Friday, February 22, 2002



Friday, February 22, 2002
The Commanding Officer
Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
John Weir Foote VC Armoury
200 James Street North
L8R 2L1

Dear Commanding officer and reservists with the RHLI B Company,

The recent news that you intend to use a public park to carry out military training has prompted us to write you with our concerns.
While no doubt the perceived advantages of recruitment possibilities lie behind the public display of military training (as evidenced in your media release), we feel that Bayfront Park should remain a violence free, weapons-free area.
Sagging recruitment and an appeal to convenience and cost-effectiveness are not sufficient reasons to support the idea of battle-gear-laden, weapons carrying soldiers running around a public park at night.
Indeed, the recent news that a sergeant from the RHLI asked civilians in the park for identification, then suggested they might be carrying weapons and intimated that they might be terrorists is a sign that the military needs to be reminded that this sort of behaviour is counter to basic rights and norms in a democratic society.
This incident reinforces our concern about the use of public space to train for killing, especially since the RHLI newsletter carries such items as:
"Pte Warren Pyper 'closes with and destroys the enemy' - carrying out the role of the infantry to the letter! Despite the use of blank ammo, the jungle lanes provided a good test of pairs fire and movement for the RHLI.'"
Rather than concentrate on killing the enemy (and we can potentially discuss who becomes an enemy, and why), we instead propose training in the neglected tools of peace-building. How much time do you as soldiers (or we as citizens for that matter) devote to studying conflict transformation, mediation, de-escalation, active nonviolence and dialogue?
How much time is spent on examining the inequity that creates strife in a global village where so-called Developed Nations surfeit on global goodies while the majority of the world's people are dirt poor and die from starvation or preventable diseases or dysentery.
We acknowledge that good intentions motivate many of you to participate in the military, and that many reservists believe in the concept of "peace-keeping."
However, as nonviolent activists, it is our belief that an effective and true peace-keeper must start by rejecting violence, and in particular, must lay down weapons of violence (C7 assault rifles and C9 machine guns in this case.)
In recent years the Canadian military has been thrust into conflicts which have utilized our rich-nation advantages in technology and killing power to cause great devastation and suffering to thousands of innocent civilians in countries like Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. These wars have not been good public relations exercises for the peace-keeping myth, yet the myth manages to persist despite our war-making, war-making which includes war-crimes like targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
It is instructive to look at the United Nations' chart monitoring numbers of peacekeepers from various countries: ( ) Figures available there indicate that while Bangladesh has 6,024 peacekeepers in the field, Ghana 2,465, Australia 1,548, Argentina 633, Canada has a surprisingly low 305.
A quick calculation indicates that if Canada's military was indeed focused on peacekeeping, then it would be costing Canadians over $36 million for each soldier on a peacekeeping mission!
Yet we have heard a more accurate rendering of the role of Canada's military from one of your generals:
"As much as Canadians would like to ignore the fact, the role of a soldier is to kill as efficiently as possible with the resources available once he is ordered to do so by his government. There are many sidelines to his profession that make us all feel warm and fuzzy...But they are all subordinate to one overriding responsibility and that is to kill on demand."
Major-General Lewis Mackenzie,
quoted in the Globe and Mail May 9, 2000
In fact there are far more Canadian soldiers on combat style missions, at least 750 in Afghanistan at this moment, than there are doing peacekeeping.
Is there another way? There do exist models which we could choose to develop and build upon in our search for peaceful means to achieve peaceful ends: Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), Peace Brigades International (PBI) and others who send unarmed mediators into conflict areas to, as CPT puts it, "get in the way" of the armed actors.
But there are other more pro-active things we can do to stem the tides of violence that result from our reliance upon killing and destruction as a way of dealing with conflict.
A radical restructuring of priorities might lead us to re-examine the expenditure of $11.5 billion a year on preparing for war (the largest use of discretionary funding by the Canadian state), and instead have us use that money for socially useful purposes.
To give an idea of what we are considering, let's look at homelessness in Canada: declared a national disaster in 1998 by the mayors of Canada's ten largest cities, next to nothing has been done to create new affordable housing since then. It is estimated that $2 billion a year would solve this problem. In a new world, former reservists from the Rileys would spend their time contributing their skills and energy to build affordable housing in Hamilton.
Environmental clean-up could easily use the entire budget and then some, but some of those billions could be put toward cleaning up our surroundings and doing trail maintenance, lending time to environmental projects planting native species, tree planting, constructing bicycle trails, supporting renewable energy projects, growing organic food, reconstructing bicycles with Recycle Cycles, picking up litter, to name a few possibilities.
Meanwhile, we would be in a position to address Canada's long neglected commitment to the rest of the world. Senator Douglas Roche has pointed out that Canada's stated commitment of spending 0.7% of our GNP on projects in developing nations has not been honoured. It sits at around 0.24%, while 80 percent of the global population is forced to get by with less than 20 percent of the global income.
If Canada joined with other nations, we could contribute some of our billions currently spent on the military toward the $60 billion required to supply adequate water and sanitation to the 2 billion people who have neither. As Senator Roche points out, $60 billion is what we are willing to spend on an "needless and unworkable" missile defence system!
Perhaps you have heard of the United Nations (whose charter we broke when we went with NATO to bomb Yugoslavia and Kosovo in 1999) MANIFESTO 2000: this document gives us hope for a better world, and we encourage you to join us in efforts to live up to its challenging call.
The principles of MANIFESTO 2000 are the following:
  1. Respect all life: Respect the life and dignity of each human being without discrimination or prejudice
  2. Reject violence: Practise active non-violence, rejecting violence in all its forms: physical, sexual, psychological, economical and social, in particular towards the most deprived and vulnerable such as children and adolescents
  3. Share with others: Share my time and material resources in a spirit of generosity to put an end to exclusion, injustice and political and economic oppression
  4. Listen to understand: Defend freedom of expression and cultural diversity, giving preference always to dialogue and listening without engaging in fanaticism, defamation and the rejection of others
  5. Preserve the planet: Promote consumer behaviour that is responsible and development practices that respect all forms of life and preserve the balance of nature on the planet
  6. Rediscover solidarity: Contribute to the development of my community, with the full participation of women and respect for democratic principles, in order to create together new forms of solidarity
Not a bad framework to begin, and one that could create the conditions for equality and peace among the people of the world.
We intend to take you up on your offer to "meet with the soldiers in between periods of training" not as "enemies" but as sisters and brothers seeking a world where human security is paramount.
We too, hope to be at Bayfront Park to play our nonviolent games; as the park was intended to be used for family and community fun, not for war training, we hope you will join us in a game of hide and seek or red light/green light.
We ask that you share this letter with the rest of the Rileys as a way of beginning a much-needed dialogue.


Homes Not Bombs - Hamilton

- - -

The initial news story inviting people to watch the RHLI train:

Soldiers training at Bayfront Park

The Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday, February 12, 2002 If you spot 60 armed soldiers in dark green uniforms marching down to Bayfront Park tonight, have no fears.
The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry's B Company is conducting training exercises at the park on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 10 p.m. until May, although they're not using ammunition or flares.
The reservists are preparing for a weekend-long combat readiness evaluation at CFB Meaford, which will test their combat skills.
The training started last week with reconnaissance. Captain Tim Fletcher, public relations officer, said soldiers studied the park's terrain to get a sense of what would be possible as they practise movement drills, learning how to move around while protecting themselves from enemy fire.
"It'll look like people running around getting orders," Fletcher said.
"They won't be firing anything."
They'll be carrying C7 rifles and C9 light machine-guns.
Bayfront Park was chosen because it is within walking distance of the armoury on James Street North, and is big enough for drills with up to 60 people at a time.
The Rileys also do training on military bases every month or so, but that requires bus transportation and several hours of travelling time.
The park will remain open to the public during the training sessions

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