Letter to the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, from the Chairman of the CCCB's Social Affairs Commission, Archbishop James Weisgerber, Demanding that Canada End Economic Sanctions against Iraq

Tuesday, August 08 2000

The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G2
Dear Mr. Axworthy:
I write to you concerning the tenth anniversary (August 6) of the imposition of sanctions against Iraq, in order to join the voice of the Canadian bishops to the growing chorus of opinion in Canada that demands an immediate end to the horrendous economic embargo against that country’s vulnerable population.
Firm coordinated international action does have a place in the defence of human rights and as a means to impede aggression among states, but targeting the innocent as a strategy of war is specifically prohibited by the Geneva conventions. The stated original intention of sanctions was to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. We recall that in March 1991 this goal was achieved.
A former coordinator of the United Nations mission in Iraq now refers to the UN sponsored embargo as promoting a “genocide” which is responsible for the deaths of between 4,000 – 5,000 children each month. Several Canadian delegations and local Church sources have told of the incredible and unnecessary hardship that this policy causes. The education and health systems are in ruins, one in every four children is chronically malnourished and the greatest cause of sickness and death lie in the fact that, after the massive bombing campaign and current lack of resources to repair and maintain infrastructure, only 41 per cent of the population can count on access to clean water.
Without wishing in any way to defend the pernicious actions of the Iraqi leadership, who must bear responsibility for their past actions which have harmed their own people, we believe that the time to end this overwhelming economic embargo has long passed. We ask that you respond quickly and favourably to the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, tabled on April 12, 2000. We also request your forceful action to stop the ongoing problem of the US-led bombing in the north and south of Iraq, as well as your commitment to address the problem of the tons of depleted uranium waste left by the armies of the alliance during the war.
On this anniversary, our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffer and cry out for change in Iraq, change that would mean enhanced human rights and political freedoms as well as economic and social conditions. The best way for us to respond to their call is to end this devastating embargo, as we ask for Canadian leadership on this pressing international problem.
Sincerely yours,
+  Most Reverend V. James Weisgerber
Archbishop of Winnipeg
Chairman, Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops