Canada foot-dragging on nuclear disarmament

Hill Times 31 May 2017In a 31 May article in the Hill Times, former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Douglas Roche castigates the Canadian government for continuing to drag its feet on nuclear disarmament, even as over 130 UN member states are in the midst of negotiating a legally binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

For a subscriber link to the article as it appeared in the Hill Times, click: Canada on wrong side of anti-nuke movement (Hill Times, 31 May 2017).

For a pdf. version of the article, click here.

The article is repeated in its entirety below:

Leaders of the Canadian government who in the past few months have contented themselves with vapid excuses for not supporting efforts at the United Nations to prohibit nuclear weapons will have to work overtime to find credible reasons to maintain resistance now that the draft text of a convention has been released.

The heart of the matter is contained in Article 1 (a), in which each state party undertakes never under any circumstances to “develop, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

In other words, nuclear weapons are stigmatized, put beyond the pale and never to be a part of a nation’s armoury. The Canadian government, tied so closely to the nuclear policies of Washington and NATO, will not accept this. And more’s the sorrow. The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.

The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.

For the past three years, a humanitarian movement, led by like-minded states and civil society activists, has gathered support from a majority of nations to develop a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons because of the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of any use of such weapons. A resolution to start such negotiations was adopted at the U.N. last fall with 113 states in favour, 35 opposed and 13 abstentions. Canada voted no and refuses to participate in the process.

The United States instructed all its NATO partners to vote against the resolution on the grounds that the negotiations aimed to “delegitimize the concept of nuclear deterrence upon which many U.S. allies and partners depend.” The U.S. was quite correct in this assessment. Delegitimizing nuclear weapons is exactly what this effort is all about.

Delegitimizing nuclear weapons is exactly what this effort is all about.

The negotiations started in March with 130 states attending the opening round under the chairmanship of Ambassador Elayne Whyte of Costa Rica, who this week issued a draft text, which will be completed at the final round of discussions June 15-July 7.

The document is called a “convention,” which is an agreement between countries on particular matters that is less formal than a treaty. This terminology was used so as not to confuse the exercise with the existing Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which in its nearly half century of existence has failed to produce the elimination of all nuclear weapons. The draft convention holds that the NPT maintains its “crucial importance” as the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime. Rather than competing with the NPT, the new instrument is declared to be “an important contribution towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament.”

Rather than competing with the NPT, the new instrument is declared to be an important contribution towards comprehensive nuclear disarmament.

The reasons for this new boost to nuclear disarmament efforts are set out clearly: “… the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations.”

The leitmotif of the draft convention is the survival of humanity now threatened not just by the existence of some 15,000 nuclear weapons (about 95 percent in the hands of the U.S. and Russia) but the modernization process now under way in which all nine nuclear weapons states are increasing their power to inflict devastating damage on adversaries. The draft convention is basically the highest-level appeal to humanity ever made to end the nuclear arms race.

The draft convention is basically the highest-level appeal to humanity ever made to end the nuclear arms race.

Although it will come into force when 40 states have ratified it, the convention will bind only those states which sign it. The disarmament process will be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency and disputes resolved by the International Court of Justice. The nuclear weapons states show every sign of ignoring all this. They will challenge the legality of the process and without the participation of the nuclear weapons states, the convention will likely be crippled.

But to take the legalistic view of the convention is to miss its importance as a milestone in the long struggle to rid the world of what has rightfully been called “the ultimate evil.” The new convention will help mobilize world public opinion to develop a universally binding ban. Nuclear disarmament is a moral issue of the highest order. It has to do with human beings seizing the power to annihilate life. Only a few days ago, Ban Ki-moon, the former U.N. Secretary-General, warned that “the world is moving closer to nuclear annihilation.”

….the world is moving closer to nuclear annihilation.

In such a dire situation, the call to humanity to save itself is of a higher order than bureaucratic wrangling over legal points. That is the point more than 100 members of the Order of Canada made to Prime Minister Trudeau in appealing to him to reverse Canada’s present negative attitude towards the development of the convention and start putting Canada’s weight behind it.

The issue is not legality but humanity.

It’s hard to imagine that Canada — that most trusted of world states — is boycotting a process to develop a legal measure to prohibit nuclear weapons just because the United States insists on maintaining its nuclear arsenals. The issue is not legality but humanity.

Former Senator Douglas Roche served as Canada’s Ambassador for Disarmament 1984-89 and is the author of Hope Not Fear: Building Peace in a Fractured World.

For a pdf. version of the article, click Hill Times, May 31st, 2017.

For a subscriber link to the article as it appeared in the Hill Times, click Canada on wrong side of anti-nuke movement (Hill Times, 31 May 2017).

 

Photo credit: Douglas Roche

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses to “Canada foot-dragging on nuclear disarmament”

  1. Barbara BambigerJune 5, 2017 at 9:20 pm #

    The track record for the NDP, Mulcair included, on issues related to peace is hardly a boon to people working for world peace. How loudly, for example, did anyone in the NDP protest Canada’s following the Americans in their invasion & violent occupation of Afghanistan, a country that never hurt us or even threatened us? How many NDP leaders have dared to suggest it is decades of the West terrorizing the Middle Eastern that has given birth to the retaliating terrorists?

    We in BC have just managed to stop the NDP’s steady inching towards the centre & turned them back in the direction of their leftist roots. This came as a result of enough voters refusing to keep voting for “the lesser of the evils” in order to win, & voting instead on principle for the Greens who were clearly not going to win a majority. And look what happened? The NDP is now compromising with environmentalists instead of corporate puppets.

  2. Howard DoughtyJune 3, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

    In high school (in the late 1950s), I was almost expelled for being a member of The Canadian Students Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (and, more seriously, one of my teachers was almost fired).
    Since then, I have been active in various peace, civil rights, environmental and trade union movement.
    So, in some people’s eyes, I began as an “angry young man” and have transitioned into an “embittered old man” without missing a beat (or changing my opinions).
    Holding firm to certain convictions is nothing to be proud of (especially if you are a misogynist, a racist, etc., etc.), but it does bespeak a certain consistency.
    I was not a big fan of Pierre Trudeau. Though I admired some of his journalism in the 1950s, I abhorred his theatrics in October, 1970 and his “wage” (there were no price) controls in 1975. So, I was NOT impressed by nor did I vote for his first-born boy child – a faint replica of the father.
    Now, I only hope that Canadians in general will wake up to the hypocrisy of “sunny ways” and will also not be lured by “Harper-lite” – the “social conservative,” but no doubt cherubic, Andrew Scheer.
    The federal NDP is not my idea of an exceptional or exemplary political party, nor are its programs and policies immune to criticism; however, it is by far the better of a bad lot. Accordingly, I fervently wish that the few remaining members of that lovely old group known as “red tories” and the sincerely “liberal” Liberals who may be tired of the same old opportunistic plutocrats, will join together with old-fashioned proletarians and intellectuals (the two are not mutually exclusive) who have peopled the NDP from the outset and see if we can’t do something sensible in 2019.
    After all, Stephen Harper won his “majority” in 2011 with 39.6% of the vote and Justin Trudeau won his “majority” in 2015 with an even lower proportion (39.5% of the vote) in 2015. Just think what could happen if the Green Party got at least 30 or 40 seats based on its electoral share and could join with the NDP (which would have had at least 120 seats if so many of its potential voters hadn’t chickened out and voted for Trudeau-the-Younger (aka “anybody but Harper”).

  3. Jocelyn ChouinardJune 2, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

    Trudeau is completely incapable of even understanding the fundamental requirements of making decisions that respect the majority of Canadians. His only specialization is posing for photos!
    His failure to join the rest of the world’s leaders to completely ban ALL nuclear arms only confirms his complete inability to be Canada’s PM.

    • Carol PickupJune 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Trudeau is a pretty face who loves to travel and have photo ops taken-just like Christy Clark. Canada should have elected a real leader-Tom Mulcair!!

    • Howard DoughtyJune 3, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

      I think that he does understand, but the taste of $15 billion in military hardware to the Saudis and the (false) promise that “Big Daddy” Trump won’t take him to the back of the barn for a “whuppin’” are just enough to keep that smirk/smile on his face.

      Incidentally, has anyone ever seen so sad a sight as the more-or-less honest Stéphane Dion mewling and puking his apologies for the Saudi deal? I hope he’s enjoying his reward in Germany (with side trips to Belgium). Perhaps, Madame Merkel, Monsieur Marcon and others can stiffen his spine somewhat. Who knows? He might even be sufficiently emboldened to write a letter of apology to the Canadian people before taking up his new position … perhaps as CEO of a major Canadian university.

      • Howard DoughtyJune 3, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

        By opening with “I think that he does understand …” I meant to offer a kindly and supportive reply to Jocelyn Chouinard, who opined that “Trudeau is completely incapable of even understanding the fundamental requirements of making decisions that respect the majority of Canadians …”

        I also agree with the whole of Carol Pickup’s post.

        Too bad Ceasefire.com doesn’t permit people to edit/amend their comments.

  4. Jay TeeJune 2, 2017 at 8:35 pm #

    Canada is a vassal state of the American empire and a vital cog in the NATO war machine. Ottawa and Washington have an understanding, no matter who the titular leaders may be.

  5. Guy St HilaireJune 2, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

    So now finally the chickens are coming home to roost and we know the truth of the matter , no ifs ands or buts. The Trudeau government with all its well sounding jingoism is now exposed as warmongers.And to think that I voted for him.

    • DemetriosJune 3, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

      That’s right Guy, people vote for hope and change, but we get more of the same. I am pleased to see you here. As members of APLP (Artistes pour la Paix), our work with orgs like Ceasefire will continue with no end in sight. It’s very easy to feel helpless against this “my guns are bigger than your guns” attitude of the West, Canada included. Hate to say it, but Justin Trudeau is an embarrassment to his father as a kind of star celebrity, blinded by the spotlights.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. MILNEWS.ca Highlights – June 5, 2017 | MILNEWS.ca Blog - June 5, 2017

    […] “Canada foot-dragging on nuclear disarmament” (Ceasefire.ca) […]

Leave a Reply

Add a picture to your comment (JPG format only)