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Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Syria

added January 26th, 2016
CF-188 Hornet during Operation Impact, February 2015 (photo by Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)

CF-188 Hornet during Operation Impact, February 2015 (photo by Canadian Forces Combat Camera, DND)

Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau:

As Canadians contemplate peace and goodwill, we in the Canadian Peace Initiative urge you to stay the course on ending the combat mission in Iraq and Syria, despite the mounting pressure to maintain it. In our view, you are the first global leader involved in this conflict who has indicated that bombing is the wrong choice to end the war and bring the peace. You stand with former President Arias of Costa Rica, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in ending conflicts in Central America by negotiated outcomes without the use of force.

Although Canada is lauded by our allies for playing a part in repelling ISIL’s recent attack on Erbil, the main conclusion from that battle is that ISIL is able to mount such attacks, when it is claimed that it has been contained. Clearly, that is not the case.

The Canadian emphasis on those displaced by the war, through our humanitarian work to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada, is a right and just response to their plight. Canada could certainly take more, but this is an outstanding beginning.

A negotiated outcome is being sought for Syria, as evidenced by the UN Security Council resolution on this issue. Now that your government has encouraged our diplomats in the field to act once again, there is an opportunity for Canada’s outstanding historic role in peace diplomacy to be reaffirmed in this most difficult, but not intractable, conflict. Since the first principle of any negotiation is that all parties to a conflict be at the table, negotiations will necessarily have to include ISIL.

Certainly, we do agree that ISIL carries out terrorist acts. However, it should be acknowledged that many see the actions of Western governments in a similar light, from the use of depleted uranium weaponry, to the “indiscriminate” use of drones (the term repeatedly used by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), to the 2003 invasion of Iraq (in violation of the UN Charter).

Violence will not secure a positive outcome to the conflict. Only a ceasefire, followed by a UN peacekeeping force adequately resourced and with a sufficiently robust mandate, will lead to successful negotiations.

We appeal to you to present Canada to the world as a nation with an independent foreign policy, dedicated to peace diplomacy, within the framework of the UN and other multilateral, non-military structures.

Dr. Saul Arbess, Co-founder and Director,
Canadian Peace Initiative