Keeping the Peace: Canada should jump-start a UN Emergency Peace Service and Canadian peacekeeping training centre

1297859571551_ORIGINALThe Canadian peacekeeping monument in Ottawa is a reminder of Canada’s legacy, one that should be continued with a government-run peacekeeping training centre in Kingston, says columnist Erika Simpson. (Postmedia file photo)

The Global Peace Index reports that violence is costing the world 13.4 per cent of GDP, and there are now only 10 countries in the world free from conflict. According to the UN’s annual Global Trends Report, one in every 122 humans now either is a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. Defence requirements trump social spending. Climate change, militarization, nationalism, poverty and the global war on terrorism mean defence industries are ever-expanding and arms sales are increasing instead of decreasing. Our country’s arms exports to the Middle East are the world’s second-largest, after the United States. Canada leapfrogged Britain, France, Germany and Russia into second place this month, with $3.44 billion in annual sales. While Canadian government officials talk about respect for human rights, Canada is ranked as the world’s sixth largest weapons exporter overall and that ranking does not count our unreported arms trade with the U.S. under the Defence Production Sharing Agreement.

Civil society organizations — such as the Canadian Peace Research Association, the Rideau Institute, Project Ploughshares, Pugwash Canada, the UN Association, and the World Federalist Movement — are being decimated by cutbacks and staffed mainly by volunteers. What remains of any protest movement tends to focus on opposing particular weapon systems, like the purchase of new F-35s and the sale of London-built light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns, “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.”

Pope Francis speaks to the problem’s crux: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hailed around the world for his commitment to LGBTQ rights, it is worth remembering U.S. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and pledged to abolish nuclear weapons. Instead the U.S. is modernizing its nuclear weapons, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates nuclear forces will cost US$348 billion between 2015-2024.

While Americans invest in ballistic missile defence, pledge new B-61 bombers in Europe and send more troops to defend NATO along a new central front in Europe, our Prime Minister refused to renege on the sale of LAVs to Saudi Arabia and promised last week to contribute 1,000 troops to NATO’s symbolic trip-wire force in Latvia to deter the growing threat from Russia. The U.S.-led arms race virtually ensures the great powers, Russia and China, will respond with equivalent spending. At the same time, middle powers are planning to cut the UN’s annual peacekeeping budget of $10.58 billion (Cdn), in order to reduce the burden of long, costly peacekeeping operations.

But a Canadian proposal for a standing United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) might help jump-start a better deal for humanity. Developed in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, it was part of a failed initial proposal to improve the UN’s rapid deployment capacity.

A new UNEPS would be inexpensive and small but could help prevent armed conflict, stem atrocities from happening, protect desperate civilians, and deliver prompt startup of demanding peace operations.

It would be an emergency ‘UN 911’ force that could be relied upon when other nations seek to avoid involvement in offshore conflicts and avoid burgeoning costs.

A Canadian initiative to set up a UNEPS would complement existing arrangements and ensure rapid and reliable first responders. Combined with the possible ­re-establishment of Canada’s former Lester B. Pearson Multinational Peacekeeping Training Centre (which was closed by the government of Stephen Harper), Canada could help train young interns, employ retired Canadian Forces’ personnel, and help train peacekeepers from around the world.

The Department of National Defence is holding a public consultation as part of the defence policy review that is scheduled to end later this month. The mandate letter Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan received from the Prime Minister highlighted a number of themes that could underpin the review, such as renewing Canada’s commitment to UN peace operations.

The government should commit to kick-starting a UN emergency service, and it should re-establish a government-run Canadian peacekeeping training centre in Kingston so DND and the Canadian Forces have what they need to confront new threats and challenges in the years ahead.


The London Free Press

Brexit vote could allow for nuclear weapons rethink

If the U.K. votes to leave the EU and Scotland ends up separating, it could leave the U.K.’s nuclear-armed subs high and dry.

A Trident submarine heads out from its base in Scotland in August 2007. Britain’s nuclear-armed subs are in need of replacement, which could cost 167 billion pounds. Flickr photograph by JohnED76

If Britons vote on June 23 in favour of Brexit, it is expected that Scotland will hold another referendum that could lead to its re-establishment as an independent nation. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which supports an independent and non-nuclear Scotland, wants Scotland to be a member of NATO and the European Union but rejects nuclear weapons, including nuclear-armed United Kingdom submarines, all of which are now based in Scotland.

The SNP pledges it will negotiate the removal of the U.K.’s Trident nuclear weapon system from the Faslane naval base, 40 kilometres from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest population centre. The U.K.’s four Vanguard nuclear-armed submarines are stationed on the Firth of Clyde, a series of rivers, estuaries, and sea lochs.

A No vote would mean Britain’s estimated 167-billion-pound replacement of the four Trident submarines during the next decade could still go ahead, due in part due to Prime Minister David Cameron’s majority hold on U.K. politics. But a weak No vote also could mean the U.K.’s commitment to nuclear weapons would need to be rethought. Further, if Scotland votes to remain in the EU whilst the overall U.K. vote is to leave, this may precipitate a second independence referendum over the following three-to-four-year period.

The U.K. government has assumed since 1968 that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gives it some kind of right to possess nuclear weapons.

If the British Labour Party, along with an aligned or independent Scotland fulfilled their policies to remove the submarine-based Trident nuclear weapons system from their shared territory, the U.K. would need to find another location for all its sea-based nuclear warheads, since it costs too much to deploy them at sea for months at a time.

This would be difficult—almost as tough as it would be for Vladimir Putin to find another home for Russia’s Black Sea fleet stationed in the Crimean Peninsula. If the U.K. wants to maintain its nuclear-armed submarines, it would need to find another deep-water port, preferably on British turf and not on another colony’s territory.

(Canada loans the U.S. navy’s nuclear-weapons-capable subs its deep-water torpedo-testing grounds at Nanoose Bay, north of Nanaimo, B.C.)

If the U.K. government does decide to relocate its nuclear subs, cost estimates vary enormously, but could hit billions of pounds.

An independent Britain that is free of the EU and a potentially independent Scotland could follow the example of other NATO states such as Canada, Norway, and Lithuania, which do not allow nuclear weapons on their soil. Furthermore, if more British and Scottish MPs spearheaded initiatives to establish more international treaties to prohibit nuclear weapons, their approach could have a major impact on other NATO members, despite the inclination to erect a new central front in Europe to protect the Baltic states from Russia.

No matter whether Britons vote yes or no to remaining in the EU, their voting patterns could provide an opportunity to rethink approaches to nuclear weapons. The very high costs of replacing the submarines, coupled with the logistical challenges of relocating the weapons, means there is a strong opportunity to reject the nuclear option, should more Westminster political parties adopt such a policy.

For their part, Labour along with representatives of the SNP should prepare to participate actively in the humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons and support negotiations on an international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, even without the participation of the nuclear-armed states. Such a treaty would make the possession of nuclear weapons unambiguously illegal for all, putting them on the same footing as biological and chemical weapons.

In the face of opposition from the Labour Party—and in the wake of Scotland’s narrow yes vote—it will remain difficult for the U.K. government to continue its absurd and costly pursuit of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system against the backdrop of international negotiations to ban nuclear weapons. The Brexit vote this week could go either way, but it is already pushing Mother England to overcome her Cold War thinking about security by undermining traditional arguments in favour of maintaining these weapons of mass destruction.

Bill Kidd is the member of the Scottish parliament for Glasgow Anniesland and chief whip of the SNP Scottish government. Erika Simpson is the vice president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, a board member and past vice-chair of Pugwash Canada, and an associate professor of international relations in the department of political science at Western University.


The Hill Times

Sustainable development goals worth sharing


The human species is good at setting goals and achieving them. We have walked on the moon, sent a rover to roam Mars—and 15 years ago the United Nations General Assembly agreed to pursue an ambitious set of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [1]. Good progress on the goals since 2000 [2] has meant the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved from 15 years ago, more than two billion people have gained access to improved sources of drinking water, and remarkable gains have been made in the fights against malaria and tuberculosis. As well, the UN’s target for reducing hunger is within reach and the proportion of slum dwellers in the metropolises of the developing world is declining [3]. On the other hand, though there were some notable successes, the MDGs failed to bring about a substantial shift toward tackling global poverty [4]. Another downside was they oversold what foreign aid could achieve—and thus added to pessimism over aid, which was precisely the opposite of their original intention [5].

Now the international community has agreed upon a new set of goals for the next 15 years. On January 1 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at an historic UN Summit—officially came into force. Over the next fifteen years the SDGs hope to build on the success of the MDGs. On the table are no less than 17 Goals and 169 objectives [6]. The goals summarily range from Goal 1 “ending poverty in all its forms everywhere” to Goal 5 tackling “gender inequality” to Goal 17, strengthening “the global partnership for sustainable development” [7].

This paper overviews the new SDGs as North Americans need to be informed about humankind’s shared aspirations. It considers the merits and demerits of elaborating more precisely on the Goals’ concepts and measurements including the lack of country-specific deadlines and targets. It asks whether foreign aid—as one of the ‘instruments’ of North American foreign policy—should be ‘tied’ to the purchase of Canadian and American goods and services. And it suggests more and newer approaches to global governance will be imperative if the SDGs are to be achieved by 2030.

The new Sustainable Development Goals:
What are the new Sustainable Development Goals? There is a rich academic literature that debates the overarching concept of ‘sustainable development’ [8]. The term sustainable development was popularized in Our Common Future, a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. Also known as the Brundtland report, Our Common Future included the classic definition of sustainable development: “Development that meets the needs of the present whilst safeguarding Earth’s life-support system upon which the welfare of current and future generations depends” [9].

Sustainable development has been explained and debated by a great number of nongovernmental and international institutions [10]. A large academic and governmental literature tackles the theoretical concepts [11] and methodological issues [12] issues surrounding what sustainable development means and implies. That said, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are short and succinctly worded—indeed, all 17 far-reaching and ambitious goals have already been summarized into a few paragraphs [13], a UN poster [14] and a one-page summary [15] although their original diplomatic written language is quite lengthy [16].

Goal 1 seeks, by 2030, to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day. Goal 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Goal 3 seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. Goal 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Goal 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Goal 6 will ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Goal 7 seeks to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable andmodern energy for all. Goal 8 promises to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. Goal 9 aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation. Goal 10 will reduce inequality within and among countries. Goal 11 promises to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Goal 12 seeks to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Goal 13 promises to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Goal 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. Goal 15 seeks to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably  manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss. Goal 16 strives to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. And Goal 17 promises to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Many of the 17 SDGs have sub-goals as well so for example, Goal 5 promises to end gender inequality and would ensure many sub-goals including women’s full participation at all levels of decision making and universal access to sexual and reproductive health rights. Goal 17 is similarly ambitious and spells out a host of sub-goals on finance, technology, capacity building and trade. Overall the Goals are more like a lengthy wish list than a legally binding framework with country-specific deadlines and targets.

Findings: Some merits and demerits of the SDGs
There are no established national frameworks and logical sets of steps to take toward the 17 Goals. Individual governments are expected to take ownership and establish national frameworks for the achievement of the 17 Goals. Countries will have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the Goals. According to the UN, implementing the Goals will require high-quality, accessible and timely data collection. Since the SDGs are not legally binding, individual countries will have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review at the national, regional and global levels [17].

Notably the new Goals are universal and apply to all countries, whereas the MDGs were intended for action in developing countries only. The new SDGs cover more issues with aspirations to address global inequalities in terms of economic growth, ecosystems, industrialization and climate change. The goals cover many dimensions of sustainable development including social inclusion, environmental protection, sustainable consumption and peace and justice.

A 2015 report by the International Council for Science in partnership with the International Social Science Council briefly reviewed the targets from a science perspective and pointed out that many of the targets may also contribute to several goals, and some goals and targets may conflict. “Action to meet one target could have unintended consequences on others if they are pursued separately” and “Research suggests that most goal areas are interlinked, that many targets might contribute to several goals, and that there are important trade-offs among several goals and targets.” For example, progress on ending poverty (SDG 1) cannot be achieved without progress on the food security target (SDG 2). The targets of full and productive employment and decent work under SDG 8 and the reduction of inequality under SDG 10 would need to be met without enhancing resilience to climate change under SDG 13. Success in these will lead to better health and wellbeing, thus contributing to the achievement of SDG 3. But there could be important trade-offs among targets: For example, an increase in agricultural land-use to help end hunger can result in biodiversity loss, as well as in over use and/ or pollution of water resources and downstream (and likely negative) effects on marine resources, which in turn could exacerbate food security concerns [19].

Some of the targets are confusing and potentially contradictory. For example, the concept of basic income requires further elaboration to understand what is meant by the elimination of extreme poverty and undernutriti on, as well as effective and equitable processes of wealth creation and distribution.

Country-specific baselines and targets are deliberately missing along with country-specific assessments to identify the most urgent priorities. Should individual countries tackle infectious diseases and malnutrition and/or a rapid rise in non-communicable diseases and obesity? What could be the consequences of demographic shifts in nations where either the youth or the elderly predominate? To measure the SDGs using an empirical and positivist framework with a view to testing whether they are achievable would be a challenging, if not impossible exercise. What might be the roles and good practices for subnational governments with respect to the SDGs at the subnational level? Many of the goals are so lofty and immeasurable that they could be missed. If targets are immeasurable and not met, who is to blame? The Goals are unlikely to be realized if the world community neglects to focus on implementation measures from the outset. In short, the SDGs are ambitious commitments but spending plans and country-specific targets for achieving the goals have been left for future negotiations.

Trillions of dollars and more negotiations necessary to achieve Goals

While estimates vary, the hefty budget to achieve all 17 goals is estimated by the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations at more than than $4.5 trillion per year [20]—although to put this enormous figure in perspective that is less than the $1.7 trillion spent annually on militarism. According to the December 2014 World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates’ Declaration [21]: “Militarism has cost the world over $1.7 trillion dollars this past year.

It deprives the poor of urgently needed resources for development and adds to the likelihood of war with all its attendant suffering.” It is unclear how enormous figures like $4.5 trillion US a year to $7 trillion annually are arrived at and more importantly, where hundreds of billions in aid will be sought to help pay for the attainment of these goals. Many rounds of future negotiations can be expected to try to come up with unknown amounts of money that must be somehow apportioned to achieve each lofty goal.

North Americans tend to be good global citizens in these sorts of diplomatic negotiations. Back in 1992, Canada played a positive role when heads of states met in Brazil under the strong chairmanship of a Canadian Maurice Strong, who served as UN Secretary-General [22] of the Conference on Environment and Development. They agreed on 21 global priorities. “Agenda 21,” [23] as it was called, was based on lessons learned about poverty and conflict during the Cold War and on an emerging awareness about the environment and limits to growth. Since then, many treaties have been ratified extolling widely-admired goals such as biodiversity [24], disarmament [25], sustainable development [26] and people’s equality [27].

North America’s Development Aid: factors such as tied aid affect aid distribution

Until 2013, the Canadian International Development Agency was the federal government organization that administered the budget for Canada’s official devel opment assistance. Then it was merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development [28]. Renamed the Department of Global Affairs by the newly-elected Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it is now a complicated hydra with four cabinet ministers—the ministers of global affairs, the minister of international trade, the minister of international development, and the minister of state (foreign affairs and consular)—at its head.

In 2010, President Obama signed the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development [29], which called for the elevation of development as a core pillar of American power in accordance with diplomacy and defense. The directive sought an integrated approach and the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. government agencies [30].

Although foreign aid is one of the instruments of North American foreign policy, voters seldom contemplate foreign aid priorities when they decide how to vote. But for those who do take an interest, questions are swirling about whether foreign aid should be ‘tied’ to the purchase of North American goods and services. This practice requires aid funds provided by governments to developing countries—some of the world’s poorest countries—be used to procure only North American goods and services.

The OECD and various UN studies estimate that donor money with these kind of strings attached cuts the value of aid to recipient countries by 30 to 40 per cent [31] because they cannot search the international market for the best price. Usually only four countries [32]—Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom—are singled out as donors breaking away from the concept of tied aid. The Canadian government announced in 2008 [33] it would untie all its aid by 2012, but it is unclear whether it succeeded. Critics saw larger objectives of neoliberalization [34], private sector development [35], and mining [36] in both the Obama and Harper governments’approaches to aid.

The 0.7-per-cent target: the U.S. and Canada are not alone in falling short:
As well, the United Nations’ Millennium Project [37] urged each donor country to contribute 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance. According to the OECD in 2015, the United States continues to be the largest donor [38] by volume with net Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows amounting to $32.7 billion in 2014, an increase of 2.3 percent in real terms compared to 2013. But US ODA as a share of Gross National Income (GNI) remains at 0.19 percent of GNI, despite the promises of different federal governments—Republican and Democrat.

images (1).jpeg

 Similarly in Canada, successive federal governments—Liberal and Conservative—have consistently eroded the official development aid budget until today it is a paltry 0.24 per cent [39] and still declining. The 0.7-per-cent target [40] was originally set by Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson in the 1960s. Famously, U2 lead singer and global poverty activist Bono reminded Prime Minister Paul Martin and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper [41] of that pledge, to no avail.

The United States and Canada are not alone in falling short. Only five countries have achieved the goal: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The sixth, the United Kingdom, met it for the first time last year. A historic debate [42] and vote in Britain’s parliament committed its current and future governments to spend at least 0.7 per cent of its national wealth on development aid, currently around $23 billion Cdn. It joins Belgium, Finland, France and Spain in making a commitment to a timetable to reach the target.

Policy imperatives to reach the proposed sustainable development goals:
As wealthy, resource-rich countries, with the world’s longest coast lines and the world’s most fresh water, Canada and the United States could afford to give much more. Civil society leaders [43] are calling on the United States and Canada to align their development agendas [44] with the proposed sustainable development goals,tackle inequality, integrate environmental concerns into decision-making and take a more holistic approach to development. Thismeans tackling these issues not only abroad but also at home, where we will one day have to answer for child poverty among minority populations in the United States [45] and the poverty endured among First Nationscommunities [46].

To reach the next 15-year goals by 2030, we will need politicians and policy-makers with the courage to keep their promises and we will need to keep watch on whether those promises are delivered. Academics and policy-makers will also need to help develop the post-2015 Development Agenda. The SDGs need to be formulated at multiple levels, from global to local levels. Governments, supported by business and civil society will need to agree on new intergovernmental processes that could undergird the new SDGs.

Global governance in order to achieve global Goals
Concepts that go beyond national boundaries and interests, like global governance, transnationalism and the latest new term ‘metagovernance’ [47] will continue to be useful in terms of develop ing coordinated approaches to designing and managing the SDGs. Traditional hierarchical styles of governance are insufficient because complexproblems require new styles of communication, different contracts, new covenants, open dialogue, trans-boundary marketing and heightened trust. More ethics, pluralism and tolerance in consensus-style democracies must be developed along with decentralized networks and improved policy coherence. People at all levels of government should think beyond their own national traditions and cultures at the same time as they add more layers of complexity to governance. Everyone will need to design more and better solutions that take a global governance perspective. The human species is inexperienced and sometimes fails at designing multilevel institutions. The European Union can be characterized as ‘a supranational instance of multilevel meta-governance governing a wide range of complex and interrelated problems’ that is evidently not flawless [49]. Fundamental issues that have impeded the EU are the slow dissipation of the political will to stay together combined with the threat of a British exit along with the possibility of financial meltdowns stemming from problems with EU-members, like Greece, Italy and Portugal. The EU’s ongoing struggle to cope with the Syrian refugee crisis is more evidence of enormous problems made more severe by lack of momentum and less-than-unified determination. Yet without the EU, all Europeans would struggle much more today with truly insurmountable problems that stem from the global financial meltdown and worldwide refugee crisis. The same is true of the UN—for without the UN, we would have to struggle to reinvent it. Rather than jettison newly-emerging global institutions and methods of global governance, like the EU and the UN, we must develop newer styles of consultation and decision-making [49] that improve global governance outcomes.

This study indicates the SDGs are more aspirational philosophies of development that stem from many different and rather competing objectives than inclusive goals rooted in unified political will and momentum. Nevertheless, the new SDGs represent the world’s aspirations and are global goals worth sharing.

Simpson / OIDA International Journal of Sustainable Development 09:03 (2016)

About the author
Dr. Erika Simpson is a director and past vice-chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group on Science and World Affairs, vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, and an associate professor of international relations in the department of political science at the University of Western Ontario. In 2015 she was awarded the Shirley Farlinger Award for Peace Writings by Canadian Voice of Women.

A different approach to life and learning with our young men

1297835494080_ORIGINALEarlier this month, an 19-year-old volunteer firefighter — and son of the former mayor — in Mayerthorpe, Alta., was charged with setting several grass fires and burning down the town’s wooden CN trestle bridge. Exhausted local firefighters had battled more than a dozen local blazes for days — with the young man now accused of arson, Lawson Schalm, by their side.

Schalm’s father, Albert Schalm, said the family will stand by his son. “I have a non-conditional love for my son, no matter what,” he said. “He will always be welcome in my home. He will always have a plate at the table.”

His father says Schalm is an ordinary, popular teenager with no criminal record and no disciplinary record at school.

“The first thing I’d do is hug him,” said the well-respected mayor, fighting back tears. “Tell him that I love him, that we love him and that when this is all over, and no matter how it goes, that he is always our family.”

Our teenage sons perplex and confound us daily.

The rational part of the brain of a teen — male or female — isn’t fully developed and won’t be until the person is 25 years old or so.

Yet our daughters appear more efficient, organized and mature at younger ages. That may be partly so because girls’ prefrontal cortexes are generally more active than boys’ and develop at earlier ages. For this reason, girls tend to make fewer impulsive decisions than boys do.

Girls have, in general, stronger neural connectors in their temporal lobes than boys have. The connectors lead to better listening skills and more sensually detailed memory storage — which brings about, among other things, greater use of detail in writing assignments.

At university, boys can often seem like laggards, shuffling and confused; on the other hand, young males tend to do better than females at abstract and physical-spatial functions, such as watching and manipulating objects that move through physical space and understanding abstract mechanical concepts.

If young adults are given five more years of schooling beyond Grade 12, however, the young men seem to realize in their early to mid-20s that they are expected to be strong providers responsible for raising families.

When boys become more like men, they avidly compete for marks, write logical and straight-forward essays and organize their time to research their own cutting-edge ideas. In essence, males evolve by their mid-20s to become much more responsible.

This is an argument to delay putting our boys into university by a couple of years after high school, and then encourage them to choose to complete their first degree in the humanities and social sciences.

Take the pressure off them to go to university at age 18. Learn other languages. Learn about the classics like Aristotle, Descartes, Goethe, Leibniz and Plato. Explore 19th-century English literature, Marcus Aurelius and even the Stoics.

Let them socialize and mingle at university with girls who are a few years younger than they are. Don’t force them as teenagers into colleges to specialize in a trade. Your son can probably fix a basic toilet, but that doesn’t mean plumbing is his future career path.

After teaching a combined total of almost 20,000 students at the University of Cambridge, Carleton University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Toronto, Western University and Uppsala University in Sweden, we know female students are more likely to race toward their finish lines with an eye on the perceived biological imperative of starting their families before age 35. Meanwhile the boys take their place at the starting gate, muddled and limping, almost nonchalantly.

But life is not a game with winners and losers and short finish lines. Boys and girls born in Canada in 2000 are expected to live to be 100. A century from now is a long time. It will pay off well for our society in 2100 if we first equip the next generation of adults with strong backgrounds in what is often called the classics, including ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, art and music.

Like those Renaissance humanists in the 1600s, they should learn methods that are primarily critical or speculative and have a significant historical element — as distinguished from the mainly empirical and technical approaches of business and the natural sciences.

We won’t teach them medieval swordplay — which is what they avidly watch these days on Game of Thrones — but we will teach them about grammar, logic, metaphysics and moral philosophy.

And learning to think better in egalitarian terms will prepare them much better for taking distinguished places as ethical and independent-minded members of our democratic society.

Prof. Henrik Lagerlund is chair of the department of philosophy and a member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy at Western University. He has four children, including two sons.

Associate Prof. Erika Simpson teaches in the department of political science at Western. She is raising two teenagers, including a son.

Arms length with tyrants

arms length with tyrants

Beheading, stoning and flogging are all acceptable forms of criminal punishment in Saudi Arabia. Homosexual acts are punishable by flogging, imprisonment and even death, as is drug use. Courts can impose sentences of up to 2,500 lashes, and thousands of people have received unfair trials and been subject to arbitrary detention. The country’s anti-terrorism regulations are used to criminalize almost any form of peaceful criticism of the authorities, and dozens of human rights defenders are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities and demanding reform.

General Dynamics Land Systems Canada and its predecessor in London have sold light-armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia since the 1990s, with more than 1,000 delivered in the early 1990s and 700 in 2009. Its latest deal with the kingdom promises to sustain 2,100 jobs in London and 900 jobs spread over its Canadian supply chain.

The LAVs are some of the best multi-role wheeled military vehicles in the world, and Saudi Arabia’s geography and road network are challenging, so the Saudis will get all the benefits of the vehicles’ low maintenance, high performance and flexibility with fewer rollovers, stuck vehicles and other terrain issues.

With this major contract, announced in February 2014, Canada beat out competition from France and Germany — so if we had not won the contract, presumably the Saudi government would have bought similar systems from the Europeans.

But since then, in February of this year, the European Parliament voted by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to the Saudi kingdom, citing the disastrous humanitarian situation as a result of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen. Saudia Arabia began bombing in Yemen in March 2015 to support the Yemeni president, who is under threat from forces aligned with Iran

According to Michael Byers, a professor who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at UBC, Saudi actions in Yemen are possible war crimes and crimes against humanity and, because the prohibition on targeting civilians in a widespread and systematic manner has the same legal weight as the prohibition on genocide, “the contract with Saudi Arabia is void.”

Selling Canadian equipment for Saudi cash means Canada will help prop up the Saudi government until 2028 — the end of this 14-year deal. It is a long time to stick-handle questions about Saudi Arabia’s terrible human rights record and foreign interventions. London Mayor Matt Brown and city manager Art Zuidema garnered front-page headlines in London this month when it was revealed they had directed 14 city councillors not to speak publicly about the arms deal. Councillors were told to refer media interview requests to a city hall spokesperson who would give a corporate response. The memo raises questions about muddied waters at the federal, provincial and local levels, as well as city councillors’ autonomy.

Originally approved under the Conservative government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, the $10- to $13-billion deal had the official backing of the Liberals during the election campaign.

Despite insisting in public that their hands were tied over the controversial accord, it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion who signed off on most of the export permits. A key element of the export permits is a human rights assessment to determine that a deal would not contravene Canada’s export control policies.

“Based on the information provided, we do not believe that the proposed exports would be used to violate human rights in Saudi Arabia,” says a recently leaked internal document. Such bald assertions have raised more questions than answers about whether the new Canadian government sets high standards for weapons exports in public and bends them in private.

Long cited as a very serious human rights abuser by organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia executed 158 people last year. The only country in the world to carry out the death penalty by beheading, Saudi Arabia shocked the world in January by executing 47 people in a single day, including a Shi’a Muslim cleric. The recent arrest of prominent human rights defender Samar Badawi is another example of Saudi Arabia’s flagrant contempt for its human rights obligations.

Even if Canada cancels the controversial sale, Saudi Arabia will continue to brazenly flout its international obligations and display a callous disregard for rights to freedom of expression and association.

Beyond human rights, Saudi Arabia also disappointed the entire international community this week and sent crude prices tumbling further when it scuttled a proposed oil production freeze. Due to its short-sighted battle with Iran to dominate global market share, western Canadians, Russians and Venezuelans continue to suffer unprecedented job losses.

To deal with their deteriorating relationship, U.S. President Barack Obama went to Riyadh Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials. The Americans also must contend with a bombshell report in mid-April that Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell off up to US$750 billion of American assets if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Soon more people and countries could be caught up in the shadowy underworld surrounding Saudi Arabia. While it is true some arms dealers sell their wares to shady customers for quick cash, reputable dealers soon realize it’s better business to avoid dishonourable customers.

Associate Prof. Erika Simpson of the department of political science at Western University is the vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, and a director of the Canadian Pugwash Group, the national affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences of Science and Global Affairs. Longer variations of this column were published earlier this month by Peace Magazine and MPC Journal.

By Erika Simpson, Special to Postmedia Network

Friday, April 22, 2016 6:40:56 EDT PM

The real nuclear powers are making no progress in disarmament


On Feb. 7, North Korea fired a long-range rocket, which critics say is a test of banned missile technology, and announced it had conducted a nuclear test of its first hydrogen bomb on Jan. 6.

The Great Powers are pointing accusatory fingers at Pyongyang, but they should point fingers back at themselves. Though the global total has been cut to 15,850 nuclear weapons, 95 per cent of the world’s nuclear arsenal belongs to the U.S. and Russia.

The U.S. and Russia still retain more than 5,000 nuclear weapons on alert, ready to launch in minutes, and now China may be contemplating putting its smaller nuclear arsenal on hair-trigger alert, too.

People no longer hear much about the revived Cold War and the dangerously pre-emptive doctrines of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Instead, the focus is on criminal elements in Russia bent on stealing plutonium, rogue states like North Korea and Libya, and terrorists in al-Qaida or ISIL intent on purchasing nuclear weapons on the black market.

Yet the sheer enormity of the size and cost of the arsenals belonging to the former superpowers simply defies human comprehension. And their modernization programs will ensure that nuclear weapons, costing more than $100 billion a year, are retained for the rest of the 21st century.

There needs to be much more vigorous progress on Russian and American arms control and disarmament.

The Russians are considering deploying nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, its enclave close to the Baltic countries. Meanwhile, the Germans are wondering whether to agree to the U.S. proposal to modernize the B-61 bomber that carries NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons.

London’s ruling Conservative party and Edinburgh’s Scottish National Party disagree about the modernization of the U.K.’s Trident nuclear submarines. France has rejoined NATO but its independent nuclear arsenal seems to reassure only Parisians.

Yet another option, which relies less on state-level change and more on parliamentary bodies, is to call for members of parliaments and legislatures around the world to support a nuclear weapons convention, which would be a global treaty to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in a way similar to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention.

In Canada, more than 800 members of the Order of Canada, including most recently former prime minister Jean Chretien, have endorsed the idea of a nuclear weapons convention and a motion was unanimously passed both the Senate and House of Commons n 2010 under the Harper government.

We should also support the further building of a worldwide network called Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (led by co-president Paul Dewar, a former NDP MP) to support the newly-formed Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament at the UN.

The working group held its first formal meetings in Geneva on Feb. 22-26 at the long-stalled UN Conference for Disarmament.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference ostensibly failed last May because of a dispute over holding a conference on the Middle East, but there is hope the fledgling working group will make painstaking progress.

With assistance from the International Campaign to Ban Nuclear Weapons, many of these groups and their representatives are working on constructing a treaty banning nuclear weapons, even though such a ban would not be legally binding on the nuclear states. Developing a legal ban, even without the participation of the nuclear weapon states, would strengthen the global norm against nuclear weapons.

Stigmatizing nuclear weapons states might incite more countries to sign the Humanitarian Pledge, which commits countries to work toward a ban on nuclear weapons. Already 123 nations — but not NATO allies — have signed it and it could lead to more active negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention.

Agreeing on a nuclear ban seems a lofty goal, far into the next century, but lofty goals like ending slavery, colonialism, and apartheid once seemed unobtainable, too.

In the last century, it seemed impossible that independence would come to India in 1948 through the rise of a non-violence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King spearheaded the civil rights movement but never saw civil rights legislation passed in the U.S. in 1964. The Cold War generation failed to predict the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the bipolar system. Nelson Mandela never expected, after 27 years of imprisonment that he would see apartheid in South Africa give way in 1993.

In this century, we must push toward a global ban of all nuclear weapons.

Associate Prof. Erika Simpson of the department of political science at Western University, is vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research Association and a director of the Canadian Pugwash Group, the national affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences of Science and Global Affairs. Recently she was awarded the Shirley Farlinger Award for Peace Writings by Canadian Voice of Women, an NGO with consultative status at the UN. These views are her own and not the views of these organizations.

By Erika Simpson, Special to Postmedia Network

Friday, March 4, 2016 4:18:46 EST PM

Waste not, want not.

1297809085949_ORIGINALEnvironment Minister Catherine McKenna has dealt a setback to Ontario Power Generation’s plan for a nuclear waste burial site on the shores of Lake Huron. In a letter to interested parties last week,

McKenna delayed a decision on whether to approve the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and set a short April 18 deadline for OPG to furnish a timeframe within which it could provide an updated list of commitments to mitigate potential damage from the site.

Furthermore, she stated she will seek a further extension for the review from cabinet at a later date. We are probably in for long delays.

The public hearings on the issue ended in October 2014 after many months of debate. A three-member federal panel appointed jointly by the previous government and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approved the controversial project in May 2015, but now McKenna is requesting OPG provide additional information on alternative locations, cumulative environmental effects and an updated list of mitigation commitments for each identified adverse effect under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Alternative locations were not identified from the outset due in part to the surrounding communities’ dependence on the Bruce nuclear plant for employment. A 21-page DGR hosting agreement between OPG and Kincardine in 2004 arranged for more than $35 million to be paid by OPG to Kincardine and adjacent municipalities so long as they supported the licensing application.

Now that OPG must identify alternative locations, the risks is future funding for the Kincardine area could dry up, with OPG needing to entice other municipalities, assuming any can be found.

More money and some jobs would be offset by the stigma inevitably attached to radioactivity and by the risks involved, including accidents, radioactive leaks to underground water systems, and radioactive emissions to the air.

Recent accidents at nuclear waste dumps in Germany, New Mexico and France are deeply concerning. It is difficult to credibly predict cumulative environmental effects should a radioactive incident occur underground and for this reason, environmental non-governmental organizations usually insist that radioactive wastes be stored above ground in facilities where the waste can be monitored and retrieved.

According to testimony by retired OPG scientist Frank Greening and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear in the U.S. during the public hearings, the waste planned for Bruce is not heat-generating but zirconium would be mixed with it and if ignited by an intentional or unintentional spark, explosions and fires could drive underground radioactivity into the biosphere.

Another wide concern is that if the DGR were permitted, OPG would seek a licence to expand and use it for high-level waste. This is irradiated nuclear fuel, which is heat-generating and emits high levels of radiation.

McKenna’s Feb. 18 announcement also said OPG must address the cumulative impact of locating sites for all types of wastes so close together. As it is, three municipalities near Bruce have also volunteered to host Canada’s high-level radioactive waste in a DGR; their applications are now deep into the consideration process.

Used nuclear fuel is currently stored above ground at Bruce, Darlington and Pickering nuclear power stations. What to do with them is a real problem for OPG and future generations.

It would be smart to take these serious nuclear headaches into account when deciding future electricity options, but successive Ontario governments have not done so yet. The Wynne government announced in January a $9-billion project to refurbish Darlington’s four Candu units and approved the continued operation of the Pickering plant to 2024.

The dangers of transporting nuclear fuel and other forms of nuclear waste to Lake Huron by boat, train or truck are also difficult to predict. OPG claims to have a perfect safety record over the last four decades in terms of transporting the waste.

The panel reported the decommissioned waste from Darlington and Pickering would need to be moved to Bruce as these reactors are phased out, probably doubling the DGR’s inventory to 400,000 cubic metres.

The panel refused to address the question of whether the waste site would be expanded to take in high-level nuclear waste. McKenna now demands OPG address the issue.

If Ottawa does agree to host one large nuclear waste site, there would be enormous financial consequences. The U.S. estimated it would cost nearly $100 billion to construct and operate a depository in Yucca Mountain and the location has been shelved. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited estimated the cost of one site in Canada would be more than $13 billion, about the same as Canada’s annual defence budget.

There are no straightforward answers. Given the dangers of radioactive waste, McKenna should invoke the precautionary principle which is enshrined in environmental laws worldwide. It states projects should not be undertaken if they might have serious adverse consequences, even if we don’t know whether these consequences will happen.

The next step would be to stop making more nuclear waste. Many countries, such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Malaysia, New Zealand and Norway, are opposed to nuclear power. Quebec as well as Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland are phasing their plants out. It’s time Canada joined them.

Ian Fairlie is a U.K.-based Canadian consultant on radiation risks and former scientific secretary to Britain’s Committee Examining the Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters. His doctorate concerned the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel and he has studied radioactive releases at nuclear facilities since the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

Erika Simpson is a director and past vice-chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group on Science and World Affairs, vice-president of the Canadian Peace Research Association, and an associate professor of international relations at Western University.

By Erika Simpson, Special to Postmedia Network