conscience canada: "work for peace, stop paying for war"

Last night we attended a fundraising dinner for the War Resisters Support Campaign. It was held at the Quaker house in Toronto, a lovely, warm home full of committed people of peace. There was great food, excellent music performed by Evalyn Parry, and the event raised enough money to cover a small hurdle of legal expenses. In general it was a big success.

I love being around peace-movement people, feeling a part of the community of people committed to social justice. Among those at our table, there were two Vietnam-era war resisters, a Quaker activist and one of the founders of Conscience Canada. I didn't know about Conscience Canada, and learning about the group was the personal highlight of the evening for me.

Conscience Canada is a war tax resistance group. This statement is from their website:
For many of us it is not enough to avoid personal military service because we know that funds taken from us in the form of tax will be used for war and other violent purposes. In other words, we know that we will be made complicit in war through our taxes no matter what our beliefs and values might be.

As Conscientious Objectors we want to know that all funds that we turn over to government will be used only for peaceful purposes. We therefore call ourselves Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation (COMT).

Conscience Canada has worked since 1978:

* to promote a change in law to allow all Canadians the right to conscientiously object to military taxation as a right of conscience guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
* to educate Canadians about freedom of conscience and conscientious objection to military taxation;
* to support conscientious objection to military taxation; and
* to defend freedom of conscience.

The idea is not to pay less taxes. It's that a portion of one's personal income tax, equivalent to the percentage Canada now spends on the military, to be set aside into a special fund.

We watched a 10-minute video about the project, which explains the entire project far better than I can do here. You can watch it online here.

We also had an opportunity to chat with a founding member, and to hear about her experience as a military-tax resister. She spent a lot of time writing letters, explaining herself, in order not to have her income frozen, and she regarded those letters as opportunities for public education. (What do I always say? Each one, reach one.)

One Canada Revenue Agency representative she spoke with listened patiently, then said, "What an interesting idea. It makes sense. I'll speak to my supervisor about it."

Eventually Bruna decided to pay her withheld taxes, but she didn't feel her years of trying to withhold them were wasted. She saw it as part of the process. (What does Gandhi say? You can never know the results of your actions. If you take no action, there will be no result.)

Conscience Canada also supports and encourages Canadians to take the symbolic step of signing a statement of paying a portion of one's taxes under protest.
Option A: Declaration of Conscience only
* I am a conscientious objector to paying taxes for war.
* I claim the right of conscience under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to insist that none of my taxes be used in the preparation for, or execution of, war. Nonetheless I believe in paying all my taxes.
* I object to having my taxes conscripted to pay for capital-intensive modern warfare.
* I request that legislation be enacted to create a government controlled Peace Fund, to be used only for peaceful purposes, into which all my taxes may be deposited.
* I believe that non-military peace building initiatives are more effective and more cost-efficient, and will not offend my conscience.
* Please recognize my human right to exercise my conscientious objection to war by ensuring that none of my taxes are used for military purposes.

I'm extremely intrigued by this idea. It was something I thought about it the US, but never seriously investigated. In the US, the movement has been spearheaded by the War Resisters League (founded by women opposed to World War I); information about US war-tax resistance here.

Now I'm wondering if military tax resistance is in my future. But I have a while to think about it, since I wouldn't try it until I attain citizenship. (CIC, could you please finish reading my blog and process my application already?)

If you are curious about this idea and what's been done so far, take 10 minutes and watch the video.

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