"The Committee [United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights] is gravely concerned that such a wealthy country as Canada has allowed the problem of homelessness and inadequate housing to grow to such proportions that the mayors of Canada's ten largest cities have now declared homelessness a national disaster...The Committee recommends that the federal, provincial and territorial governments address homelessness and inadequate housing as a national emergency by reinstating or increasing, as the case may be, social housing programmes for those in need...[and] to implement a national strategy for the reduction of homelessness and poverty."
-- United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, evaluating Canada's lack of progress, 1998.
"The Canadian Forces can hurl more raw firepower at a potential enemy today than they could during the Persian Gulf War...Since the gulf war, all three services have increased their 'combat capability' (the wherewithal to inflict heavy damage on the enemy), said Major-General Kenneth Pennie, director-general of strategic planning for the Canadian Forces. The equipment includes new frigates for the navy, armoured vehicles for the army and high-tech 'smart' bombs for the air force. Given the improved accuracy, Gen. Pennie said, 'we find that some conventional weapons can be more useful than nuclear weapons.'"
-- Globe and Mail, March 10, 1999
Canada currently spends over 400% more on its military than it does on housing.
HOMES NOT BOMBS:
Converting Canada From a War Economy to a Peace Economy
CANADA STILL PREPARING FOR WAR
Canada currently spends over 400% more on its military than it does on housing, and the federal government has made no commitment to a national housing strategy. Indeed, while Ottawa has, since 1984, taken steps to completely eliminate any funding for new social housing, it has spent, since 1980, over a quarter of a trillion dollars on war.
Like the U.S., which is now proposing the largest military spending increase since the election of Ronald Reagan, Canada continues to forge ahead in combat preparation mode. Indeed, as Project Ploughshares points out, "With major procurement programs emphasizing equipment of high intensity combat, Canada's defence establishment remains bound to Cold War categories...the Department of National Defence continues to prepare first and foremost for war."
As with the U.S., Canada's percentage of monies spent on social housing is dangerously low. About 5.5% of Canada's housing is non-market social housing (compared with 2% in the U.S., 15% in France and Germany, 22% in the U.K. and 40% in the Netherlands.)
HOMELESSNESS: A NATIONAL DISASTER
While cities across the country, including Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto, have declared the crisis of homelessness a national disaster, Ottawa continues to use its largest block of "discretionary funding" -- about $10 billion annually -- to build fighter jets and participate in the U.S. Star Wars program.
The dictionary describes discretionary as "left to one's own judgment." Yet when scores of people are dying every year from homelessness in Canada, and over 200,000 people are estimated to be homeless in this country (with millions more in substandard housing), the federal government is obviously showing poor judgment by absolving itself of housing responsibilities but remaining committed to unnecessary and dangerous weapons programs?
By choosing to spend on weapons which kill abroad, the government is choosing not to fund desperately needed programs at home, thus threatening the lives of those unable to access affordable shelter, health care, and other vital social services. Either way, Ottawa has blood on its hands.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates the cost of each new unit of affordable housing to be $40,000. One year of spending on housing what we currently spend on war would yield a quarter of a million new units of affordable housing.
HOMES NOT BOMBS: A CAMPAIGN
Homes Not Bombs is a campaign based on a complete shift in Canada's national priorities, challenging the myths of militarism and the myths about where poverty comes from. Both are institutional creations, created and sustained by the Canadian corporate power structure and perpetuated by willing governments at all levels.
We believe a first step in changing our national priorities is converting the War Department to the Housing Department. Just as we wish to see the Canadian government end its military enforcement of sanctions against the Iraqi people, we want the federal government to end its sanctions against the 5 million-plus Canadians forced to live in poverty while Canada plays host to the highest rate of billionaires-per-capita in the world.
THE COST OF ENDING POVERTY
Indeed, in 1996, Statistics Canada estimated it would take only $18.6 billion to bring every Canadian out of poverty, less than what the War Department spends in a two-year period. Yet given the choice of where to spend, Ottawa has made it clear&emdash;guns, not butter, bombs, not homes. For example, the federal government pays for the military enforcement of Iraqi starvation and the ongoing destructive war training over Innu lands off the backs of Canada's hungry and homeless.
Canada recently scored poorly in an assessment of economic, social and politics rights at the United Nations. It is unclear how Canada can claim any moral weight judging the actions of other nations when its own house is in such disarray.
ENTRENCHING HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
It is everyone's human right to have access to decent food, shelter, and employment. Yet the government claims there is not enough money in the till for programs to guarantee these rights. The government's choice of ignoring these human rights in favour of an annual 10 billion outlay on the military merely entrenches this injustice.
Clearly, what is missing is not the financial capacity to meet these important goals, but the political will. As Martin Luther King and others pointed out time and again during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when governments refuse to meet the basic human needs of their people, it is up to all people of good conscience to engage in campaigns of nonviolent resistance that create a moral climate in which government policies of neglect and abandonment are no longer possible.
Such campaigns are also deigned to awaken the sleeping conscience of a nation, urging those who have been silent to speak up and, with united voices, support and work for real action to achieve social justice.
TAKING ACTION: A Pledge of Resistance to War and Poverty
The goal of Homes Not Bombs is to link these two vital issues together through outreach and education, letter-writing, vigils, and non-violent civil disobedience. Included in our work is a demand for, at the very least, implementation of the widely-endorsed 1% solution to solving homelessness (whereby all levels of government increase by 1% that portion of their budgets currently spent on housing to eliminate homelessness within 5 years). We are also organizing a significant act of civil disobedience, a nonviolent blockade of the War Department this November with the symbolic aim of converting the building into the Housing Department, training those within to build -- not blow up -- homes.
We cannot tolerate another winter with scores of homeless people dying on the streets of our cities. Nor can we tolerate the use of almost $10 billion in federal monies annually to prepare for war while millions suffer the scourge of poverty in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet.
I therefore pledge to become part of the Homes Not Bombs conversion program: to convert the War Dept. to the Housing Dept., to end Canada's shameful participation in the business of war and to use those much-needed resources for social programs to end poverty in this country and abroad.
1. I pledge to write to my MP and demand that immediate action be taken to embark on a national program of affordable housing construction and social assistance at livable levels. Further, I will call for an end to the outrageous military spending on programs ranging from "Star Wars" to the outfitting of fighter jets with "smart" bombs.
2. I will arrange a visit with my MP to discuss these issues and to urge immediate action.
3. I will organize a vigil at my MP's office.
4. I will go to Ottawa where I will join a demonstration in early November to convert the Department of War into the Department of Housing.
5. I commit myself to not only join the demonstration, but to take part in an act of civil disobedience to transform the War Department. By making this commitment, I pledge to have attended a training session in non-violence in preparation for this action.
EXAMPLES OF OUTRAGEOUS MILITARY SPENDING
The campaign will also focus on the cancellation of significantly dangerous wastes of money such as:
Canadian participation in Star Wars: $600,000,000+
Annual contribution to NORAD: $300 million
Upgrade 114 Leopard C1 main battle tanks, purchase
of additional 123 Leopard tanks: $138.8 million
Armoured Combat Vehicle Project: $600,000,000 (at least)
Armoured Personnel Carrier Replacement Project: $2.04 billion
Helping CF-18s remain "a viable and survivable fighter (upgrades include capacity to use Advanced Air-to-Air Weapons, air-to-surface "smart bombs" and missiles: $1.175 billion
Maritime Helicopter Program (equipped with submarine detection and attack systems): $2.3 billion
Frigate Equipment Life Extension (upgrade of combat systems) : $100 million at least
Very Short Range Air Defence System (to replace existing Javelin missile): $100 million at least
Medium Indirect Fire System (upgrade to Army M109A4 self-propelled howitzer): $100 million at least
Unmanned Airborne Surveillance and Target Acquisition System: $50 million
Participation in US Joint Strike Fighter Program: Untold millions
Resources for more information on military spending and the crisis of homelessness (these organizations, though listed as good resources, have not necessarily endorsed this campaign):
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade
Toronto Disaster Relief Committee
Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada
We want your feedback!
Please send comments, suggestions, additional facts which you think might be of interest to: Homes Not Bombs, P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. W., Toronto, Ont., M6C 1C0, email: email@example.com, phone: (416) 651-5800. We hope to launch this campaign publicly in late May or early June of 1999.
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