The idea is nothing new

Your editorial callsAtamanenko’s private member bill “not a very good idea.” I beg to differ.

Re: “Why pay for the military?” December 2

Your editorial calls Alex Atamanenko’s private member bill giving Canadians the option to redirect military taxes towards peace education and research “not a very good idea.” I beg to differ.

Canada has respected conscientious objection to military service on religious grounds since 1793. During times of military conscription, our government respected the right of conscientious objectors to refuse to kill and exempted them from military service.

There are also Canadian precedents for recognizing conscientious objections to paying for the military. For example, in 1841, objectors to militia tax were allowed to redirect these taxes to public works. In both world wars, objectors to war bonds were allowed to buy a special series of government bonds (peace bonds) whose proceeds were used only for the relief of suffering caused by war.

In all these cases, provisions for objectors in Canadian law have not led to a flood of other groups requesting similar treatment.

Since modern wars are hugely dependent on tax monies, personal refusal to fight is not enough to absolve us from the responsibility of killing.

In fact, in 1981, Senator Eugene Forsey and six other MPs said, “In times of military conscription, exemption from service in the military can be claimed on grounds of conscience, and alternate service is approved. It should be equally possible to claim exemption from taxes intended for war preparation and a related alternative should be offered.” Our Charter of Rights enshrined freedom of conscience based on secular morality as well as religion the following year.

Each year since, a private member’s objectors bill such as Alex’s has been introduced to Parliament to ask the government to respect Freedom of Conscience and Religion and provide a legal alternative for those who are conscientiously opposed to killing and war.

Until a conscientious objector bill is passed into legislation, Conscience Canada provides a positive alternative. For some years now I have diverted the military portion of my taxes into Conscience Canada’s Peace Tax Fund. I encourage you to do so too. More information, including an informational DVD as well as 2012 Peace Tax Return, is available at consciencecanada.ca.

Irene Mock

Nelson