It’s time to nuke the nukes. The Trudeau government needs to live up to its rhetoric and sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. Doing so would be a meaningful contribution to creating a world without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Ten days ago Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rob Oliphant, said “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.” In October Global Affairs declared, “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament.”
Still, the government has refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force on Friday. Canada opposed holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Ottawa also boycotted the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. Last month Canada voted against a resolution supporting theTPNW backed by 130 UN member states.
As Japanese Canadian atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow has noted, the TPNW makes weapons that have always been immoral also illegal. The TPNW requires the 51 countries that have already ratified it to “never under any circumstances… develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
While this country doesn’t possess nuclear weapons, Canada signing the TPNW would benefit humanity as much as any non-nuclear armed state doing so. Canada is a founding member of the nuclear armed NATO and steps towards denuclearizing that alliance are crucial for reducing the danger of conflict between leading nuclear powers US and Russia.
Canada also has a unique military relationship with the world’s foremost nuclear armed state. The US and Canada have hundreds of joint military agreements. The most important of these bi-national accords, NORAD, puts Canadians in various positions of influence within the US military.
The new Joe Biden administration has said it wants to shift gears on nuclear disarmament. It is expected to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which Trump looked set to exit next month. Biden’s team has also suggested they may reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, Open Skies Treaty andIntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. These agreements have mitigated the danger of nuclear obliteration. Their demise is part of why the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight last year and the UN Institute for Disarmament Research says the risk of nuclear weapons use is at its greatest since World War II.
The new Biden administration should be pressed to meaningfully lessen the nuclear threat and Ottawa signing the TPNW would embolden the more sober elements in Washington. Irrespective of its impact in the US or within NATO, a government claiming to want to rid the world of nuclear weapons should sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. (The TPNW also advances the Trudeau government’s much touted “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy”.)
Nuclear weapons remain a serious threat to humanity and the TPNW represents an important step towards abolishing these ghastly weapons. Canadians of conscience must press the Trudeau government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty. It’s time for the Liberals to ‘put up or shut up’. Their action, or lack thereof, will prove if their anti-nuclear talk is empty rhetoric or principled opposition to one of the great scourges of humanity.