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How Should Canada Respond to Terrorism … Summary (Ursula Franklin)

How Should Canada Respond to War and Terrorism

Profossor Emeritus Ursula Franklin, Companion of the Order of Canada Address of Ursula Franklin, Plenary Session of the Forum and Teach-In organized by Science for Peace, December 9, 2001.

Some of you probably know that I didn’t want to be here this afternoon, not only because I’ve been physically quite sick, but also because I’ve done this far too much, far too often and I know far too many of you in the audience.. But what brought me here in the end was the framing of the question. My friend, John Valleau asked me to speak to the question: “How should Canada address and respond to the issues of war and terrorism?”

As we talk about the how, we talk about the means, and this brings me out because however often I’ve said it, however often any one of you have said it, nothing can sway us from the conviction that the means determine the ends. You do not get peace through war, you can not achieve justice by unjust means: PERIOD!

And all we, and people like us, have tried to do throughout the years is to strengthen the instruments of justice through the United Nations, through the NGO’s, through understanding among people but also through the knowledge that there is such a thing as economic justice, that there is the possibility for a just and sustainable life on this planet. Most of all, we have tried to act in the knowledge that justice is indivisible, just as peace is indivisible.

If we do believe in justice, then we have to accept the fact that there will have to be justice for all, or for none. The social protection that we enjoy, will have to be extended to all the people: To those we love and to those we can’t stand. If we can speak freely, then that right also allows those with whom we disagree to speak freely. If we can breathe clean air, we accept and stand for the right of all to breathe clean air. Peace and justice and their benefits are indivisible and, I think, it is for this reason they are so awfully difficult to obtain.

Our friend, Aileen Carroll MP, just told us that the Government of Canada is attempting to provide security for us and that our legislators are working hard to do so. We may want to ask ourselves this question and pose it also to Parliament: What about the insecurity against which we now seem to have to defend ourselves? What are its roots ? Surely. the need for security occurs together with, and, many of us feel, is causally related to developments and activities that have increased national and international insecurity.

In past years, I have been saddened and disheartened by the fact that the Canadian Government did not put important international and commercial treaties, such as the Free Trade Agreement or the MAI to a vote in Parliament preceded by adequate hearings and debate. During the present crisis, the House of Commons was actually not even sitting when Canadian troops were committed to active duty in foreign parts.

I cannot think of another case in Canadian history when our elected representatives were away on vacation and Canadian forces were committed to action overseas. Is this how we, as a democratic country, respond to war and terrorism ?

I think Canadians have to talk much more about the how in the question of Canada’s response to crises. First and foremost, one has to look at means. Canada has to respond democratically, utilizing the institutions of governance this country has at hand, ranging from Parliament to the United Nations. Furthermore, Canada has to respond legally, i.e. within the boundaries of national and international law.

You have just heard Professor Mandel’s serious questions as to the legal base of Canada’s response. Senator Roche has stated equally firmly, that the military response, of which Canada is part, goes far beyond the legal obligations of Article 5 [of the NATO charter]. But most of all, I have to say that the means by which Canada responds to terrorism, have to be means which we, as citizens, are also legally free to use. This in and of itself, I think, prescribes and limits the how.

Canadians, in my experience, are willing and able to live together as responsible and law abiding citizens. But it is necessary to remember that there is in law — as well as in our collective experience — a concept called “ The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations”. This concept is important, in particular, for parties of unequal power. When they arrive at an understanding, a treaty, or an agreement then there is the legitimate expectation that each party is bound by the same standards.

Citizenship, in my view, entails an agreement, a social contract, between those who are governed and those who are asked to be instruments of governance. As a Canadian citizen, and particularly as a Companion of the Order of Canada, I do not cherish the thought that my government is less law-abiding than I am. If I don’t pay my taxes, I will face the consequences. When, on the other hand, my country does not abide by its own laws – – nationally or internationally –what are my responsibilities for my country’s conduct ? [1]

And this is at these points of contradiction that I get shirty. For instance, when my government proclaims that its apparent disregard of law and obligation is undertaken in the interest of the welfare of its citizens – such as Canada’s current participation in the ?war on terrorism ? — and I know , it is most likely done for the benefit of international business, then I get shirty. I may think, why should I be law-abiding when they are not? Once the legitimate expectations of lawful conduct are in question, there are serious social consequences and I am afraid of them :

I don’t want to live in a country, where people deceive each other, where people look at each other as if they were potential terrorists, — whatever that may mean. I want to live in a country in which one can and does assume helpfulness and collaboration

Now you may say, that’s all good and nice, but you can’t collaborate with terrorists and I hear an awful lot of that stuff these days. Too many people seem to have forgotten that there are many clear and non-violent ways to cope with conflicts, power struggles and evil intent.

Let us think in this context about the example of South Africa. Have we forgotten what happens when countries use, slowly and tediously, the available national and international instruments to avert and fight evil?

Some of you may have been present in this room during the teach-ins on Divestment. At that time some of us argued with the administration of the University that it was wrong to profit from investments in Apartheid. And eventually the UN’s sanctions and embargoes and the world-wide moral and practical pressures worked and a majority government was installed in Pretoria without external military interventions, without massive bombings and killing of innocent people.

I do not want to pretend that the fight against apartheid has not produced fear, terror and suffering, but the struggle created a collective international response that was carried out with the consent of those who were subject to oppression. Historically, this was exemplary and should remain uppermost in our minds.

We must always remember that there are means other than armed force to deal with “evil”. We, as Canadians, cannot claim ignorance of them , nor can we allow our government, or those who advise the government, to ignore such means.

To recap: there are means other than war and violence at the disposal of the state and its citizens.

I want to conclude with one further reminder, intended to bridge the gap between the time when some of us were active against the war in Vietnam and our present opposition to a new ?war?.

When we went to Ottawa, — well before the Vietnam war – to comment on foreign policy, to work against funding of war research and weapons production, to suggest policies of peace building and cooperation, we were confronted with a particular political climate. It was acknowledged that, yes, your group is one of ?them?, the nice and idealistic people who worry about peace and the environment, about women and children, cats and dogs, justice and the limits to growth. But don’t forget, ?we? are the decision makers, the hard-nosed realists, who truly know how the world is run. And governments have to be realistic.

Now, in 2001, about forty years later the future, on whose behalf we argued so often, has become the present. And you can not tell me that some group of decision makers deliberately designed our world to be what it is now: – a polluted, toxic planet, full of envy, hate and strife. This is a world that is leaving some people without hope, while driving others to an irrational sacrifice of their own lives as a perceived catalyst for change.

Our world did not get into its present state because idealistic plans were put into practice. It is the policies of those hard-nosed realists that has created the problems we now have to cope with.

The time has come – – in fact, it is long overdue — to recognize not only that violence is lethal and that the military is an inappropriate instrument of conflict resolution, but that the threat system is dysfunctional. It does not work. Its dysfunctionality stares us in the face.

Nothing will ever work except justice and we might as well stop the nonsense of relying on war and violence and start to work on global justice. It will be difficult enough, but for Canadians, I would insist, the only acceptable means of moving forward are the means of justice.

If this were so, how should we proceed ? We might begin by seeking clarity; asking ourselves to be clear with each other on what we can consent to as being done in our name, then asking clarity of our government on what they actually mean by their own statements. Are we at war? Are those, to be detained in Canada under the new terrorism laws, prisoners of war, who ought to be visited by the International Red Cross? ( Here clarity also demands further facts, because terrorism, after all, has been around for some time: the French have dealt with Algeria, the Irish have dealt with terrorism when Bush was still at school,— if he ever went to school.)

So there is a range of individual responses that we, as Canadian citizens, can develop and strengthen. But are no two ways about our collective responsibility. As a sovereign nation Canada , even in the face of terrorism and war, can respond only by using means that are legal, peace-building, open, and reciprocal.


1 Such considerations do not apply only to the response to war and terrorism that we are discussing here. There are a number of international conventions that Canada ratified ( and my friend Lois Wilson and I know this well from other struggles for social justice) but not translated into its own basic laws and regulations. ^

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