Is it Still Possible to be Against the War in Quebec and Canada?

After several months of a brutal armed conflict resulting from the illegal war and aggression of the Russian state against the people of Ukraine, it appears that there is only one possible discourse in the public domain in Quebec and Canada. Since March 2022, we have been sold war, more and more military aid and armaments, as the only option. The absence of a counter-discourse is surprising. Is there no alternative to the deafening beat of the Canadian state’s war drums?

Here, as elsewhere, it has often been in the interest of militarists to make the discourse of peace inaudible. Yet it would be criminally unimaginative to believe that there is only one solution to the current conflict. Just as it would be indefensible to argue that there is only one course of action available to Canada as a member of the international community. Is it still possible to discuss the various avenues available?

Like many in Quebec and Canada and around the world, I am horrified every day by the news coming out of Ukraine. I am shocked by the brutality of the crimes committed by the political hierarchies and by the military forces and what the Ukrainian people are enduring, the real victims of this aggression. It is precisely because I am in solidarity with what these people are going through that I am particularly worried about the incessant rise of militaristic discourse by Western governments, not least by the Canadian state.

Urgent Need for Peace

In the current context, no solution to the conflict will be ideal. The fact remains that certain solutions imprison the affected populations in a logic of war more than they free them from it. Each day of war brings its share of death, misery, and suffering. It is therefore urgent to act for peace.

In the 1940s, Saint-Exupéry, who cannot be called a naive pacifist, wrote, “You build what you take care of and nothing more. Even if you take care of it to fight against it. […] And if one wages war to get peace, one builds war.” It is quite possible to be and remain in firm solidarity with the Ukrainian people without adhering to the idea that the only solution to the current conflict lies in sending weapons without further action. It is necessary from now on to be firmly committed to peace, as firmly as we have been engaged until now in a war dynamic.

We must be able to affirm that the way out of this war will necessarily involve negotiated agreements. We cannot hope for a solution through war. No victory on the ground will be truly decisive. Against war, we must work for peace. We must ask our government to support and help the Ukrainian people while acting with the international community to force a cease-fire. Why is it not possible to make the recent grain export agreements a prelude to broader agreements?

Our government acts like it can only act on one front and wait for the belligerents to decide that enough suffering has gone on. The Quebec and Canadian states must talk to allies and to Russia’s allies as well. Quebec and Canada must work to convince them that peace is the only way out and that in the Ukrainian case, peace begins with a cease-fire. Nothing more, but nothing less.

It is also necessary that the Quebec and Canadian media, without ceasing to inform us about the sufferings of the Ukrainian people, allow other voices than those of our politicians and our generals to express themselves. Peace will not be won by military tactics but rather by a strategy of peace. We need to be rebuilding the Quebec and Canadian anti-war movements. •

Charles-Antoine Bachand is professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) where he teaches the foundations of education. His research work focuses on the foundations and practices of citizenship education with an emancipatory aim. He is also active in several climate justice activist groups.