TORONTO, Aug. 1, 2006 – As your federal cabinet’s operations committee meets today to discuss Canada’s response to the escalating conflict in the Middle East, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) asks the Canadian government to urgently push for an immediate ceasefire.
Prime Minister, your 2006 election platform promised to “ensure that Canada’s foreign policy reflects true Canadian values and advocates for Canada’s national interests.” As the professional association representing Ontario’s registered nurses, we remind you that, historically, the true Canadian values by which we have earned the international community’s trust are our commitments to diplomacy and peacekeeping.
As a strong supporter of the United Nations, peacekeeping, and international law, Canada has been a force for peace, security, and social justice in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Indeed, former Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 by playing a major role in the Middle East crisis and forging the creation of a neutral United Nations force to maintain peace in the region, thereby placing Canada at the forefront of peacekeeping nations.
We urge you to return to our roots and to our most valued global role. We ask you to revitalize Canada’s commitment to cultivating an international culture of peace and security through a renewed commitment to our traditional role in peacekeeping. The work of professional peacekeeping forces – who protect the most vulnerable civilians caught in the midst of armed conflict – embodies our true Canadian values. Actively working to build and support peaceful resolutions to global conflicts immediately helps those suffering from armed conflict, and helps to make Canada safer by tackling root causes that cause terrorism.
We also ask you to specifically support, on behalf of Canadians, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s proposal for an immediate truce in the current Middle East violence. We are deeply concerned about the loss of civilian lives on all sides of the conflict as well as the massive displacement causing a new humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, Israeli fire has killed up to 750 Lebanese and 800,000 people have been displaced from their homes. On the Israeli side, over 50 people have died and 300,000 people have been displaced by Hezbollah rockets. Tens of thousands in Gaza are struggling to survive without access to food, water, and medical care due to this conflict. The United Nations has called for a humanitarian truce to put an end to the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands affected by the conflict. Robust diplomatic and peacemaking interventions are required immediately so that the crisis does not escalate into further disaster. Durable, peaceful solutions must be found in the meanwhile; vulnerable civilians and their infrastructure must be protected from this escalating violence.
As registered nurses, we are acutely aware that there is no health determinant as fundamental as peace itself. Canada needs to use its credible voice in the international community to safeguard civilians from harm, as all parties to the conflict are under obligation to do under the Geneva Convention. Prime Minister, we ask you to ensure that Canada strongly advocates for a successful resolution to this conflict – one that will acknowledge each society’s basic human right to live in peace, secure in knowing that they are safe from the threat of attack.