Canadian Auto Workers Statement on Canada's Role in Yugoslavia

The following statement was unanimously adopted by the CAW's NEB on March 31:

The bombing and air attacks on Yugoslavia by hundreds of NATO aircraft should be a major concern for all Canadians.

There are protests in Canadian cities over this issue as worried relatives and concerned Canadians react to the images and stories brought to us hourly from this war zone.

With Canadian aircraft and military personnel taking part in this NATO assault and a recent announcement of even more fighter jets committed, Canada is deeply involved in a painful and troubling chapter of Yugoslavian history.

The NATO arsenal being pointed at Yugoslavia is an overwhelming force of cruise missiles, bombers and fighter aircraft that are pounding 'strategic' sites everyday. Canadian planes and personnel are a small, but key and highly visible, part of this NATO assault – a far cry from the traditional role of a peacekeeping nation.

This is also a troubling chapter in the history of NATO as a cold-war defensive alliance is transformed into an offensive military alliance. The fact that NATO has begun to assume this role raises critical questions about the future security of our world. When and how does the decision to intervene happen and why has this troubled region been targeted versus the host of other similar situations in other parts of the world?

This is not a United Nations sanctioned operation. Instead of building on its long standing reputation as a peacekeeping nation, in the case of Yugoslavia, Canada has shifted direction and joined a U.S. led NATO attack.

The need for humanitarian action to protect innocent refugees fleeing Kosovo is not in question. The reports of atrocities and attacks on people and communities of Kosovo by the Serbian majority require ongoing action. But taking action as a NATO force rather than first finding agreement and responding through the United Nations is troubling. Canada's participation in an action sanctioned by the United Nations is far different than what is currently occurring.

Further, a multi-national peacekeeping ground force with the proper air support to ensure the safety of troops would have been a truly effective way of stopping ethnic cleansing, stopping the atrocities and contributing to a process of resolving some of the historic differences between ethnic groups within this area.

While the recent government announcements of humanitarian aid for refugees is a positive move, the refugee crisis was predictable and should have been a major consideration in planning this action.

Instead, the current assault involves increased bombing and represents a further threat to innocent civilians in the area.

Finding a real and lasting solution won't be achieved through air strikes and bombs. It's time for Canada to reassert its traditional role as a peacekeeper and push hard at the United Nations for peacekeeping troops and meaningful discussion between area leaders that will eventually bring a lasting peace to this part of central Europe once again.

It's time for Canada to re-establish its traditional role as a peacekeeping nation with a humanitarian and independent international agenda.

On behalf of the 215,000 CAW members and their families, the CAW National Executive Board is calling on the Prime Minister and the Canadian government to:

  1. recall all Canadian fighter jets immediately
  2. demand a meeting of the United Nations to develop a plan to send ground troops into the region as a peacekeeping force to end the armed conflict and start the process of a lasting peace in Yugoslavia
  3. increase our commitment to humanitarian aid for the refugees
  4. commit Canadian troops as peacekeepers to assist with the settlement of conflicts.

Adopted by the CAW National Executive Board at Port Elgin, Ontario on March 31, 1999.