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Regehr speaks to Peacemakers' Workshop: Canada fifth in spending

Floyd Howlett — November 1984

FORT QU’APPELLE — “Most military build up around the world is not so much for protection against outside aggression as for the preservation of institutions of injustice.” This was the conclusion of Ernie Regehr, Peace Researcher for Project Ploughshares and theme speaker for a “Peacemakers’ Workshop”, held at the Prairie Christian Training Centre in Fort Qu’Appelle from September 14 to 16.

To back up his statement Regehr pointed out that a vast amount of the U.S. military budget goes towards the protection of economic interests in what the U,S, perceives to be its sphere of influence. This is done through direct intervention, as in Grenada, through the threat of the use of nuclear weapons against any nation that might interfere, and through’ indirect intervention by beefing up the forces of repressive governments. In a similar way a vast amount of the U.S.S.R. military budget goes toward a military. machine which is capable of controlling its own satellites,

Speaking of Canada’s part in the arms race, Regehr said that Canada’s spending on the military is not so miniscule as it is often made out to be, Among NATO nations Canada stands fifth in absolute military spending. He also identified four pressures that will be put upon the new government in Ottawa with regard to defense issues:

First, there will be pressure to express solidarity with the U.S. in its military expansion program — even to the point of supporting the U.S. in interventions abroad.

Second, there will be pressures to increase Canadian military commitments to NATO in spite of the fact that there is large scale opposition in many’ NATO countries to the stationing of more weapons of. mass destruction within their borders.

Third, there will be a push to increase defense contracts, both through the Defense Production Sharing Agreement with the U.S., and through increased access to Third World defense markets, even if this means relaxing guidelines against shipping arms to nations at war or to repressive governments.

Finally, with regard to international disarmament issues, the U.S. will be pushing Canada to give complete support for expansion of its nuclear arsenal. At the same time there will be strong pressures from churches and peace groups to support a nuclear freeze and a reversal of the arms race.

A proposal coming out of the Peacemakers’ Workshop was that participants launch a letter writing campaign to local M. P.‘s, to the new Minister of External Affairs and to opposition critics asking “that Canada take a position in favour of a nuclear freeze and support the nuclear freeze resolution” to be presented shortly at the United Nations General Assembly. In order that Canada may show its’ sincerity with regard to a nuclear freeze, participants in the letter writing campaign will also ask that Canada begin immediately to disengage itself from the umbrella agreement with the US which allows the testing of the cruise missile and other delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons.