Canada Rejects US Ballistic Missile Defense

3-19-05, 8: 30 am

From People's Voice

A majority of Canadians have rebuffed the Bush Administration's intrusion into Canadian political affairs and compelled the Martin Liberal Government to keep Canada out of US Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). Prime Minister Paul Martin's retort to US Ambassador Paul Cellucci that Canada is a sovereign nation and will determine who is allowed to over fly its air space is noteworthy. This is the second time during the Bush Administration's mandate that Canadians directed their Government to stand up to US pressure. Canadian public opinion provided the Chretien Government with the necessary backbone to keep Canada out of the US war in Iraq.

Prime Minister Martin's assertion of sovereignty reflects the fact that Canadian public opinion has progressed from doubt to scepticism to disdain for the right wing policy of appeasement of the Bush Doctrine. There is a growing appetite among Canadians for a firm and consistent assertion of sovereignty and independence in relations with the USA. What started as a popular national democratic sentiment has evolved into a significant political force outside of the control of the old line parties, provoking a split in the Liberal Party and a crisis of credibility for the Harper Conservatives.

Canadian public opinion is differentiated from the right wing policy of appeasement by its steadfast confidence in the ability of Canada to conduct its own affairs without US government protection and guidance. Canadians know the difference between friendship and subservience. Canadians by and large value and uphold the principles of the UN Charter as the most reliable basis for collective security and for resolving international crisis. A majority reject the Bush Doctrine of pre emptive war and building coalitions of the unwilling outside the mandate of the UN aimed at forcing sovereign states to accede to US interests by the threat and use of military force.

The schism between the Canadian Government and the people on the issue of US Canadian relations has forced the Martin Liberal Government to review its foreign policy. This is the second review following the January 2003 review conducted by then Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham on the eve of the Bush attack on Iraq. The result of that exercise was the decision of the Chretien Government to stand aside from the Bush War on Iraq. The left, national democratic and peace forces must participate fully in the current review and articulate in the clearest possible terms a vision of Canada as a force for peace in international affairs. The right wing cannot be allowed to dominate the foreign policy debate or formulate its conclusions.

The political processes at work that have compelled the Martin Government to retreat from open support of BMD require analysis on many levels. The anti BMD peace forces won a victory because of its breadth. The loose but effective Parliamentary coalition embraced Liberal Parliamentarians opposed to BMD, the Bloc Quebecois, reflecting Quebec public opinion and the Parliamentary leadership of Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party caucus. The extra-parliamentary pressure of the Canadian Peace Alliance and in particular its role in mobilizing peace actions is significant. The fledgling and growing participation of organized labour in the peace movement is new and critical for future victories. Not least the role of such venerable peace groups as the Canadian Peace Congress headed by Dr. John Morgan and the Saskatchewan Peace Council, must be considered. The moral weight of innumerable religious peace groups and its affect on public opinion is important. The contribution of the Communist left and other anti capitalist pro socialist revolutionary voices helped to expose the root causes of imperialist war.

On a deeper level the decision of the Martin Liberal Government to forgo BMD reflects a weakening of US dominance over international relations resulting from the reckless rogue nature of the Bush administration and its contempt of the sovereignty of nations and the peace and well being of the planet. The decision also reflects the decline of US dollar imperialism and the rise of the EU and new peaceful markets in South America, Russia, China and India that no nation, including Canada can afford to ignore.

A majority of Canadians rejected BMD because they share the view of a majority of humankind that a new arms race in space and the doctrine of perpetual war is not a means to achieve national goals and solve social and economic problems. The task of the left is to give voice to what Canadians uphold, a peaceful, independent, democratic and progressive Canada. If we do that, no right wing cabal will prevail.

--Don Currie chairs Canadians for Peace and Socialism.