I read your recent editorial (“Why pay for the military,” December 2) when it was reprinted in part in the Globe and Mail.
Alex Atamanenko’s private member’s bill proposes that a citizen who is a conscientious objector, and is willing to register as such, will be able to have a portion of her/his taxes placed in a special conscientious objectors’ account. The funds from that account would then be used for any non-military peace building purposes.
First, what is wrong with this idea? Our society (and many others) allows persons who are conscientious objectors to refuse to perform military service. As defined by Wikipedia, a conscientious objector is an “individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service” on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion. Are you against this right? If Canadians have a right to refuse to work for war, why not allow Canadians to not pay for war?
Second, you warn of a “slippery slope” that this proposed option might open. It is very hard for me to imagine how a conscientious objection to tax allocations for support of the elderly, child care, the CBC or health care could be made. Of course it is possible, in a democratic, pluralistic and multicultural society, that there are other tax expenditures against which objections on moral basis can be made, and it would be consistent for Parliament to weigh each on it merits.
Third, I find it hard to understand how turning over prisoners to torture, hiring mercenary corporations, or buying billions of dollars worth of jet fighters is safeguarding my freedom.
Fourth, your jingoistic call to support the government, whatever it does, sounds like the mentality that breeds fascism, totalitarianism and got the world in trouble before. I agree that “…we are in this together.” I also believe that in a democratic society, the rights we enjoy come with a shared responsibility for the actions and programs of our government. I believe, therefore, that my right to dissent from paying for the Afghanistan War, the Libyan War, or any war is also my duty and responsibility as a citizen.
Fifth, your closing cheap shot that Alex should spend his time more productively: I happen to think that proposing a peace tax is a productive use of his time. You don’t. If you had read Hansard, you would learn that on the same day, Alex called for a strengthening of the Criminal Code to increase the penalty for making child pornography from the current 90 day sentence by recognizing it as a form of child abuse. And you would also have learned that even later that same day, Alex spoke very strongly and eloquently against the dismantling of the Wheat Board.
You may not agree with the position he takes, but the reality is that Alex is one of the Canada’s hardest working MPs and we are fortunate to have him working for us.