Press Release Announcing the Action

Homes not Bombs

Because Canada should build homes, not blow them up

P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West

Toronto, ON M6C 1C0

(416) 651-5800;

Guelph: (519) 766-4079; Hamilton: (905) 627-2696 ; Kitchener-Waterloo: (519) 244-8160; Ottawa: (613) 237-6278; Peterborough: (705) 742-4175; Windsor: (519) 258-1555



Nonviolent Direct Action to Convert

War Dept. to Housing Dept. November 12

Occupation of Ottawa's Mackenzie Bridge to feature Civil Society Street Fair

During the morning rush hour of Friday, November 12, anti-war and anti-poverty activists from across Ontario will take part in a unique act of "civil obedience" to transform downtown Ottawa's War Department (aka Dept. of National Defence) into the Housing Dept.

As Citizens Inspectors trained in nonviolence attempt to enter the massive complex to begin renovation plans, countless others will set up a civil society fair on the adjoining Mackenzie Bridge to highlight all those social programs which have suffered massive budget cuts while the War Dept., at an average $10 billion annually, remains the largest use of Ottawa's discretionary funds. Employees of the building are being urged to stay home given the dust and general mess the renovation is expected to create.

The demonstration is planned by a loose coalition of groups under the banner Homes not Bombs, and many of its participants will be risking arrest as part of their insistence that Canada become a peace economy.

"Earlier this year, we saw that Minister of Homelessness Claudette Bradshaw repeatedly said there was no money for affordable housing, yet when we needed funds to bomb the people of the Balkans, there was suddenly upwards of half a billion dollars," says Brian Edgecombe of Ottawa. "Canada should build homes, not blow them up. With homelessness a national disaster, the real enemy is poverty and social and economic inequality."

Homes not Bombs is focusing on two specific short-term demands: an immediate implementation of the 1% solution to homelessness (spending an additional 1% of Ottawa's overall budget on affordable housing and related support programs over the next 3 -- 5 years, which would essentially eliminate the crisis of homelessness), and a commitment by the federal government not to participate in the newly revived U.S. nuclear first strike Star Wars program (Canada is considering a $635 million-plus investment in the madcap scheme).

"Canada continues failing to live up to its U.N. commitments to house, clothe, feed, and provide decent health care and accessible education to millions of its citizens," Edgecombe says. "We are focusing on the War Dept. for two reasons: its continued funding represents one of the biggest stumbling blocks to fulfilling these obligations, and its continued existence continues to promote the 'values' of armed confrontation and militarism instead of peaceful coexistence."

What may look from the outside like a traditional civil disobedience action is in fact a civil obedience action. "Canada continues to flout internationally recognized norms of law and society, and we are trying to bring Canada in line with the expectations of civilized rules, guidelines which Canada has sworn to uphold. Although prepared to risk arrest on this day, it is we who will be upholding the law."

The fair is slated to feature house-building, a daycare, a graveyard to honour victims of the war economy, and training in the types of peacekeeping which do not require guns.

Homes not Bombs has received word from Major Connie ("Con") Version of the War Dept. that many employees are eager to help with the renovation, and will either be staying home that day or taking part in the re-training programs offered on the Mackenzie Bridge.

The November 12 demonstration has been endorsed by a variety of groups and individuals, from two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Philip Berrigan and Ploughshares activist Elizabeth McAlister to the Canadian Auto Workers, Community of St. Thomas, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (Toronto, McMaster and Guelph chapters), the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, St. Catharines and District Labour Council, Hamilton Action for Social Change, and Out of the Cold founder Sister Susan Moran.

Nonviolence training sessions focusing on the history and philosophy of nonviolence, as well as the practical needs of civil resisters (dealing with police, possible arrest, and the courts) will be taking place throughout Ontario during the month of October.

For local details call (613) 237-6278.

Canada's Choice:

To Build Homes...

"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.

...Or to Blow Them Up

"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's Shame:

Homelessness in Canada has been declared a national disaster by city councils, big-city mayors, and thousands of individuals and organizations.

Canada is the only Western nation without a national housing policy. If Canada spent in one year on affordable housing and related support programs what it spends each year on war, homelessness could be virtually eliminated.

Instead of funding child care, adequate levels of income support, affordable housing, women's programs, education and health care, Ottawa consistently spends its largest block of "discretionary" funding on the War Department (about $10 billion annually, over a quarter of a trillion dollars since 1980).

Ottawa is actively seeking a role in the revived U.S.-led Star Wars Nuclear War Fighting Program, and is considering a $635 million commitment to the project. The Chretien government has rejected a debate about the issue, "saying they will publicly deal with the missile issue when the system is ready to be deployed." -- Ottawa Citizen

Canada continues to support an arms industry which annually exports hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of weapons to human rights violators around the world.

Funding the bombing of Yugoslavia by Canadian fighter jets took precedence over new funding for housing. People are made homeless in Canada because money which could have been spent on affordable housing at home is used to drop bombs on civilians abroad, making them homeless too.

Canada's ongoing commitment to war training also destroys cultures here, as the Innu people of Nitassinan continue to struggle against NATO war testing over their homeland.

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