Welcome to WILPF Canada!

At What Cost?: Women Redefine Security


Please participate before October 1st, in view of the pending federal election. Thank you!

WILPF Canada’s goals are to bring together women of different political beliefs and philosophies who are united in their determination to study, make known and help abolish the causes and the legitimization of war; and to work toward world peace; total and universal disarmament; the abolition of violence and coercion in the settlement of conflict and their substitution in every case of negotiation and conciliation; the strengthening of the United Nations system; the continuous development and implementation of international law; political and social equality and economic equity; co-operation among all people; and an environmentally sustainable development.

For more about WILPF, its history, goals and activities, visit WILPF International.


Re: Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policies & Practices

This letter was sent on behalf of WILPF Canada on March 27 to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef, Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan, and MP Joyce Murray.

Re: Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policies & Practices

On behalf of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Canada, we commend you on being the first government in Canada to establish a feminist international assistance and peace and security commitment. This has great potential for improving the lives of women all around the world. We write to offer our perspective on challenges in achieving the stated goals and to recommend steps towards realizing a world of women’s equality, peace and prosperity.

Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Canada recognizes that around the world, violent conflict, wars and long-term instability disproportionately impact women and children civilians in devastating and permanent ways. Canada recognizes that women are targeted as victims of conflict, war and terrorism as a deliberate strategic practice. And that gender- based violence is increasing with weak and fragmented efforts to combat it.  Canada recognizes that true peace and sustainable development cannot be achieved without addressing these brutal realities in a meaningful way. The Feminist International Assistance Policy and Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security reflect our commitment. This is a start. As the situation of women and children deteriorates in so many conflict settings, Canada can and must review, revise and improve its advocacy, resources and efforts. 

What is the proportion of our assistance targeting gender- based violence in relation to our military/defence budget? Do we have program assistance focussing on the abduction, use or rehabilitation of child combatants?

Women in Peace Negotiations

Canada’s National Action Planrecognizes that “when women are involved in peace and security efforts, solutions are more comprehensive. When women are included, peace processes are more likely to be successful and peace agreements are more likely to endure.” However, women continue to be sidelined in peace building processes, as noted in the UN 2015 Global Study on Women, Peace and Security. Today, peace negotiations are underway with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is our understanding that while the United States initially encouraged the inclusion of women, this is no longer the case.  A strong reason for many Canadians’ support for the ouster of the Taliban from governing Afghanistan was their appalling treatment of women and girls. It is inconceivable that we would condone their legitimacy without assurances that a return to the oppression and subjugation of Afghan women would not occur under renewed Taliban influence in Afghanistan politics.

What is Canada doing to facilitate the meaningful inclusion of Afghan women in the peace negotiations? 

Another peace process that should be of concern to Canada is the war in Yemen.  Yemeni women are suffering terribly and being excluded from meaningful participation in the peace negotiations. We recommend for your consideration a 2018 WILPF Report – Changes Ahead: Yemeni Women Map the Road to Peace, released in advance of the UN Universal Periodic Review on Yemen in January 2019. 

What is Canada doing to assist in the inclusion of Yemeni women in the peace processes underway?

Feminist Peace Agenda and Arms Sales

A difficult circumstance for western industrial countries is marrying a feminist peace agenda with the legal sales of armed equipment and arms to non-peaceful countries. Sweden, a forerunner in employing feminist foreign policy, ran into serious diplomatic repercussions when it attempted to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Canada is now facing the uncomfortable challenge of criticizing the Saudi Arabian government’s  treatment of women and its role in the Yemen war while holding an armed equipment sales contract with that government. Notwithstanding the potential financial and diplomatic consequences, we urge the Canadian government to remain true to its professed feminist policy and cancel this sale. Everything the Saudi Arabian government is doing, its treatment of women, its imprisonment of women peaceful activists, its inordinate role in the war in Yemen, and likely role in the savage murder of a journalist, is offensive and antithetical to Canadians’ values of human rights, women’s equality, international law and peace. If financial considerations trump our values, then there is no point espousing values- they become meaningless and unpersuasive. Germany has recently proclaimed its cancellation of arms contracts with Saudi Arabia. The sale was a mistake of our previous government and now, with further dire events in Saudi Arabia and in the region this mistake must be corrected.

Will Canada make determined and exhaustive efforts to find a way to cancelling this Saudi Arabian contract? 

Canada’s Peacekeeping

Finally, the peace keeping mission to Mali: Canada has recognized the need for far greater numbers and roles for women in peacekeeping.

Were gender perspectives in the preparation and assessment of a peacekeeping mission to Mali incorporated? How is Canada planning to address the needs of women in Mali and how is Canada planning to expand the inclusion of Canadian and Malian women in our peacekeeping efforts?  If peace building processes are undertaken, how will Canada facilitate the inclusion of Malian women?

WILPF-Our Story

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is a non-governmental organization with a specific focus on issues concerning women, peace and security. WILPF was established by a Convention held at The Hague in 1915, in response to the First World War and its devastating impacts. Canada was a founding member. WILPF has national sections and branches on every continent. The Headquarters are located in Geneva and an office focussed on the United Nations is situated in New York. WILPF was one of the first organizations to gain Consultative Status (Category B) at the UN and is the only women’s anti-war organization so recognized. We promote peace using existing international legal and political frameworks to achieve fundamental change in the ways States conceptualize and address issues of gender, militarism, peace and security. WILPF is very active in working within international fora, such as the UN and its special and regional bodies, the European Union and the African Union. Simultaneously, WILPF supports and empowers grassroots and other women’s organizations, and collaborates initiatives to address local and national challenges for women and children in conflict areas, war zones and within peace processes, (emerging and existent).  WILPF Canada supports this work and our sisters in their struggles for peace worldwide.

Thank you for considering the comments and questions in this letter. We know that women’s equality, freedom from violence and the inclusion of women in peace building are goals that WILPF Canada shares with our government. We look forward to your responses to our letter and we commend to you the excellent and expert resources of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Yours in Peace,

Marlene LeGates, Ph D.
President, WILPF Canada

At What Cost?: Women Redefine Security

TAKE OUR SURVEY: Join the conversation and add your voice!

Please participate before October 1st, in view of the pending federal election. Thank you!

Every year in Canada, vast resources are expended in the name of military security while social programs like an affordable housing strategy and affordable daycare are either under-funded or not funded at all.

A 2016 Ipsos survey found that one-third of Canadians live with financial insecurity; women disproportionately report challenges with housing costs (49%) and basic life essentials (42%).

In one of the first studies of its kind, States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), of which Canada and all western countries are members, has connected the dots between unmet financial and social needs and all forms of violence and conflict around the world, including domestic and other forms of violence within western democracies. 

So the question becomes, At What Cost do we ignore these findings and continue to focus on militarism and war as the only route to peace and security?

Security At Home

Every year, the World Happiness Report releases its list of the happiest countries. The report is based on values for six variables that support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity – true markers of a stable and secure society.

In 2018, Finland topped the list followed by Norway, Denmark and Iceland – all Nordic countries with the strongest social programs in the world.

Costa Rica, which abolished its military in 1948 and rededicated its defence spending to education, healthcare and pensions, consistently ranks as one of the happiest places on earth, and the happiest in Latin America.

Vancouver: A Case in Point

A 2018 study by UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University found that Vancouver and Toronto, both suffering from a severe housing affordability crisis and high cost of living, were tied for the unhappiest of 98 Canadian metropolitan areas surveyed.

In the study on violence, the OECD found that “crime and theft are driven by economic motivations and that high levels of grievances linked to economic opportunities lead to increased gang violence.”  The dramatic increase in gang violence in Vancouver in recent years supports this contention, with the 2017 Stats Canada finding that Metro Vancouver, one of the world’s most expensive housing markets, lags far behind other Canadian cities in wage earnings.

The federal governments’ plan to end gang violence? On Nov. 7, 2018 they presented a plan to spend $86 million on expanded intelligence and border-security measures for the RCMP and Canada Border Services agency as part of a 5 year, $327 million funding promise to stop criminal gun and gang activities, rather than on measures to address the severe housing crisis and wage gap.

Women’s Security

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, more than 1.9 million Canadian women live in poverty and 30.4% of single mothers and their children are below the poverty line.  Even today, women earn just 75 cents for every dollar that men earn.

In recent years, the trend in Canada has seen the replacement of stable, full-time employment with low-paying part-time jobs.  This trend, combined with the lack of available/affordable housing and daycare has relegated many Canadian mothers to poverty either as working poor or trapped welfare recipients who, without a universal daycare program, simply cannot afford to work.

It is telling that amongst the 36 members of the OECD, Canada stands out as one of the only countries that lacks a government-funded Early Childhood Education and Child Care Program.

Security Abroad

Canada’s current annual military budget is $19.8 billion. From 2001 until 2014, 40,000 Canadian soldiers waged war in Afghanistan at an estimated cost of $18 billion. One hundred and fifty-eight soldiers, two civilians, a diplomat and a journalist were killed; more than 1,800 Canadians were wounded and many more returned home with psychiatric problems.

Assessments of what was accomplished are mixed at best. Roland Paris, an Associate Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, who visited the mission on several occasions, summed it up:

The international mission to stabilize Afghanistan following the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001 has not succeeded. Early hopes for a democratic renewal gave way to mounting disillusionment, corruption and violence. Although important gains were achieved — including the number of children in school, women’s rights, and access to health care — these improvements rested heavily on the presence of an enormous foreign military and a deluge of aid money, all of which is now waning.

In addition to the tremendous human and economic costs of this war, Canada’s security took an enormous hit with new public safety, No-Fly Lists and anti-terrorism measures.

Join the Conversation…

What Makes You Secure?


States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence (OECD, 2016) http://www.oecd.org/dac/states-of-fragility-2016-9789264267213-en.htm

One Third of Canadians Feel Financially Insecure / HuffPost Canada https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kevin-press/onethird-of-canadians-fee_b_13712544.html

Women and Poverty in Canada – Canadian Women’s Foundation https://www.canadianwomen.org/the-facts/womens-poverty/

This is the State of Stress in 2018  https://globalnews.ca/news/4138006/stress-causes-today/

The Risks in Canada’s Unusual Housing Market(s) (OECD, 2016) https://oecdecoscope.blog/2016/06/15/the-risks-in-canadas-unusual-housing-markets/

The OECD Factbook – How Does Canada Rate Amongst the Wealthiest Countries? http://www.oecd.org/publications/oecd-factbook-18147364.htm

Where is Canada? https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/oecd-factbook-2015-2016/early-childhood-education-and-care_factbook-2015-69-en#page1

World Happiness Report 2018  http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2018/

Why Costa Rica is One of the Happiest Countries in the World  https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/costa-rica-happiness-well-being_us_5b6184a8e4b0de86f49c7611?ec_carp=3720456999853115457

UBC Study Finds Vancouver is the Unhappiest City in Canada https://www.vancourier.com/news/ubc-study-finds-vancouver-is-the-unhappiest-city-in-canada-1.23421509

Canada Military Expenditures 1950-2018 https://tradingeconomics.com/canada/military-expenditure?continent=g20

Banning the Bomb: Global Activism and International Diplomacy with Ray Acheson

Join us to explore global activism and nuclear disarmament with Ray Acheson from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. This event is hosted by the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA).

Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018
12:30 pm – 1:50 pm
*New Venue: C.K. Choi Building – Room 120. *Please note that due to high interest in this event, we have moved to a larger venue.


Nanaimo Vigil for peace in Korea

On Monday, January 15th at 5 pm,  there will be a candle light vigil to support the peace-building process in Korea. This will be at the Diana Krall Plaza in downtown Nanaimo hosted by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Nanaimo chapter.

The vigil is in solidarity with activities organized by The Vancouver Women’s Forum on Peace and Security On The Korean Peninsula to coincide with the Foreign Ministers Conference there on January 16th.

A delegation of sixteen women peacemakers from Asia, Europe, and North America have come to Vancouver to ensure that women’s perspectives are included  in the official discussions and that the only option on the table  to resolve the Korean crisis is a diplomatic one.

To support this, candle light vigils will be held in Vancouver, Nanaimo,  Saltspring Island, and in Victoria.

January  15 is Martin Luther King Day in  the US where King spoke  out boldly about the links between militarization, social injustice and spiritual death.  In reference to Vietnam, he rejoiced that religious leaders were choosing “ to move  beyond the prophesying of smooth  patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based on the mandates of conscience and the reading of history.”

Everyone is welcome to this Nanaimo vigil and  participants  are encouraged to dress warmly and bring candles!

For further information, call 250 753 3015.