Why is Canada going soft on cluster bombs?

In a recent blog post, Craig and Mark Kielburger, the co-founders of Free the Children, highlight how cluster bombs pose a significant threat to non-combatants in many war-affected areas (Craig and Mark Kielburger, “Why Won’t Canada Take a Stand on Cluster Bombs?,” Huffington Post Canada, 7 November 2012):

According to the Cluster Munition Coalition, cluster bombs have been employed in at least 31 countries since the Second World War. Eighty-nine per cent of tens of thousands of cluster bomb casualties are civilians, a quarter of them children.

A cluster bomb scatters dozens, sometimes hundreds, of ‘bomblets’ — some just baseball-sized — over an area that can be as big as several football fields. However, anywhere from five to more than 30 per cent don’t explode when they hit the ground, they just sit waiting for the first set of inquisitive little fingers to pick them up.

Canada was one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, and our stockpile of the weapons is being eliminated.  Most of our allies have also signed and have ratified the convention, but some, such as Israel and the United States, have not signed it and continue to use the weapons. 

Canada has not ratified the convention, but the Canadian government is in the process of passing legislation to do so. Unfortunately, the bill about to be passed is seriously flawed:

To become a full party to the Convention, Canada must pass a law committing our country never to produce, use, or support the production or use of cluster bombs. Such a law is currently before Parliament — Bill S-10 — however groups like Mines Action Canada (MAC) say the legislation has gaping loopholes that must be closed. Erin Hunt, a program officer with MAC, says that while Bill S-10 would prohibit Canadian Forces from using cluster munitions, Canadian soldiers may still specifically ask allied forces to use them during joint military operations. The Bill also does not prohibit other countries from potentially transporting cluster bombs through or stockpiling them on Canadian bases or territory…. As well, S-10 does not prevent Canadian financial institutions from investing in companies that make cluster bombs.

Mines Action Canada has launched a petition, accessible here, calling on the federal government to fix S-10’s weaknesses.

Photo credit: Cluster Munition Coalition

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2 Responses to “Why is Canada going soft on cluster bombs?”

  1. Kelly Porter FranklinNovember 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Dear Ceasefire
    I found a factoid a couple of years ago regarding cluster bombs that may be of interest to you. Dow Chemical was once in the business of manufacturing them. I’ll copy an email I sent out to a person researching water pollution around Midland (Dow HQ) at the time:

    XXXXXXXXXX sent us (his fellow researchers) a link to a database detailing what was supplied for the Vietnam War effort. Did you know that Dow made cluster bombs? This loathsome DB contains a litany of horrific materiel supplied to the Vietnam theatre (and Canada made billions here).

    Seeing as I’m not sure of what’s going to happen here when I enter search terms specific to your case, do you mind if I walk through this with you?

    Click on http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-description.jsp?s=492&bc=sl

    You should see a main page with several selectable years. Let’s try Military Prime Contract File, 7/1/1965 – 6/30/1966 first and type in Midland as the search term…so click on the binoculars, type that in and hit Search.

    149 hits. If you click on the little document icon in the View Record column for any row you can see, scant additional details such as the dollar amounts and contract numbers pop up. I see these Dow dingdongs made Chemical and Biological Weapons at your plant (Midland) as well as missiles. What did these add to the water? In the case of the missiles it would add heavy metals, RDX (the propellant) and various by-products of TNT, many of which are also toxic.

    Ah, on the third page under FSC [FEDERAL SUPPLY CLASS] DESCRIPTION, in the far-right column under simply ‘Bombs,’ it says Dow made cluster bombs at the Midland plant. Here’s a description of them – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CBU-24 that leaves out their most disturbing properties.

    Also on this page are two things called PEST CONTROL AGENTS AND DISIN which almost certainly refers to Agent Orange (since Agent White didn’t debut in Vietnam until 1966) considering Dow got $738,000 for the first one-month-long contract and $3,831,000 for the second.

    Anyway, you’ll have to take it from here because I’m suddenly being locked out of this site for some reason. Reminds me of the time the NATO website crashed while I was doing a similar search on one of their database. Hmmmm.

    The attachment is a scan of an email I received as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request I filed. Alvin Young’s Agent Orange Collection was shut down just two weeks after the news of the use of Agent Orange in Canada (CFB Gagetown, my hometown) broke in 2005. It was reopened but not before hundreds of items were permanently removed. I guess Fort Detrick has a few things to hide from us, huh? (I pieced together a complete list of the removed items later).

    Hope this helps,

    Kelly Porter Franklin
    Agent Orange Researcher
    Nanaimo, BC


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