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B. Bhaneja: Proposal for a Canadian Department of Peace


Address to the Canadian Leadership Conference and Global Peace Festival

Ottawa, Canada, October 2-5, 2008

In the early part of the twenty-first century, the peoples of the world are experiencing an intolerable level of insecurity and violence on the parts of states and non-state actors. At the same time, there has been a re-energizing of the peace movement and citizen initiatives in seeking innovative, nonviolent and enduring resolution of conflict through peacebuilding activities of many kinds. One of those initiatives is a growing international movement for the creation of departments of peace in all nations. Canada, as a middle power with a long history of peacekeeping and negotiated outcomes to conflict, stands in a unique position to become the first country to proclaim a Department and Minister of Peace.

While Canada has many Departments carrying out peace-related work, this effort is often fragmented and makes key decisions, with sensitive timings, difficult to achieve. Traditional organizational priorities and structures fail to address the need to build a culture of peace and nonviolence at home and abroad consistent with Canada’s signing of the Declaration and Programme of Action for the UN International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence (2001–2010). The present configuration in government is functioning on the margins whereas only a full-fledged Department, with a mission dedicated to peace work, will meet the government’s current and projected needs.

The government’s 2005 International Policy Statement calls for a greatly expanded initiative in human security and peacebuilding:

  • Develop the 3-D (defense-diplomacy-development) approach in conflict and post-conflict situations in which Foreign Affairs, National Defense and the Canadian International Development Agency would work together in "whole-of-government" strategies; these departments would work closely with civil society organizations dedicated to this work.
  • Establish a Stability and Reconstruction Task Force in Foreign Affairs.
  • Establish a $100 million Global Peace and Security Fund to provide assistance to failed and fragile states, as well as resources for post-conflict stabilization and recovery.
  • Expand the work of the Canada Corps in promoting human rights, democracy and good governance.
  • Support the to-be-established UN Peacebuilding Commission and a Peacebuilding Support Office to provide capacity for faster, more efficient peacebuilding operations.

The question then arises that, given this emphasis on integrated peace and security operations, how would such operations be coordinated? The brief presents the argument that only a new department—the Department of Peace—would provide the essential focal point in government and end the highly diffuse nature of peacebuilding at the present time. The Minister would be a voice in Cabinet who could fundamentally alter the nature of debate and decision-making towards a culture of peace and nonviolence both on domestic and foreign issues and would provide the long-range thinking required to address the root causes of violence.

Specifically, the Department of Peace and its Minister would have the following mandate:

  • Reinvigorate Canada’s role as a global peacebuilder and provide for early detection of potential conflict and methods of conflict prevention.
  • Promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights and the security of persons and their communities, consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other related UN treaties, conventions and the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (1999).
  • Promote disarmament, from nuclear weapons to small arms, and strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking.
  • Develop new approaches to non-violent intervention, and utilize constructive dialogue, mediation and the peaceful resolution of conflict at home and abroad.
  • Make annual reports to Cabinet and Parliament on the sale of arms from Canada to other nations, with analysis of the multiple impacts of such sales and how they affect peace.
  • Encourage the development of peace initiatives from civil society including the creation of unarmed civilian peace service, by which NGOs in partnership will be able to expand and further develop their ongoing work in the field of nonviolent conflict prevention and/or management.
  • Implement UN Resolution 1325 on the key role played by women in peace through new policies and programs of women’s involvement in conflict resolution and peace education covering the full spectrum from peacemaking and peacebuilding, to post-conflict reconstruction.
  • Provide, with National Defense, for the training of all Canadian military and civilian personnel who administer post-conflict reconstruction and demobilization in war-torn societies.
  • Fund the development of peace curricula at all educational levels and university-based peace research to build a culture of peace in Canada and globally.


Citizens in 11 countries, including the USA, UK, Japan, and Australia are calling for a Department of Peace. In Canada, groups working for a Department of Peace are established in Ottawa, Victoria, and Vancouver. The proposal is supported by former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Senator Douglas Roche, and endorsed in a resolution by the Council of Canadians.

It is our intention to engage in a vigorous dialogue with all political parties and peace and justice organizations to convince them of the importance and timeliness of this proposal.

For more information, please visit: and www.departmentofpeace/ca.