At What Cost?: Women Redefine Security

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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)

One Third of Canadians Feel Financially Insecure / HuffPost Canada

Women and Poverty in Canada – Canadian Women’s Foundation

This is the State of Stress in 2018

The Risks in Canada’s Unusual Housing Market(s) (OECD, 2016)

The OECD Factbook – How Does Canada Rate Amongst the Wealthiest Countries?

Where is Canada?

World Happiness Report 2018

Why Costa Rica is One of the Happiest Countries in the World

UBC Study Finds Vancouver is the Unhappiest City in Canada

Canada Military Expenditures 1950-2018