CNS photo/Oh Jang-hwan, News1 via Reuters

No to fighter jets with so many other pressing needs, nun says

By 
  • April 1, 2021

As deficits skyrocket and Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratios teeter on the brink, Sr. Mary Ellen Francoeur has a plan to save the government billions.

The government can easily save itself $19 billion by simply not replacing its 30-year-old fighter jets, she said.

“How can you in conscience be spending $19 billion just to buy the jets?” she asks. “Let alone the full life-cycle costs, which our coalition has researched and would come to $76.8 billion. How can the government in conscience spend that amount of money when so much is needed to maintain life, to care for the health of people, to care for the homeless, to put into education — all the things that have been suffering for so long?”

Francoeur’s conscience tells her it’s simply wrong, and she’s willing to publicly fast for a day or two to make the point.

Francoeur represents Pax Christi Toronto as part of the No New Fighter Jets Coalition, which is staging public fasts and candle-lit vigils from coast to coast April 10 and 11.

It’s not just a matter of money for Francoeur. That Canada would need to cement its standing in the world with the capability of bombing people and vital infrastructure anywhere across the globe just doesn’t line up with her lifelong commitment to a non-violent Jesus. A 73-year-old retired psychologist and Sister of Service, Francoeur is part of Pax Christi International’s Catholic Non-Violence Initiative, supported by Pope Francis.

“Jesus turns to the disciple and says, ‘Put your sword away.’ Jesus’ whole life, really, was a life of non-violence,” said Francoeur.

Francoeur cannot square new jets with the federal government’s claim to champion a “feminist foreign policy.”

“Any feminist foreign policy would be non-violent,” she said. “It would be using the powers of dialogue and diplomacy and conflict resolution — negotiation.”

Canada is currently in stage three of a five-phase plan to acquire new fighter jets. The current CF-18 fleet is over 30 years old and has been reduced from 138 jets to just 76 aircraft. The government projects that a contract will be awarded for one of three jets — the nuclear-capable Lockheed-Martin F35, the Boeing Super Hornet or the Saab Gripen — early in 2022.

In the meantime the government is also spending $862.3 million to buy used Australian Hornets, which Ottawa hopes to have fully operational by December 2022.

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