CCCB Letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien Regarding the Iraq Situation

Thursday, February 12 1998

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

We were surprised by the rapidity with which the House of Commons debated the question of Canada providing military support to the American administration in an armed confrontation with Iraq. Even more amazing was the immediate decision of your Cabinet to support and participate in this military strategy.

Equally astonishing was the almost unanimous adherence of Canada’s political parties to the American position. Does the Government of Canada not have access to other sources of information that would enable it to analyse and weigh this question differently? Other governments, particularly in Europe, do not share the American opinion that international diplomatic measures are incapable of assuring the implementation of United Nations resolutions.

For ourselves, we make our own the words of His Holiness Pope John Paul II last Sunday, in referring to the crisis in Iraq: “I am convinced that the parties involved still have the possibility of coming to an agreement and of reaffirming the principles which peacefully regulate international coexistence. The very situation which exists in Iraq and in the entire Middle East region teaches us that armed conflicts never solve anything, but create greater misunderstandings among peoples.”

When one considers the drama of innocent victims who will be afflicted by an armed conflict, as well as the social and economic costs that will be involved, it is clear that everything must be done to continue diplomatic efforts and search for an acceptable compromise.

As you yourself know, many heads of state have expressed their opposition to the military strategy being adopted by the Governments of the United States and Great Britain. The aggressive pursuit of such policies may well pose difficulties, especially in terms of negotiations by countries attempting to find diplomatic and peaceful solutions.

We reiterate our opposition to Canada participating in these eventual military operations. Accordingly, we ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, to continue collaborating with those working through diplomatic means to implement the resolutions adopted by the United Nations.

From our point of view, this is what is expected of governments as part of the international community. In this way, Canada will continue to be a true peacemaker, intent on rendering the United Nations more effective.

Sincerely in Our Lord,

+ François Thibodeau, CJM
Bishop of Edmundston
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

cc Mr. Preston Manning, Leader of the Opposition
M. Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc québécois
Mr. Jean Charest, Leader of the Progressive
Conservative Party
Ms. Alexa McDonough, Leader of the New Democratic

[CCCB translation]