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Canadian Public Health Association

2001 statement on peace, security and public health

The events of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent responses to them have produced increased insecurity, anxiety and civilian deaths and have raised the prospects of a global catastrophe of a magnitude that could threaten the sustainability of human life. This statement is a result of, and reflects Motion No. 3, A Public Health Approach to Peace and Security, as approved at the CPHA Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 23, 2001 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In public health terms, war is a public health emergency and peace is a fundamental determinant of health. Public health workers respond to emergencies created by violent conflict, and, more importantly, work to create the conditions that enable individuals, communities and societies to realize their aspirations without resorting to violence. This implies that the public health community can and should be involved in identifying and preventing circumstances that create violent conflict.

The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) holds that racism, religious intolerance and economic and social inequity are the principal contributing causes of violent conflict, and that without addressing these, we will not have global security. Accordingly, in a 1986 CPHA resolution, we urged the Government of Canada to advocate resolution of conflict on the basis of communication rather than military reprisal. That resolution is once again acutely relevant in the present context.

In September 2000, CPHA organized a landmark Leadership Forum at the 9th International Congress of the World Federation of Public Health Associations to propose new policy directions for the international public health community. The Forum produced the Call to Action: Challenges for Public Health at the Dawn of the 21st Century, endorsed by the CPHA Board of Directors and presented to the CPHA membership at the AGM that same year.

In the spirit of CPHA's 2001 Motion on A Public Health Approach to Peace and Security, the 1986 Resolution on Peace and of the WFPHA Call to Action.

CPHA urges the Government of Canada:

  • to enhance its longstanding role as peacemaker and peace-builder, and support initiatives that contribute to social justice;
  • to address the root causes identified above by increasing Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the portion of ODA dedicated to Basic Human Needs (as per our Resolution in 2000);
  • to examine appropriate technologies and sustainable approaches to assist developing countries emerging from conflict;
  • to advocate that attacks on civilians be considered crimes rather than as acts of war, and that these be dealt with in a duly constituted international tribunal;
  • to refrain from curtailing fundamental human rights in the name of domestic security; and
  • to be wary of establishing a North American security perimeter in a way that would undermine Canadian public health advances in gun control and other social policies.

CPHA urges the people of Canada:

  • to reject racism and religious intolerance;
  • to seek non-violent means of resolving conflict in homes, schools, workplaces and communities; and
  • to urge political leaders to do the same.

CPHA commits:

  • to redoubling its efforts to improve the health of the Canadian and world population, by supporting the strengthening of public health infrastructures and by working to increase the capacity of public health associations in Canada and abroad to contribute to peace-building and to enhance civil society.

Approved by the CPHA Board of Directors
November 2001