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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