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Church leaders encourage alternatives to Ballistic Missile Defence System


March 22, 2004
-by Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man.— Twenty Canadian church leaders including Henry Krause, moderator of Mennonite Church Canada, say strategic ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems "can never satisfy the deep human yearning for immunity from nuclear terror."

In a Canadian Council of Churches letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin March 15, church leaders said proposed security solutions like BMD "fail to counter the nuclear threat and precipitate further insecurities."

The United States has been researching BMDs since the 1940s. A Canadian government web site states, “The Government is committed to ensuring and enhancing the security of Canada and Canadians. Examining possible Canadian participation in the Ballistic Missile Defence of North America is one aspect of meeting this commitment.” The United States wants to deploy an initial BMD system this fall.

The Pentagon itself lacks confidence that a star wars-like missile interception system will work, said the letter. “And so it pursues a space-based element that violates an overwhelming global consensus against the weaponization of space.”

The letter points out that Canadian churches have told successive Canadian prime ministers that “the possession, use, or threat to use nuclear weapons can never be understood to be within God's plan for creation.

Missile defence is one of the largest research and development programs in the US, with budget of approximately $9 billion (US) in 2004. Instead of developing such systems, the reallocation of "the billions now squandered on strategic ballistic missile defence could achieve works of wonder to the benefit and sustainable security of all humanity," the Church leaders said. This page contains the entire text of the letter.

Project Ploughshares, the Canadian ecumenical disarmament group and Mennonite Central Committee are among other groups voicing concerns about BMD. Individuals may also send letters of concern to Prime Minister Paul Martin, Defence Minister David Pratt, Foreign Minister Bill Graham, and/or your Member of Parliament.

Fax numbers are as follows:
Prime Minister 613-941-6900
Minister of National Defence 613-995-8189
Minister of Foreign Affairs 613-996-9607

Letters may be sent without postage to
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa K1A 0A6

Resources for further reading:

Sidebar: A Brief History of BMD

· The United States has been researching BMD since the 1940s, briefly deploying a system in the mid-1970s.

· President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of the 1980's revived the concept of ballistic missile defence. However, SDI was based on exotic space technologies and was intended to counter the entire nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union. Technological challenges, high cost-estimates, and the end of the Cold War halted SDI.

· The National Missile Defense Act of 1999 stated that a modest ground-based missile defence system would be deployed as soon as the technology permitted. At this time the United States attempted to continue developing BMD plans while remaining consistent with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

· In 2002, believing that the international strategic environment had deteriorated further and that the ABM Treaty was outmoded, the United States negotiated an end to the treaty with Russia in order to permit the expansion of missile defences. The United States argued that the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine was no longer appropriate in a world of asymmetric threats and where an increasing number of countries are acquiring and seeking to acquire ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

· On December 17, 2002 a major development occurred in US BMD policy. President George W. Bush announced that the United States would deploy an initial operational BMD system for the defence of North America by the fall of 2004.

· On January 15, 2004 the Canadian Minister of National Defence and the US Secretary of Defense exchanged Letters of Intent, stating the interest of both nations in negotiating an agreement on cooperation in the ballistic missile defence of North America.