Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin survived a razor-thin vote of confidence on May 17 when the House of Commons voted 152-152, putting his minority government in peril. It survived by a single vote when the Parliament speaker gave the minority government its one-vote victory.
A few months earlier, Canadian citizens opposed to a secret National Missile Defense (NMD) agreement between Martin and President George Bush, forced Martin to reverse the agreement contributing to the crisis in his government.
After the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution in 2002, “Endorsing the Space Preservation Act and Companion Space Preservation Treaty to Permanently Ban the Weaponization of Space,” the resolution swept through cities in Canada and helped gather thousands of signatures opposing Canada joining NMD. When citizens appeared in the Canadian Parliament with piles of paper covered with thousands of signatures, Martin was forced to reverse his secret agreement with Bush and the Canadian government rejected NMD.
For several years I had wanted to thank the mayor of Bowen Island, the first municipality in the world to adopt the Berkeley resolution. In the summer of 2002, with the help of Vancouver lawyer Alfred Webre Jr., we created the space preservation resolution, which was introduced by Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring, and passed by the Berkeley City Council on Sept. 10, 2002.
The resolution was in part a response to the bill and the “definitions” of weapons intended for space as described in HR 2977, the “Space Preservation Act of 2001,” introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, which included the following:
• Inflicting death or injury on, or damaging or destroying, a person (or the biological life, bodily health, mental health, or physical and economic well-being of a person).
• Directing a source of energy (including molecular or atomic energy, subatomic particle beams, electromagnetic radiation, plasma, or extremely low frequency (ELF) or ultra low frequency (ULF) energy radiation) against that object [individual or targeted populations].
• Through the use of land-based, sea-based, or space-based systems using radiation, electromagnetic, psychotronic, sonic, laser, or other energies directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of information war, mood management, or mind control of such persons or populations.
I suggested at the time that it seemed impossible that these weapons were even possible, but Kucinich, a member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, assured me that these weapons exist and “those people who control them are deadly serious and intend to use them if we don’t stop the weaponization of space.”
In early April I was traveling to Vancouver to meet with Lisa Barrett, mayor of Bowen Island. Martin’s Liberal Party government was embroiled in a corruption scandal. The opposition insisted he no longer had enough support to govern, which threatened a government crisis. I was unaware of the impact the Berkeley resolution had on the Canadian decision to reject NMD, and how it tied into the minority government crisis. But a few days later during my visit to Bowen Island, I discovered just what role the Berkeley resolution had played in Canadian Foreign Policy.
On April 10, Webre Jr., his wife Geri, and I traveled from Vancouver to meet Barrett. Bowen Island is a town much like Berkeley, with an interesting mixture of writers, artists, musicians, lots of bicycles, and a progressive flavor to the political landscape. We met in an art gallery where a local artist was having an exhibit, and together we nibbled on the artist’s homemade gingerbread cookies while mingling with citizens and artists. I even talked physics with another city councilmember.
Barrett was very pleased to hear that Berkeley had adopted the Kyoto Protocol. She pointed out that even though the Canadian government had already signed on, it was still necessary that locally, towns like Bowan Island, must also make efforts to meet the standards. She said it was important for cities like Berkeley to act when the United States government refuses to sign the Kyoto protocol.
It was energizing to realize that citizens of Canada and the United States can work together. We can learn from each other by implementing and sharing our ideas on issues such as energy choices, divesting pension funds from weapons manufacturers, stopping the U.S. Navy from shooting depleted uranium weaponry in United States and Canadian coastal waters, and sharing information about the spider web relationships between United States and Canadian corporations.
Barrett told us that the U.S. Navy is shooting depleted uranium weapons into the waters around Nanaimo, poisoning their fisheries just as they did around Seattle and in California. Lockheed Martin Marietta has bought a controlling interest in the ferry systems of British Columbia, privatizing an essential public transportation system—and raising the cost of the services.
The next day, Afred and I were interviewed on CO-OP radio CFRO 102.7 FM in Vancouver with Gail Davidson, co-founder of Lawyers Against War. We discussed the extent of Canadian government pension fund investments in United States weapons manufacturers and the Carlyle Group. Gail explained the extent of pension fund investments in United States corporations and weapons manufacturers by the British Columbia pension fund, called the British Columbia Investment Management Corp. (BCIMC), and Vancouver City pension funds.
As of March 2004, investments were estimated to be $4.6 billion in 251 companies that provide goods and services to the US Department of Defense or are otherwise involved in military production. Missiles (17 kinds), bombs (16 types), and bullets (300-500 million per year by SNC-Lavalin alone) are produced for the U.S. armed forces by Canadian corporations.
Vancouver antiwar activists wrote in an April 26 letter to New Democratic Party leader Carole James, “What this means is that every nurse, physiotherapist, floor cleaner, and pharmacist in every hospital in the B.C. health care system, every kindergarten teacher, college instructor and university professor, every city worker, garbage collector, computer programmer, firefighter, ferry worker, B.C. transit driver, ICBC employee, B.C. Hydro worker—in fact, virtually every municipal and provincial public sector employee—is involuntarily supporting the U.S. invasion and occupation, because of decisions taken behind closed doors by the BCIMC.”
U.S. war crimes and the use of illegal weapons such as depleted uranium was also a top concern. Gail described how she had filed a lawsuit against Bush in a Vancouver court. This action discouraged and impacted his visit to Canada, and he did not visit the Canadian Parliament nor make any public appearances except in a small town in eastern Canada—for a photo op with the media. She was a party to a second lawsuit filed in Germany charging Rumsfeld with war crimes, preventing Rumsfeld from visiting Europe in February 2005 with Bush and Rice.
This trip to Canada made me realize that the need for citizen oversight and participation in local government is greater than ever before. Many things that we see happening locally such as election fraud are actually broader trends, the result of global corporatization and militarization.
The vast looting of pension funds began about eight years ago and will continue until we stop it. Enron was just the beginning and CalPERS, the California state government workers pension fund, is in the crosshairs now for privatization and looting. The extent of pension fund investment in the U.S. military industrial complex is shocking. We are actually unknowingly supporting and benefiting from wars we oppose.
Divesting from weapons of death takes the profit out of war. Subtle implementation of police state policies—such as RFID tags in the Berkeley library—must be stopped. There are many things that can be done locally and through “cross fertilization” of ideas across borders. We are the only ones who can make this happen. And it can start with something as simple as a Berkeley resolution, Canadian paper ballots, and a determined citizen lawyer.
Leuren Moret is a member of Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission.›