Stopping Canada from spending $19 billion on new fighter jets

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Image: Military_Material/Needpix

Tamara Lorincz is a long-time peace and justice activist and a member of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. Brent Patterson has also been involved in peace and social justice issues for many years, and he is the executive director of Peace Brigades International – Canada. Scott Neigh interviews them about a campaign to oppose the federal government's plan to spend $19 billion on purchasing a new fleet of fighter jets.

In 2017, Justin Trudeau's Liberal government released a new defence policy that projects federal spending on the military to reach an astounding $553 billion over 20 years. The proposed expenditure for new jets is one of the largest individual components of this vast amount, and indeed is the second largest procurement in Canadian history.

Lorincz was heavily involved in campaigning aginst the last attempt by the federal government to buy fighters. In 2010, Stephen Harper's Conservatives committed to buying 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 jets in a no-bid, sole-source contract. The peace movement mobilized in response to the announcement, and opposition to the deal grew substantially after it was revealed that the price of the F-35s would be far higher than originally announced. In 2012, in a rare reversal, the Harper government scrapped the purchase.

The Trudeau Liberals announced that they would try again to purchase new jets, this time via an open competition. Bids from arms manufacturers were due in July 2020. The government will announce the winning bid in early 2022, so opponents expect that they have about a year to mobilize opposition to get the deal cancelled, or at least postponed.

Opposition to the purchase is in part grounded in a radically different vision for Canada's role in the world. In contrast to the expanded militarism in the Liberals' new defence policy, it is a vision that opposes war, militarism, and the kinds of interventions in other countries that weapons systems like this get used for. Opponents want a demilitarized approach to national defence, and an understanding of "security" that is expansive and connected to the harms and indignities people face in everyday life. It is a vision that seeks to get to the roots of the injustices that so often underly conflict on local and global levels, and transform them.

Opposition to the deal is also based on the fact that the greatest threats faced by Canadians right now include things like the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and growing inequality. Fighter jets do nothing to address these things. That $19 billion could instead go towards programs like national pharmacare or child care. Or it could go towards the kind of multi-faceted, intersectional, environmental and social agenda that movements in Canada have been calling for under the banner of a green new deal in response to the climate crisis and a just recovery from the pandemic. Opponents of the deal point out the particular foolishness of military spending in the context of the climate crisis --  not only will jets do nothing to help, they (and military activity more broadly) tend to do great harm to the climate and to the environment in general.

In early July, Voice of Women issued a callout for a day of action against the purchase of new fighter jets to be held on July 24. Timelines were tight but there was an enthusiastic response, and 22 different actions took place across the country. Many involved delivering letters to MPs and picketing their offices, with extensive use of social media for publicity. A second day of action has been called for October 2, when they expect to see more than 50 actions.

And over the coming year, they will be using many different tactics to ratchet up the political pressure. There will be more days of action, as well as a range of creative and often disruptive nonviolent direct actions against specific targets. While they intend to focus pressure on key decision makers who might have the power to stop the deal, they also want to put pressure on the opposition parties (who have thus far not spoken out against the deal) and may target arms industry events as well.

Image: Military_Material/Needpix

Theme music: "It Is the Hour (Get Up)" by Snowflake, via CCMixter

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada, giving you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out their website here. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or contact [email protected] to join their weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

 

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