William (Bill) Geimer, Advisor to Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, gave a compelling presentation at the Defence Town Hall on a bold new approach to rebuilding Canada's role as a peacekeeper on the world stage. The following is that transcript in full:
The Advantages of No Jets, No Drones
by William Geimer, Advisor to Green Party Leader Elizabeth May
Mr. Secretary, thank you for coming to hear our views and thanks to Elizabeth for inviting you. We have a new and positive vision for the structure and mission of Canadian Forces. This evening, I present just one aspect of that vision.
I have great respect for the Minister, and while I understand that he has begun consultations on new aircraft, with the assumption that purchases will include new fighters and armed drones, I take him at his word that no decisions have yet been made.
Our recommendation is that Canada mothball the CF-18 fleet, decline to replace it, and have nothing to with the purchase and deployment of lethal drones. Here, briefly, are but four of the advantages of such a decision:
First: No direct involvement or complicity in civilian casualties. I have studied all of Canada's wars and she has always had to cede decisions on how they would be conducted to her more powerful patrons, first the UK and lately the U.S. This has always raised uncomfortable moral questions. The practice of turning over prisoners to be tortured in Afghanistan is only one recent example.L Another is the. U.S.decision that the. death and displacement of women, children and the elderly is acceptable ''collateral damage" in pursuit of larger military goals. That question has never been openly put to Canadians and I doubt most would agree.
Second: Advantage in relationships with allies. It is becoming clear that this government, to its credit, wishes to assist its traditional allies primarily by means. other than war making. In every organization, expenditures drive policy. If you don't have it, you can't do it. This simple decision would position Canada to say to its allies, "We have decided not to make war from the air. We do not have any fighter-bombers or armed drones. How else can we help?" A clear commitment to humanitarian and other alternative means of assistance would project leadership and gain international recognition in a way that continued war making fealty to a great power has never been able to accomplish.
Third: Billions of dollars available. The arms lobbyists who swarmed the recent Defence Policy Review session in Ottawa made two very revealing submissions. Christyn Canfarani for the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries: The Canadian Surface Combatant and Next Generation Fighter projects, together valued at $35 billion dollars or more for the equipment purchase alone. will shape the defence industry here far the next 30 years. Precisely. That is the problem. Jaques Comptois, another lobbyist, clearly articulated the assumption. that the government has an obligation not just to provide for· defence, but to also purchase expensive warplanes. That would be news to many Canadians, but it captures the arrogant confidence of our military/industrial complex.
Fourth: Enhanced national security. The cost of these armaments is obscenely excessive, even if the hardware would meet some actual rather than imagined imminent military threat to Canada. But there is. no such threat. While ISIS at last report did not have much of an air force or navy, it does have the capability to inflame minds with stories of foreign invaders and civilian deaths. For many reasons, there is a threat, albeit over stated. The recommended decisions will reduce it. Fighter jets and drones will increase it.
Mr. Secretary, we. look forward to offering for the Minister's consideration a comprehensive Green vision for Canadian defence. It will feature a force structure and policy priorities to help Canada provide real leadership in international relations, assist in non-violent conflict resolution and relieve human suffering. It will also address Canada's legitimate defence interests as determined by Canadians. It will call for the purchase of military ships and aircraft: for support for peacekeeping deployments, for search and rescue, for the Arctic, for detecting oil spills and illegal fishing. The cost will be far less in dollars and lives than the expensive, imprecise weaponry the arms industry so confidently assumes Canadians will accept. Thank you again for the opportunity to present this component of that vision.