Towards a Dept Of Peace in Canada

For more details of the campaign see

The very agonies of war and the dark night of suffering that has lasted for centuries are awakening civilization to a new understanding: the peoples of the Earth have a sacred right to peace.
— Senator Douglas Roche a prominent supporter of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative

Weary of the endless violence and destruction of war, people everywhere are seeking ways to create a sustainable peace. We, the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative, are committed to establishing a Department of Peace within the Government of Canada. We are part of a growing movement now embracing 24 countries. Nepal, a nation that has been wracked by civil war for many years, was the most recent to form a Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction in March, 2007. The Solomon Islands was the first nation to declare and Costa Rica is expected to do so by the end of June 2007.

In support of this initiative, there are now 8 chapters across Canada, 19 organizations representing about 120,000 Canadians, including such prominent peacebuilders as Senator Doug Roche and the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy

Proposed Mandate & Organization of a Canadian Department of Peace
» Introduction
» Domestic Responsibilities of the Proposed Department
» Military Conversion to Peaceful Purposes
» Gender-Based Initiatives
» Commission on Peace


We recognize that the government, through the Prime Minister, is the final arbiter of the positioning of the new minister. Nonetheless, it is critical to note, as mentioned above, that there are presently at least eight federal departments in Canada that have responsibilities in the area of concern. Given this fact, there is a pressing need for an integrated and coordinated approach to peace work within the federal government that the proposed Minister would provide.

The over-riding mandate of the new Department will be to re-invigorate Canada’s role as a global peacebuilder through the promotion of: the non-violent resolution of conflict, human rights and the security of persons and their communities; social and economic justice, and; democratic participation in government. The Department will operate within the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration and Programme of Action for the International Decade for a Culture of Peace (1999) and other related UN Treaties, Conventions and Agreements. It will actively support disarmament and the strengthening of non-military means of peacemaking including an unarmed civilian peace service. See the draft legislative Bill in the Appendix “A” for mandate, positions and responsibilities of the proposed Federal Department of Peace in Canada.

An objective of the Department will be to infuse all departments and agencies of government with an ethic of peace as set out in Section IV of the Earth Charter: Values and Principles for a Sustainable Future (

The Minister would have human and financial resources commensurate with a full Department. The Minister would promulgate policy on peace issues and be consulted and make recommendations on peace-related aspects of policies and programs throughout all federal departments. The Minister would be responsible for coordinating peace-related policies between departments with the goal of significantly reducing the human costs of violence both at home and abroad. Peacebuilding would become an “all-of-government” objective or screen in preparing legislation across departments.

The Minister would make annual reports to Cabinet and Parliament on the progress of Canadian peace initiatives and the effectiveness of government policy overall in achieving peace. This report would include an assessment of the effect of the sale of arms from Canada to other states by both the public and private sector with an analysis of the effects of such sales on the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The Minister would facilitate the development of peace and reconciliation meetings to promote non-violent solutions and mutually beneficial outcomes in conflict areas. In this connection, the Minister would provide for the training, in cooperation with National Defence, Foreign Affairs and CIDA, of all Canadian military and civilian personnel, including the proposed Canadian Peace Service, who participate in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and demobilization in war-torn states. In this, the Minister would sponsor country and regional conflict prevention and dispute resolution initiatives in countries experiencing social, political, or economic strife and advocate the creation of a multinational global nonviolent peace service. There would be on-call teams of peace workers for deployment in such circumstances. Also, the department would actively promote exchanges between individuals of Canada and other nations who are endeavouring to develop domestic and international peace-based initiatives.

The Minister would fund the development of curricular materials for use at all levels of education from pre-school to post-secondary, also to be made available to the general public. The Minister would provide funds for the establishment and continuing support of university-level peace studies and research.

Domestic Responsibilities of the Proposed Department

The Minister would also have significant domestic responsibilities which would include encouragement of community-based structures and initiatives promoting non-violent, non-adversarial dispute resolution mechanisms whose primary goal is the restoration of harmony in the community. Some of these initiatives are: the restorative justice movement which aims to heal the harm created by offending activity; the non-violent communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg; victim-offender mediation; and Alternatives to Violence projects.

Military Conversion to Peaceful Purposes

Above all, the Minister would play a major role in nuclear disarmament and arms control as a necessary pre-condition to peaceful conversion. The recently failed Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in May 2005, and the failure of the nuclear nations to establish a timetable for the elimination of nuclear weapons, again points to the gravity of the situation.

The Minister would play a major role in the conversion of military expenditures to peaceful purposes. To give some indication of the possibilities of conversion, we cite some examples. Dave Hubert, in a discussion of opportunity costs in his book, Canada @ Peace, estimates that, instead of spending over $4 billion tax dollars on CF-18 fighter jets and related costs such as training pilots, maintenance, operating costs and fuel, an extra 4,133 Canadians could have been hired for 20 years in a variety of service occupations such as health care workers, conservation officers, teachers and up to 8,266 childcare workers, 27,500 homes could have been built, waterways and forests restored and infrastructure, such as roads, repaired and improved.19

Two examples of conversion come from the United Kingdom. Dr. Tim Wallis of the group Peaceworkers UK, in a paper presented at the Consultation on a Civilian Peace Service for Canada, February 7–9, 2005, stated that his organization could recruit and train 1000 civilian peace workers over 5 years at a cost of approximately $1 million Canadian which is “less than the cost of maintaining UK troops in Iraq for a single day.”20

“The British government currently provides subsidies to arms exporters of 426 million pounds per annum 2004. For that amount we could: support the setting up of gun collection schemes in every single country where there is local killing…introduce effective boundary controls to gun-running, with severe and enforce- able penalties; fully support the EU commitment to develop a ‘Civilian Crisis Management Capacity’ by providing training for civilians ready to join.”21

Finally, the redirection of even 30% of the world’s annual military expenditure can significantly halt and reverse environmental degradation and achieve global sustainability.22

Gender-Based Initiatives

The Minister would actively support gender-based initiatives regarding women as peacebuilders, protectors of children affected by conflict and to reflect women’s prominence in peace movements around the world. In particular, the Minister would support the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 in Canada and abroad. Gender balance would be a goal in senior positions of the department and throughout the public service and on the Commission on Peace referred to below.

Commission on Peace

The Minister would create an arms-length Commission on Peace headed by a Commissioner on Peace reporting directly to Parliament. The Commissioner would make annual reports to Parliament on the progress of peace work across the federal government. The Commissioner would be advised by: peace and justice organizations (NGOs), prominent persons reflecting the cultural and geographic diversity of Canada’s peoples, experts in the various peace and security fields and government officials, for liaison purposes. The Commissioner would consult with the Minister and/or her delegates on the activities and effectiveness of his/her Department in meeting its objectives and, at such meetings, the Minister would suggest to the Commission relevant activities that the Commission could carry out. The Commissioner would table an annual report to Parliament on the Commission’s activities and reviewing the Department’s impact at home and abroad.

The Commission would facilitate consultation and collaboration between the Minister, NGOs and the general public and encourage peacebuilding at home and abroad. It would convene meetings and networking of peace workers worldwide and act as a forum on peace-related issues in Canada.

The Commission would be involved in promoting and funding international citizen exchanges and citizen diplomacy in peacebuilding activities. The consultative group to the former Ambassador on Disarmament functioned in this way with its recommendations often implemented by government. The Commission would be adequately resourced to meet its objectives.

prepared by
Dr. Saul Arbess and Dr. Bill Bhaneja for The Working Group
for a Federal Department of Peace, November 2005

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