Canada Country Report

1) Conscience Canada

PO Box 8601 Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3S2 Canada

Telephone: (250) 384-5532 FAX: (250) 382-8378 Email:

2) Kris Mansfield

Number 515, 620 View Street, Victoria, British Columbia, (telephone as above)

3) Organizational Structure:

  • Part time Coordinators - Kris Mansfield and Cathy Fox
  • President: Milnor Alexander and 5 other Board members (executive in British Columbia)
  • Advisory members: 12 national members
  • Lobby Coalition: 8 national members
  • Membership: 512 members internationally

4) Approximately $53,000.00 is currently in trust in the Peace Tax Fund.

5) Goals:

Conscience Canada works on behalf of Canadians to secure the rights of freedom of conscience guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, We have been actively working since 1978 to establish the legal right of Conscientious Objectors (COs) to not have to serve in, nor pay for, the military.

Lobbying: We work with our national coalition and other core groups and MP Svend Robinson who is steering the CO bill; have circulated a policy paper on COs to MPs and have requested support for bill C - 399.

War Tax Resistance: We administer the Peace Tax Trust Fund and thereby provide an option to those who object to fiscal conscription.

Education: We encourage the public to sign our petition and postcard and to write letters to MPs, local papers, etc. in support of this issue. We work with the membership and others to broaden support for the rights of COs. We advocate for causes of conscience regarding peace, human rights and the environment and co-sponsor related events with other groups. We sponsor events (White Poppy Campaign, loonie polls, video showings, guest speakers) across the country to increase awareness of peace tax and other issues of conscience. Three times a year we publish a newsletter sharing national and international stories of interest.

6) Current size and Scope of The Movement:

Although this issue is important to our members, in general our membership is declining (and aging). There seem to be a lack of interest and commitment on this issue especially within the younger age groups.

7) Recent History and Current Status:

Although there is a clear history of support for CO's in Canada, the link between fiscal and physical conscription has not been formally recognized. In December 1999, a bill respecting conscientious objection to the use of taxes for military purposes was re-introduced to Parliament. Bill C-399 had its first reading as a private members bill put forward by Svend Robinson. The second reading will happen if Svend's name is drawn at random for this purpose.

Currently, members who withhold that portion of their taxes that would otherwise be allocated to the military face fiscal penalties. Usually this takes the form of being charged large amounts of interest on the ‘arrears’, and/or being subject to collection. So far, no goods and chattels have been seized in Canada for non-payment of war taxes, in general, only larger amounts, over several hundred dollars have been collected. Some trusters have had collection in following years from refunds due. By now, all peace trusters have probably has GST (Goods and Services Tax) refunds seized. A few members have reported their Old Age Pensions being withheld

Since 1986 there has been two judicial challenges related to conscientious objection to payment of military taxes. In 1986 Dr. Jerilynn Prior took the issue through the Federal and Appeal courts, and then to the Supreme Court which twice refused to hear the case. Dr. Prior then appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee, and this too was unsuccessful. Dr. Michael Petrini followed a similarly stiffing route in 1993.

Conscience Canada enjoys a supportive relationship with the Mennonite Church and the Society of Friends. As well CC regularly communicates and works with other peace groups in the city of Victoria and internationally.

8) CC has supported

a number of peace related projects in Victoria such as the Alternatives to Violence Project and round table events on peace activities. CC has also created the new Authentic Community workshop to explore issues of conscience and to foster peace.

9) Publications:

  • The First Freedom” Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada.
  • Communities of Conscience” Collected statements on conscience and taxes for military preparation.
  • Risking for Change: Stories of Ordinary People” 1999 Edited by Kate Penner. An anthology exploring the issues of acting out of conscience: the common light among those who seek peace, and social and environmental justice.

10) Plans for the near future

include lobbing around the CO bill and securing a meeting with Finance Minister Paul Martin. We hope to continue our work supporting the rights of CO's and promoting peace education.

11) At this time CC faces many significant challenges.

As our board membership in Victoria is declining we are looking at ways to continue as an organization. Options being pursed include moving to a bigger city under another related peace group or running CC electronically from the eastern part of the country. We'd hate to quit now!