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Why CUPE should take a position on war with Iraq

CUPE is a union with a social conscience. We have a long history of speaking out on the issues of the day, going back to Grace Hartman who was a leader in the peace movement. Today, people in Canada are marching and calling for peace and CUPE is being asked to take a stand.

At CUPE’s last national convention, delegates passed a resolution called “Peace and Security Against Terrorism”. The resolution called on CUPE to “join with churches, student groups, peace groups, aid organizations, the NDP and other trade unions in opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan or any other country and urge the Canadian government to uphold international law as the most effective way to pursue justice.”

CUPE opposes war with Iraq


War is not in the interest of workers or citizens – in Canada or Iraq. War destroys economies and communities. War takes funding away from human services like health care, education, housing and public utilities. A military attack will hurt women, children, and men in Iraq where a humanitarian crisis is already underway. During war, women, particularly, are always the direct and innocent victims of violence, dislocation, and rape. Women pay a heavy price for war.

In CUPE, we work to build public infrastructure and public services. Public infrastructure in Iraq – hospitals, schools, water and sewage treatment facilities, and the electricity supply – was destroyed during the Gulf War. It can’t be rebuilt under ongoing sanctions against Iraq, sanctions supported by the Government of Canada. Water borne diseases are an epidemic. Because of the sanctions, people don’t have food or medicine or basic supplies for living.

The result: In the last 11 years, an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi people have died as a result of war and sanctions. According to UNICEF, 500,000 of those were children under the age of 5, and 25% of Iraqi children are suffering from malnutrition right now. Nearly half the population of Iraq is under 14 years old.

The women and men who have dedicated their lives to service in Canada’s military should not be used to fight an unjust war. We support the important role that Canada’s military has traditionally played as peacekeepers in the world. We call on our government to assert Canada’s sovereignty, and strive for an independent foreign policy, including an independent defence policy.

It is unacceptable that governments will quickly find the billions of dollars needed for military operations like this, while continuing to cut funding for public services and public infrastructure.

Polls show that the Canadian people do not support an attack on Iraq. Our Prime Minister should speak for the citizens of Canada and oppose war with Iraq.

War is not a solution

CUPE denounces Saddam Hussein, his undemocratic government, and the brutalities he continues to bring on Iraqi people who oppose his regime, in particular the Kurdish people.

The people of Iraq want a new government, but they don’t want to exchange one dictatorship for another. We need to find ways other than war to show our solidarity with their struggle. Because war with Iraq will not be about liberating the Kurdish people, or giving Iraqi people access to the country’s oil wealth. War with Iraq will be about the West gaining unfettered access to Iraq’s vast oil field, second largest in the world. It will be about guaranteeing profits for multinational oil companies.

War is not a legitimate way to change a leader or a government, just as it is not an appropriate way to gain access to Iraq’s oil fields, or a solution to terrorism. Such a war is an unjust war.

We agree with the CLC statement: “War would produce more instability in the whole region, create more hardship for innocent civilians, foster new anger and hatred and breed new conflicts.” Many believe that an attack on Iraq will quickly escalate into a conflict that will go beyond the borders of Iraq.

We agree with the call to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. But stopping the production of weapons of mass destruction is a complicated question. Weapons of mass destruction are a threat to humanity outside of Iraq, too — in the United States, Russia, and in the hands of individual terrorists. Supporting a war on Iraq is not the way to solve the problem.

Instead, we need to actively support the enforcement of international law in every country, the negotiation of effective arms treaties, and the adequate resourcing of international inspection agencies. A global commitment to enforcing human rights, sharing natural resources and redistributing wealth is crucial to building a world without violence, terrorism and war.

Peace is a worker’s issue, and a union issue

During war, workers are the ones on the front line — not political leaders or the board members of transnational corporations who will benefit from a takeover of one of the largest oil supplies in the world. Workers and citizens are the ones whose lives are sacrificed in the battles. War hurts workers and ordinary people and communities because it directs scarce resources away from social programs and public services.

CUPE will:
  • Call on Prime Minister Chrétien and Members of Parliament to oppose an attack on Iraq and use Canada’s influence to achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict;
  • Participate in anti-war actions that promote peace, international law, negotiated solutions to conflict, and citizen participation in decision making about foreign policy;
  • Speak out loudly against racism, anti-Arab, anti-Islam, and anti-Semitic sentiment wherever it appears.
  • Support international organizations and progressive voices in Iraq that are calling for freedom of speech, a free trade union movement, and an economy that is not burdened by economic sanctions.

“Adopted by National Executive Board, December 2002”