Two new solitudes – Part 1

What used to be a divide between French and English Canada now seems to be between “Neo-Conservative” and “Progressive” Canada.

There was a time when we talked about the “two solitudes” in Canada, referring to a divide between French and English Canada.  Although differences still exist between our two founding cultures, they are now more often celebrated than not.

Over the past few years, however, I have seen “two new solitudes” emerge.  Let’s call them “Neo-Conservative” and “Progressive.” Though we may speak the same language, we really do not understand each other.  I notice this in the House of Commons, particularly.  There are major differences in how these two new solitudes perceive the world and I would like to discuss these over my next two columns.

One solitude sees for Canada a role on the world stage that is a significant shift from the values that our country has traditionally represented. The current Conservative government wants Canada to become a proud military nation that makes major contributions to war efforts in areas such as Afghanistan and Libya. This focus means that our military must be equipped and trained to engage in more combat missions throughout the world, usually at the side of the US in NATO-led missions. The latest military technology, like the F-35 first strike jets, needs to be in place to fit into this version.

The other solitude believes that Canada has lost its leadership role in world peacekeeping and that we should return to our role of working within the United Nations and concentrate on making defence a priority for our armed forces.

This change would require that Canada leave Afghanistan and decline other missions with NATO, an organization originally set up in 1949 to protect Europe from communist aggression.  Canada should play a greater role as a broker in peaceful settlements in the Middle East, Africa and other areas of conflict.

Military purchases should provide the equipment to get the job done and keep our troops, and civilians, safe.

This past November I introduced a Private Member’s bill to create a federal Department of Peace. Bill C-373 passed first reading in the House of Commons on November 30, 2011.

The work of a Department of Peace would be to strengthen non-military means of peace-making by developing policies and programs that promote national and international conflict prevention, non-violent intervention, mediation and peaceful conflict resolution.

Bill C-373 outlines wide-ranging objectives for a Department of Peace that would tackles domestic and international responsibilities in the areas of human security and education.

The notion that there can be peace in the world may be a utopian ideal but each generation owes it to the next to make a dedicated attempt to get as close to it as humanly possible.

Alex Atamanenko is the MP for

BC Southern Interior