Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.


Members of the Canadian Armed Forces wearing face masks walk outside a mobile hospital at a parking lot of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on April 30, 2021. (Photo: Xinhua/Zou Zheng via Getty Images)

Top 10 Reasons to Defund the Canadian Military

The Canadian military has fought in nine wars with only one of them morally justified.

Yves Engler

10. Bloated government? Misplaced priorities? The military is by far the largest Canadian government department, employing the largest number and purchasing the most equipment. The combined budget of the Department of National Defence (DND) and Veteran Affairs is $30 billion, about 15 times Environment and Climate Change Canada's. With 0.5 percent of the world's people, Canada is responsible for 1.5% of international military spending. 

9. DND has the country's largest intelligence-gathering capacities. In recent years it has spied on Black Lives Matter, Idle No More and peace activists. 

8. The Canadian Forces (CF) is "hostile" to "LGTBQ members", concluded former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps in 2015. Members suspected of being gay were systematically purged from the CF until 1992. In the 1960s military researchers and funding played a central role in an effort to develop a "fruit machine" to detect queers. 

7. DND/CF has the largest PR (propaganda) machine in the country, employing hundreds of "public relations professionals" to influence the public's perception of the military. Last fall the military, reported the Ottawa Citizen, established "a new organization that will use propaganda and other techniques to try to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of Canadians." Previously the head of CF called for the "weaponization public affairs", which proposed a plan to induce positive coverage and deter critical reporting. Journalists producing unflattering stories about the military were to be the target of phone calls to their boss, letters to the editor and other "flack" designed to undercut their credibility in the eyes of readers and their employers. 

6. The CF has been a hot bed of white supremacy. For decades institutional racism was explicit and imposed from above with the force only wanting those of "Pure European Descent and of the White Race." Despite making up 20% of the Canadian population, visible minorities today constitute 9.6 per cent of the CF. Unsurprisingly, the CF has attracted many with extreme right-wing beliefs. 

5. The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) is a secret army within the army. The government is not required to divulge information about their operations so they can be deployed on controversial missions and the public is none the wiser. Canadian special forces have (probably) operated in Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Central African Republic, Congo, Peru, Iraq, Libya, Colombia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

4. The CF is the institutional embodiment of 'toxic masculinity'. For example, it wasn't until 2000 that the submarine service was opened to women. In 2015 Deschamps found a "culture of misogyny" in the CF "hostile to women." Between April 1, 2016 and March 9 of this year there were 581 sexual assault and 221 sexual harassment complaints implicating CF members.  

3. Canadian warships regularly deploy across the globe from the Caribbean to the North Sea, Persian Gulf to the Black Sea. Recently Canadian vessels have been involved in belligerent US-led "freedom of navigation" exercises in the South China Sea. They also waged war on Libya in 2011, helped the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and supported the 1998 bombing of that country. Threatening other countries to get our way has a long history. Canadian warships were dispatched to force Costa Rica to negotiate with the Royal Bank in 1921, to protect British interests during the Mexican Revolution and to back a dictator massacring peasants in El Salvador in 1932. 

2. Canada's armed forces have an immense ecological footprint. They've littered the landscape with tens of millions of bullets and shells as well as polluted dozens of lakes with ordnance. They continue to conscript animals in experiments and during warfare. DND is far and away the largest emitter of GHGs in the federal government. DND represented 59% per cent of federal government GHGs in 2019-20. Incredibly, however, the armed forces' emissions are exempt from current government GHG reduction targets. 

1. The Canadian military has fought in nine wars with only one of them morally justified. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Massive Demonstration of Support for Lopez Obrador in Mexico City

AMLO was elected in 2018 and heralded as the Bernie Sanders of Mexico.

Common Dreams staff ·

Scientists Revive ‘Zombie’ Virus After 50,000 Years Trapped in Siberian Permafrost

Researchers documented 13 never-before-seen viruses that have been lying dormant, frozen in thick ice, over tens of thousands of years.

Common Dreams staff ·

'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·

'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo