Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Letter to the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa
K1A 0A2

August 4, 2006

Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing to you about an urgent matter. In your short term as Prime Minister you are, I fear, taking Canada down a dangerous path. We are rapidly losing our chance to be an advocate for peace and sanity in a world that is increasingly unstable and dangerous.

As you well know, Canadians are losing their lives in Afghanistan. We are seeing the caskets come home with shocking regularity; brave young people committed to serving their country, wanting only to follow orders and do their very best. Their family members struggle for dignity in the face of unimaginable pain and loss. Support our troops? Of course we do. Who could not support such unbelievable courage in the face of a terrifying struggle? My heart goes out to them and to their families.

The previous government sent our troops into this anti-terrorism mission in Afghanistan to hunt down the Taliban. You have waded in with gusto extending Canada’s mission for another two years. You have told us this mission is to bring peace, democracy, and human rights to Afghans. I ask you: How can we offer bread from one hand when we have a gun in the other? How can we kill Afghans and then say to their relatives that we come in peace? How can we build schools faster that they are being bombed?

We are part of an aggressive search and destroy combat mission in Afghanistan and people there will resist us. Not all people, but enough to take the lives of many Canadians, many Afghans and others. I do not doubt for a moment that many of those who say their good intentions in Afghanistan are genuine. I do question the wisdom of the strategy that has led them there. I believe that as more and more of our brave young people lose their lives, more Canadians will question this as well. The US role in Iraq surely is a cautionary tale. Even the president of Afghanistan who wants help for his country has called for an end to this mission.

I am also very troubled by Canada’s recent role in the Middle East. The erosion of our reputation as an honest-broker middle nation will have far-reaching consequences. Traditionally we have been a nation whose flag meant fair play, common sense, and balanced independent foreign policy. Sometimes we do take sides in a dispute. Our decisions are based on what is important for Canadians and Canadian values, and in compliance with human rights and international law, not based on what is important for Washington.

How do we justify joining with the US and Australia, isolated from the rest of the world, to deny aid to Palestinians in Gaza? How can we defend the attacks on innocent civilians, mostly children, in Lebanon and call Israel’s response ‘measured’? Hezbollah missiles should also be condemned and must stop. Of course Israel should be able to defend itself. The question of course is how. The current attacks on civilians and infrastructure are appalling. To take one side in this struggle when the major loss of life is on the other side is baffling. Did we have to wade in beside the US in this dispute?

Following your example, sides quickly harden here in Canada. The debate flows in daily in our media: What about history? Don’t you know who started it? We are going to teach them once and for all. We are fighting for peace. We are killing for security. We are attacking to protect human rights. We are destroying for democracy.’ What do our children learn from this? Is this how adults get along?

I am horrified seeing the catastrophe of war in the news each day. Where is our basic sense of humanity? Where are the world’s leaders that we cannot speak with one clear voice and insist on an end to this barbarism? Why can’t they stop their macho defensiveness, roll up their sleeves and get down to the difficult work of stabilizing these troubled regions and building a lasting peace.

As a Member of Parliament I call on you as Prime Minister to insist on an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East. Both sides need to pull back and to allow diplomacy to engage while humanitarian aid makes its way to those most in need. Can negotiators find a lasting peace? We know for sure that each death is everlasting. Peace is more difficult, but worth every effort possible.

If you refuse to act in good faith based on the vote this week by the Standing Committee on International Development at its meeting in Ottawa, then I urge you to call Parliament back to Ottawa to debate these recent terrible events. We are elected to represent our communities. I want to do my job in the House of Commons where we are entitled to be when issues of such importance confront our nation. Let’s really serve Canadians well by insisting that our country’s voice be used in the service of peace for humanity.

Sincerely,

Peggy Nash, MP
Parkdale – High Park