Pacifists protest military spending; withhold taxes

WINNIPEG, MB—Christians who want less bang from their tax bucks are protesting Canada's military spending by withholding a portion of their taxes this year.

Peaceloving taxpayers can include a special form when they file their taxes. The form offers two options: taxpayers can sign a declaration of conscience, yet still pay all their taxes, or they can divert 9.2 per cent (the amount allocated to Canada's military spending) to the Peace Tax Trust Fund of Conscience Canada.

Conscience Canada, a Toronto-based organization, set up the fund and produces the forms. Canada Revenue Agency doesn't endorse the Conscience Canada tax form or the trust fund, so withholding taxes adds up to a form of civil disobedience.

"We believe this is a witness we as a historic peace church can make," says Janet Plenert of Mennonite Church Canada. The denomination is the only one Plenert knows of in Canada to promote the tax form on its website. Anyone who downloads and submits the form should let her know, says Plenert, who's trying to track how many people participate. Last year about 100 Mennonites reported filing the form, but Plenert suspects there are many more.

She doesn't know of anyone who has suffered any penalties for withholding tax money, but some "repeat offenders" have received letters and phonecalls from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Canadians like to joke about having a puny military, but Canada is actually the world's 13th biggest military spender. In 2008, Canada spent more than $19 billion on national defense, compared to just over $1 billion allocated to the department of the environment and about $5 billion on international aid.

MP Bill Siksay has introduced a private member's bill to Parliament that, if passed, would let conscientious Canadians divert their tax money toward peaceful efforts.

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