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Dieter Birk, PhD, P.Geol.
Concerned Canadian.

April, 1999

Many Canadians are shocked to find out that we are at war with Serbia. There was no debate - no rationale given - no declaration of war. Canadians are a multi-cultural society, we have no quarrels with ethnic groups on the other side of the world - we cannot afford it - they are all our brothers. Why are we at war then? The following is my interpretation how America and NATO have taken us down this road to Hell. In summary: We are not a sovereign state, we are at war when our foreign rulers dictate so. We have never been sovereign in foreign affairs since John Cabot claimed these lands in the name of King Henry VII.

When the Americans declared war on Britain in 1812, the colony of Upper Canada was automatically at war and a target for invasion - we were British subjects. Ironically, our Canadian flag commemorates our war against the Americans: the red-white-red is the military ribbon given to our colonial soldiers for fighting the Yankees. The modern flag design was derived from the flag of our Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Canada, as established in 1867 had no flag because it was a "dominion" not a nation, being a federation of four colonies under British rule: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It had no flag, no coat of arms, and no authority in foreign affairs: we were ruled by representatives of the British Empress, Queen Victoria.

We were likewise forced to enter World War I automatically, on August 4, 1914 when Britain declared war. At that time, we had a standing army of 3,110 men. Two weeks later, we had gathered up some 100,000 farm boys from Winnipeg to earn $1 a day fighting the Kaiser. By 1917, Canada was losing men in battle at twice the rate of recruiting. We left some 60,000 dead in the trenches and spent some $1 billion fighting a foreign war - a lot of money then, for a colonial government.

At the end of the war, our Prime Minister Robert Borden asked the Imperial War Cabinet if Canada had earned the right to be a nation instead of just a colony? We got a trinket in reply when King George V in 1921 gave us a coat of arms. A bolder Prime Minister, Mackenzie King just told Britain in 1922 that Canada would no longer provide troops on demand - approval by our Parliament was necessary. When we got a seat at the League of Nations - we were almost a real country. By 1923 we had the guts to sign our first treaty with the USA - dealing with dead fish.

Just to prove our manhood, we proclaimed The War Measures Act on September 1, 1939 before the outbreak of World War II. That gave Mackenzie King dictatorial powers: powers of arrest, detention, censorship, and control of transportation and war production. We joined the war on the side of Britain nine days later by vote of the House of Commons. It wasn't a brave act - President Roosevelt had promised to defend Canada against aggression under the Monroe Doctrine. In the September 25, 1939 issue of Life Magazine, the "Who's who in the War World" didn't give Canada a single mention. Colonies don't count. The war prize for our soldiers was the Canadian Citizenship Act of January 1, 1947 which finally recognized our people as Canadian citizens instead of British colonial subjects.

Canada has no experience in military self-determination. The Head of State is the Queen, resident in England. The official Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces is the Governor General, historically appointed by the British monarch, but more recently a political patronage job handed out by our Prime Minister. The most militaristic role for the Governor General is to give out decorations and medals such as the Order of Canada and grants of heraldic arms to individuals or corporations. He is also responsible for promoting multiculturalism and attending ethnic events. I don't think that the Kosovo conflict qualifies as a Canadian ethnic event.

It therefor wasn't too hard for us to give away parts of our military sovereignty: it wasn't in anyone's job description. In 1957 we signed the North American Air Defence Command (NORAD) agreement. Under this agreement, our airforce (RCAF) came under the control of the USAF general at NORAD headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was agreed that there would not be time to consult with our government officials if North America was attacked. Today, American generals still control our airspace, as verified by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy when he visited NORAD on March 11, 1999, likely to get his marching orders.

Most of our military weaponry gets sold to us by our foreign rulers - we're not very good at building war toys. Our efforts at manufacturing rifles in World War I was a disaster - our soldiers replaced the Canadian designed Ross rifles with British Lee-Enfields. when the former jammed in battle. In 1958 we designed the world's largest jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow CF-105 but the Americans refused to buy them. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker destroyed the prototypes and bought American Boeing Bomark missiles instead. Boeing later took over the old Arrow factory. We've been buying American hardware ever since and are now wedded to their military-industrial complex.

The twelve CF-18 Hornet jets that Canada flies for NATO's "humanitarian war" were bought from the Americans in April, 1980 for some $2.7 billion and stationed at Cold Lake, Alberta. Canada was their first foreign customer. The cruise missiles that the Americans use, were first tested in Canada (February, 1985) inspite of considerable protest by Greenpeace. So the tradition continues: USA makes the weapons - they test them on us - we buy our share -then the US military leaders tell us when to use them.

There have been attempts in recent years for Canada to stand up and be a sovereign nation. We stopped flying the British Admiralty flag and designed our own in 1965. Pierre Elliot Trudeau ended our main colonial link to Britain with a new Canadian constitution in 1982. In 1988 we even got permission from the Queen to design our own coats of arms. Gradually across Canada the symbols are changing - the Arms of Canada now include the motto "they desire a better country" (in Latin) based on the Order of Canada. I don't think that bombing civilians was ever a Canadian ideal for a better country.

Our military colonialism has been hard to shake. Canada became part of NATO as an original signatory in 1949 when post-war collective security was on everyone's mind. Canadians were never as comfortable with NATO's warrior role as with the UN 's humanitarian and peace keeping role. When he became honorary President at the NATO summit on June 10, 1982, Pierre Trudeau took the opportunity to complain about American domination of the meetings: US leaders were reading pre-prepared speeches allowing no time for discussion of issues. The following year, some 80,000 citizens across Canada protested our involvement in the development of offensive cruise missiles. I didn't join in. My American-published encyclopedia assured me that NATO was "an umbrella of security for Western Europe, as well as a forum for the discussion of outstanding issues".

Prime Minister Lester Pearson created a novel role for the Canadian military in 1956 as UN peace keepers for the Suez canal. This first international force was commanded by a Canadian: General Eedson Burns. Such a "boy scout" role was well received by Canadians: more so than the idea of Canadian forces under American command or offensive nuclear weapons on Canadian soil. Over the next 43 years our troops went world-wide and today are stationed as "peace-keepers" in many places, including Syria, Haiti, Guatamala, Egypt, Cyprus, Korea, Cambodia, Kuwait, Central Africa and more. There was nothing in it for us, except a little bit of world travel, do-good feeling and perhaps adding to our multicultural immigration.

At the 51st United Nations General assemby in September 1996, Lloyd Axworthy expanded the concepts of peace keeping when he called on nations to consider security in a broader context - human security - including economic privation, guarantee of fundamental human rights as well as military security. Canada could play a role by wielding "soft power" - our diplomatic skills as a multi-cultural nation with an image as a peace maker. But the concept of "human security" is poorly defined. One person's security may be another person's loss of rights.

The United Nations is a cumbersome body - slow to react to world hot spots - with no permanent military bureaucracy - and shaky finances. The disaster in Rwanda was strong evidence that UN reaction was too slow. So Canada initiated in 1995 a "rapid reaction" study that recommended a Rapidly Deployable Mission Headquarters for peace keeping troops. We were prepared to give up some military sovereignty to the UN. It never happened. Denmark proposed a Standby Force High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) based in Copenhagen. SHIRBRIG troops remain under national command until requested by the UN. Staff and funding are from Canada, Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. But these are peace keepers, not suitable for military aggression.

When the Yugoslavia crisis developed, Canada's frustration with the UN led to our participation in SFOR, the NATO "stabilization force" sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our military sovereignty and our CF-18 jets, previously under American command for the protection of North America under NORAD, now were delivered to the NATO war machine. It was supposed to be a peace-keeping implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace as signed in Dayton, Ohio in 1995. When the Kosovo crisis errupted, there was no need to debate our further participation. Our troops and planes were not under our command.

Back in 1919, when the House of Commons debated the Treaty of Versailles, the Liberal Party tabled a motion that Canadian forces should not be committed to any war without prior approval of the House of Commons - i.e. our elected representatives. The idea was defeated. Now in 1999, the Liberals under Jean Chretien have launched us into World War III by American proxy, without even telling us it happened. How can we explain it to our grandchildren, if any survive?

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Last revised: April 12, 1999