Peace Remains a Canadian Trait and the World Knows It

  • National Newswatch

“Peace on earth towards those of goodwill,” the old scriptures say, and it's remained a distant ideal for millennia.   Polls from many countries reveal a clear sentiment that peaceful co-existence now seems farther away than ever.  It's admittedly a troubled age we're facing, and the spectre of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict preoccupies many.  Nevertheless, evidence tells a more complex story.The Global Peace Index for 2022 will be of some encouragement to many this holiday season.  Militarization has decreased in 113 countries, and terrorism continued to decline, with 70 countries recording no attacks in 2021. This is the best result since 2008.  Also in decline were the number of nuclear and heavy weapons, deaths from internal conflict, and incarceration rates.  Those countries regarded as full democracies recorded the sharpest deterioration in violent demonstrations.An intriguing study published by mathematicians at the University of York this year provided some important context when it comes to war and peace.   Acknowledging the alarming rise in bloodshed and death in the first half of the last century owing to two world wars, the researchers discovered an abrupt shift towards a greater level of peace in the early 1990s that still largely holds.Acknowledging this trend towards peace, co-author of the study, Professor Niall MacKay said: "The question of whether the world today has become more or less dangerous is a hotly debated issue among historians. Our study attempts to address this question purely from the perspective of what the data can tell us."The change for the better our analysis detected over the past 30 years may be due to peacekeeping work by global organisations like the UN and increased collaboration and cooperation between nations."Responding to the findings, well-known Harvard University psychologist and author Steven Pinker wrote:  "Congratulations on such a sophisticated study of historical changes in war deaths. I've long hoped to see a change point analysis of these data, and this one is beautiful."To many who hear of such conclusions, this seems counter-intuitive, even wrong, and they have a point.  It's important to draw a distinction between the data on war and conflict once peace breaks down and the general decline of peaceful tendencies emerging in societies where the rule of law and compromise have deteriorated.The 16th edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report, the world's leading measure of peacefulness, reveals that the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated by 0.3% in 2021. This is the eleventh deterioration in peacefulness in the last fourteen years, with 90 countries improving, and 71 deteriorating, highlighting that countries deteriorate much faster than they improve.  For the fifth consecutive year, Afghanistan is the least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia and South Sudan.The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has clearly affected the overall peace index.  There were five countries with the largest deterioration in peacefulness, and two of those were Russian and Ukraine.  The other three were Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Haiti.  All of them registered so poorly because of ongoing conflict.   Intriguingly, the optimism regarding peace increased in Ukraine throughout 2021.What countries did well in the rankings?  Since 2008, Iceland has remained the most peaceful country, followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, and Austria.And what of Canada?  We come in 12th, sandwiched between Switzerland and Hungary.  While many with political designs consistently maintain that Canada is broken, the numbers hardly support the claim.    Canada ranks among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, education levels, gender equality, public services, public security and environmental sustainability.  With these new numbers revealing that Canada ranks 12th out of 195 countries on the peace index, we have reason to be thankful and somewhat confident that we can navigate the turbulent global waters ahead of us in 2023.Peace on earth toward those of goodwill is never a static pursuit but is one that requires adhering to a high set of ideals and the rule of law as respected by citizens.  Canada has faced its own struggles in recent years, from the pandemic to vocal populism, but most nations in the world envy our stability, openness and peaceful intentions.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.