Housing Not War Campaign Clouds Issue

There is a recent trend in homelessness advocacy to target the anti-war sentiments to gain support for the homeless. The TDRC ( Toronto Disaster Relief Committee) among other public advocates have launched a campaign called ” Housing not War”. The basis of the campaign is to stop spending billions on Canada’s war against terrorism in Afghanistan so that the money may be spent for humanitarian needs for housing and other homelessnss initiatives here at home. Even normally well respected advocates like Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse, have joined the campaign and are publishing many anti-war statistics in an effort to heighten public awareness about the need for anti-poverty housing funds. Anti-war rallies and demonstrations are being held under the banner “Housing not War”.

After much reflection, I’d have to say they are on the wrong track. To specifically target Canadian government expenditures on the Afghan war in counterpoint to the issus of homelessness and poverty is short-sighted. It’s marketing grandstanding at it’s worst (or best). Yes, it attracts attention to a much ignored subject here in Canada – the plight of the homeless and under-housed. It garners media attention and raises public awareness, but at a cost. By specifically claiming that homelessness would not exist but for the cost of the war overseas, “Housing not War” is clouding the real issues about homelessness and poverty in Canada. Furthermore, by aligning with dedicated anti-war organizations, the effectiveness of homeless advocacy is diverted.

I have to say that I am opposed to the Afghan conflict and have been since the outset. No war makes sense – it is all morally wrong. I want the troops home now, not 2010 or 2011. For those of us who grew up in the sixties, it’s depressing to see how little we have learned. For those who think the war is defensive, a war on terrorism, or a reasonable response to terrorist attacks, remember that the West (including Canada) is responsible for the Mid-east conflicts through their support of British, French and even American colonialism in the region for more than a hundred years. Check the maps from the Paris 1919 peace talks to see how they carved up the entire Third world and Middle East regions to see the true roots of conflict. Until the West admits their error and commits to reparations for decades of big corporate exploitation, they will continue to breed terrorists. The current conflict guarantees a supply of anti-west sentiments for a century to come. Canada’s traditional role as peacekeeper is permanently damaged. Stop the war now – just don’t tie it in to the suffering of the homeless here at home.

Homelessness and poverty in Canada have existed throughout our history as a country – even in peacetime – it’s current state is a disaster and shameful to all. There is no direct fiscal connection between the Defense Department budget and federal funding of anti-poverty initiatives. There is no lack of general government revenue that could be directed towards helping solve homelessness. To claim otherwise is to ignore the extent of the the problem of poverty in Canada. What is missing is the public will to effect change. Hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds earmarked for housing have not been spent, and are mired in red tape and federal-provincial bickering. Countless other billions are wasted at all government levels through mismanagement and the plain greed of society at large at the expense of the poor.

You could just as easily target many other Federal govrnment expenditures as the Defence budget, or cost of Afganistan. How about the National Gun Registry? – more than a billion dollars to track gun ownership by law abiding Canadians? Less than 2% of registered weapons are involved in a crime.

What the crisis is, is lack of prioritization when it comes to poverty and homelessness. Let’s look at some other government expenditures:

  • Highways and Infrastructure spending
  • Post-secondary Education
  • Arctic Sovereignty
  • CRTC, public broadcasting and the CBC
  • Corporate tax incentives & grants

Feel free to add to the list if you can think of others not as important as children going hungry, a street youth mortality rate 8.5 times greater than yours, the mentally challenged sleeping on sidewalks, seniors and physically disabled living below the poverty line.

Finally, take a look in the mirror – we are products of the consumer era. Canadians’ personal credit card debt is billions and billions. And we take for granted that our “discretionary” spending has skyrocketed in the last fifty years. What we call necessities, like cell phones, iPods, Blackberries and SUVs, are merely disguised luxuries.  Before you call on the defense Department to divert funds from Afghanistan, try diverting more of your own to help the homeless and the helpless.

%d bloggers like this: