is no current military or political solution to the numerous mid east crises underway, in all their unbelievable complexities.   Belligerent states or insurgents will change or stop violence when the readiness and willingness for peace arises. It is tragic that this usually happens when they hurt enough, or when they love their children enough. If we cannot help, we should not make it worse.

However, in the cause of peace, we can and should be present in the crises and with those suffering. We should not refuse to do what we can do. We can demonstrate a strong commitment to the values of peace, non violence, compassion, and respect. Perhaps this is a question of an even handed and consistent response to peace operations.   A new peace strategy could encompass all the possibilities of peace building, peacemaking, peace keeping, in pre-conflict, during conflict and post conflict situations in the world, and embrace principles such as the following in their implementation.

Peace Building

  • We can confront all countries regarding violations of human rights, international law, or the laws of armed conflict, no matter who they are.
  •  We can be a voice for diplomacy, truth, mediation, reconciliation and conflict resolution.   We can be a voice for dialogue and consular activity.
  • We can stop pouring billions of dollars of weapons or arms into the region.
  • We can promote principled non-military economic trade and development that can contribute to international peace and stability. Trade and relationships that benefit people.
  • We provide economic and governance development assistance to build ethics and reduce corruption.
  • We can advocate and support the building of institutions for peace operations and conflict management.

Peace Making

  • We can create and protect safe havens. We can protect civilian populations and refugees.
  • We can increase the provision of humanitarian aid.
  • We can assert that we do not contribute to the killing. We can believe that policing “serve and protect” and “apprehend and prosecute”   is better than military “search and destroy”.
  • We can welcome and provide for refugees.
  • We enable the provision of safe spaces, ongoing contact and communication for negotiated peace processes.   We can be impartial and talk to all sides. We can have a commitment to relentless peace diplomacy.


  • We can negotiate or monitor cease fire agreements.
  • We can train constabulary police forces to enforce the rule of law.
  • Eventually and given readiness and willingness, we work to enable truth, justice and reconciliation activity.

No matter how intractable, there is always something positive we can do. The over 500 million dollars we have spent on bombing, could have gone a very long way to saving countless lives with this approach. I believe that it is time we rebuild institutions for peace operations in Canada.   I believe it is time to earn the two Nobel peace prizes we have for peacekeeping. We can become a leader in next generation evolution of peacekeeping and peacemaking and peace building operations and practices. We can regain our place in the world as a country for peace.   This is only a question of courage and values.

In the cause of peace


Paul Maillet Colonel (retired)

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.