Uniting in common causes for peace and prosperity, not war and austerity

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The sweeping changes that Harper's government are steamrolling ahead with present a serious threat to people and the planet. A coordinated response to bring this destructive agenda to a halt is necessary.

And we need to bring our social movements and allies who care more for human need than greed together like never before to do so. This is why the Canadian Peace Alliance launched a campaign for Peace and Prosperity not War and Austerity. And that is why the CPA is supporting Common Causes, the Peoples’ Social Forum, and Idle No More, which have the potential to unite our social movements and the people of Canada to take on and defeat the agenda embodied by the Harper government. With the People’s Social Forum gathering in Ottawa this weekend and Common Causes launching on Monday, January 28, in solidarity with Idle No More, Harper may soon have to think twice before launching another omnibus bill, another pipeline, or another war.

Whichever rights, lives, or ecosystems the Harper government is trampling on at any given moment it is always branded by this government as the fiscally responsible thing to do. But in reality, Canada is not broke.

The Canada First Defence Strategy launched by Harper in 2008, outlines his government's plans to spend nearly half a trillion dollars on war and militarism over the next 20 years. So whenever this government says we need to tighten our belts in the name of "austerity" we need to remind people where the money is going. It’s being invested in militarily securing resource footholds for Canadian extractive and fossil fuel industries, from Afghanistan to Mali.

We recognize that war isn't always about oil. Sometimes it's about mining.

And so we need to present a different vision.

This means for our social movements to win real lasting change – on the climate crisis, child care, health care, education, a living wage, and the many other priorities we share which Harper does not -- we will need to start redirecting military spending to our common causes.

But it's not just about our spending priorities. Militarism is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The largest single source of fossil fuel emissions in the world is the Pentagon. So the proponents of "ethical oil" are actually promoting fuelling the war machine that Martin Luther King called "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world." How very ethical. 

A report by Oil Change International in 2008, called A Climate of War: The war in Iraq and global warming, points out that the Iraq war “is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003.” That’s 28.2 million metric tons of CO2 every year -- the equivalent of "the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road”. It’s “more CO2 each year than 139 of the world's nations … the war each year emits more than 60% of all countries."

The report's authors point out: "As with the melting of the Arctic ice cap, there is a dangerous feedback loop between war and warming. Not only is climate change likely to increase conflict, particularly over access to natural resources, but war, in turn, is already accelerating global warming while simultaneously draining our economy of money needed for clean energy."

If we want to save the climate -- and save ourselves -- we have to stop the war. If we want to stop Harper's agenda for more war, more climate change, and more trampling of peoples’ rights to make way for pipelines, we need to unite our common causes.

This means a just transition from fossil fuel intensive industries to good green jobs. It means a conversion of military industries to production for peaceful purposes. And it means upholding our treaties with Indigenous peoples, and respecting and defending their right to free, prior, informed consent.

It means we need to say loudly and clearly: No war, no warming. And it means connecting the opposition to pipelines from Kandahar to Kitimat. Because stopping war and climate change, while respecting the right of Indigenous communities to say no, are common causes.

Just like Harper kept claiming Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan was about to end, only to repeatedly extend Canada’s role in the war there, now the same mission creep is happening with Mali. The government has already extended its support for the war from a week to a month. Left to its own devices, in combination with an ongoing lack of opposition to war on the part of Canada's opposition parties, the extension of a month could quickly become years in yet another quagmire.

The current extension is until Friday, February 15 -- which, perhaps coincidentally will be the 10th anniversary of the largest global day of anti-war protest in human history. The following day, Saturday, February 16 will be the 8th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect and Sunday, February 17 will see a massive protest in Washington, DC to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

What if we united our common causes for Indigenous rights, climate justice, green jobs, and peace for a full weekend of mobilization against the Harper agenda (as well as its enablers from all political and corporate stripes)? More importantly, what if we didn't stop there? 

As we've seen with the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, and the printemps érable in Quebec, sustained mobilization of people in the streets combined with robust community organizing can bring about profound political change. March 22 -- the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and near when next federal budget is anticipated -- and Earth Day on April 22 could both become important political moments. Both also coincide with the Quebec student strike tradition of having mass protests on the 22nd of the month.

If we want peace and prosperity instead of war and austerity, we are going to have to take to the streets and stay there to stop Harper. On January 28 and beyond, we'll see you there.

Christine Jones is a Co-Chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance. rabble.ca editor Derrick O'Keefe is also a Co-Chair of the CPA. Dylan Penner is an organizer with the Ottawa Peace Assembly.

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