Category Archives: nuclear weapons

Trudeau’s refusal to sign UN nuclear ban is hypocritical and unpopular

The Trudeau government’s refusal to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty is both unpopular and hypocritical.

According to a poll released last week by Nanos Research, 55% of Canadians “support” and 19% “somewhat support” signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The same percentage agreed, or somewhat agreed with Canada signing a treaty that became international law in January even if Washington pressures Ottawa not to.

The poll commissioned by the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition, Simons Foundation Canada and Collectif Échec à la guerre also found that Canadians are concerned about the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Eighty percent of the 1007 people asked said the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons while only 9% considered it acceptable for countries to have nuclear weapons for protection.

The poll highlights the unpopularity of the government’s position towards a treaty designed to stigmatize and criminalize nukes in a similar fashion to the UN landmine treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against — 123 voted in favour — holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Justin Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the 86 countries that have already signed the treaty. At the UN General Assembly in November Canada voted against 118 countries that reaffirmed their support for the TPNW.

The Liberals have taken these positions as they’ve publicly expressed a desire to abolish these ghastly weapons. Just before the TPNW entered into force at the start of the year 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.”

In isolation the gap between the Liberals’ nuclear weapons pronouncements and actions is striking. But if one broadens the lens, the hypocrisy is substantially more astounding. The Trudeau government says its international affairs are driven by a belief in an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” yet they refuse to sign a nuclear treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

The TPNW has been dubbed the “first feminist law on nuclear weapons” since it specifically recognizes the different ways in which nuclear weapons production and use disproportionately impacts women. Additionally, the TPNW strengthens the international rules-based order by making weapons that are immoral also illegal under international law.

Fortunately, the NDP, Greens and Bloc Québécois all actively support the TPNW. The recent Nanos poll suggests five times more Canadians would vote for a party that supports the Treaty than would vote against one for doing so.

By signing the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty the Trudeau government can fulfill both Canadians wishes and their stated foreign-policy rhetoric.

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Trudeau needs to live up to rhetoric and sign UN Nuclear Ban Treaty

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canada isolated in opposing nuclear weapons ban

 

 

Friday January 22, 2021, will be a landmark day in the struggle to abolish nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force, making weapons that have always been immoral also illegal under international law.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) should be celebrated for its years of work promoting the treaty. Japanese Canadian Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, offered spiritual guidance to this testament to international activism.

Amidst this important step towards abolishing ghastly weapons, humanity continues to live under the cloud of possible nuclear annihilation. Canada’s most intimate military ally, the US, spends over $35 billion annually on nuclear weapons, equal its ‘aid’ budget. The other eight nuclear armed states spend an equal sum on their nukes.

Last January the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight. Created two years after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the placement of the clock hand is evaluated each year by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board. The clock was moved closer to midnight because the limited arms control measures built up over decades have been shredded during the past two years. Washington pulled out of the Open Skies Treaty and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which have mitigated the dangers posed by 13,400 nuclear weapons (over 90 percent held by the US and Russia). Detonating a small share of these nukes could make the planet uninhabitable. The ‘most advanced’ nuclear weapons are 80 times more deadly than what was dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

The Trump administration also withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement. Hopefully, Joe Biden will rejoin the accord. But a preferable solution to concerns about Iranian nuclear weapons would be to impose a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East that includes intensive inspections. While most countries of the region support the idea, the US refuses to accept a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, which exist in a number of other regions. Washington wants to protect Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile and its own ability to deploy nuclear weapons to the area.

Ottawa says it supports a nuclear weapons free Middle East, but has opposed organizing a regional conference on the establishment of such a zone because it would undercut Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. Additionally, in December Canada joined the US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau in voting against a resolution calling on Israel to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and “renounce possession of nuclear weapons”. 153 countries backed the call.

This is but a small slice of the Trudeau government’s nuclear weapons hypocrisy. Two weeks ago Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rob Oliphant, “reaffirmed Canada’s unwavering support for advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament”, declaring “we are committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.” Yet a month earlier Canada voted against 130 UN members that backed a resolution supporting the TPNW. Canada also voted against holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Ottawa then boycotted the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of the world’s countries attended.

The Trudeau government opposes the TPNW while claiming it wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons. It also touts its promotion of an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” while ignoring how the treaty advances these principals.

There is far too little discussion of the threat nuclear weapons pose. Leaders across the globe need to be pushed to pursue nuclear disarmament. The TPNW should be at the centre of that effort. Canadians need to press their government to sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

 

On the day the treaty enters into force the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute will be presenting a webinar with Noam Chomsky on “The Threat of Nuclear Weapons: Why Canada Should Sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty”.

 

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Filed under Latin America, nuclear weapons

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons

The movement to abolish nuclear weapons has been around for a long time, taking a torturous path through highs and lows. Another high will be achieved next week when the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty enters into force.

On January 22 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will become law for the 51 countries that have already ratified it (35 others have signed it and another 45 have expressed their support). Weapons that have always been immoral will become illegal.

But, jettisoning stated support for nuclear abolition, a feminist foreign-policy and an international rules-based order — all principles the TPNW advances — the Trudeau government opposes the treaty. Hostility to nuclear disarmament from the US, NATO and Canada’s military is too strong for the Trudeau government to live up to its stated beliefs.

The TPNW is largely the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Established in April 2007, ICAN spent a decade building support for various international disarmament initiatives culminating in the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. The TPNW was born of that conference.

Indirectly, ICAN traces its roots much further back. Even before the first nuke decimated Hiroshima 75 years ago many opposed nuclear weapons. As the horror of what took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki became clearer, opposition to atomic bombs grew.

In Canada opposition to nuclear weapons reached its zenith in the mid 1980s. Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and other cities became nuclear weapons free zones and Pierre Trudeau appointed an ambassador for disarmament. In April 1986 100,000 marched in Vancouver to oppose nuclear weapons.

The mainstreaming of nuclear abolition took decades of activism. In the 1950s the Canadian Peace Congress was viciously attacked for promoting the Stockholm Appeal to ban atomic bombs. External Affairs Minister Lester Pearson said, “this Communist sponsored petition seeks to eliminate the only decisive weapon possessed by the West at a time when the Soviet Union and its friends and satellites possess a great superiority in all other types of military power.”Pearson called for individuals to destroy the Peace Congress from the inside, publicly applauding 50 engineering students who swamped a membership meeting of the University of Toronto Peace Congress branch. He proclaimed, “if more Canadians were to show something of this high spirited crusading zeal, we would very soon hear little of the Canadian Peace Congress and its works. We would simply take it over.”

CCF leader M.J. Coldwell also berated Peace Congress activists. The 1950 convention of the NDP’s predecessor condemned the Stockholm Appeal to ban atomic bombs.

For protesting nuclear weapons some were arrested and put on the PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party) list of individuals the police would round up and detain indefinitely in the case of an emergency. According to Radio Canada’s Enquête, a 13-year girl was on the secretive list simply because she attended an anti-nuclear protest in 1964.

Efforts to ban nuclear weapons face far less opposition today. Anti-nuclear activism in Canada has been re-energized since the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer and the TPNW achieving its ratification threshold in November. In the fall 50 organizations endorsed an event with three MPs on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN nuclear ban treaty?” and former prime minister Jean Chrétien, deputy prime minister John Manley, defence ministers John McCallum and Jean-Jacques Blais, and foreign ministers Bill Graham and Lloyd Axworthy signed an international statement organized by ICAN in support of the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

To mark the TPNW entering into force 85 groups are supporting ads in The Hill Times calling for a parliamentary debate on signing the Treaty. There will also be a press conference with representatives of the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens to demand Canada sign the TPNW and on the day the treaty enters into force Noam Chomsky will speak on “The Threat of Nuclear Weapons: Why Canada Should Sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty”.

To force the Trudeau government to overcome the influence of the military, NATO and the USA requires significant mobilization. Fortunately, we have the experience to do it. The push for Canada to sign the TPNW is rooted in decades of activists’ work to abolish these ghastly weapons.

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The hypocrisy of Liberals’ nuclear policy

Justin Trudeau & Hedy Fry

 

A Vancouver MP’s last-minute withdrawal from a recent webinar on Canada’s nuclear arms policy highlights Liberal hypocrisy. The government says they want to rid the world of nuclear weapons but refuse to take a minimal step to protect humanity from the serious threat.

A month ago Liberal MP Hedy Fry agreed to participate in a webinar on “Why hasn’t Canada signed the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty?” The long-standing member of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament group was to speak with MPs from the NDP, Bloc Québécois and Greens, as well as Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who co-accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. More than 50 organizations endorsed the webinar that took place Thursday. After the press was informed about an event seeking to press Canada to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) Fry said she couldn’t participate due to a scheduling conflict. Asked for a short video to play during the webinar Fry declined.

Did the Prime Minister’s Office intercede after becoming aware of Fry’s participation and the 27-year veteran of the House of Commons caved to their pressure?

Fry’s withdrawal from the exchange of ideas captures the hypocrisy of the Liberals’ nuclear policy. They publicly express a desire to abolish these ghastly weapons but are unwilling to upset any source of power (the PMO in Fry’s case) and the military/Washington (in the PMO’s case) to achieve it.

Last month Global Affairs claimed “Canada unequivocally supports global nuclear disarmament” while two weeks ago a government official repeated their support for a “world free of nuclear weapons.” These statements were made in response to renewed focus on nuclear disarmament after the 50th country recently ratified the TPNW, which means the accord will soon become law for the nations that have ratified it. The treaty is designed to stigmatize and criminalize nukes in a similar fashion to the UN landmine treaty and Chemical Weapons Convention.

But the Trudeau government has been hostile to the initiative. Canada was one of 38 states to vote against -123 voted in favour – holding the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination. Trudeau then refused to send a representative to the TPNW negotiating meeting, which two-thirds of all countries attended. The PM went so far as to call the anti-nuclear initiative “useless” and since then his government has refused to join the 85 countries that have already signed the Treaty. At the UN General Assembly two weeks ago Canada voted against the 118 countries that reaffirmed their support for the TPNW.

In isolation the gap between the Liberals’ nuclear weapons pronouncements and actions is striking. But if one broadens the lens, the hypocrisy is substantially more astounding. The Trudeau government says its international affairs are driven by a belief in an “international rules-based order” and “feminist foreign policy” yet they refuse to sign a nuclear treaty that directly advances these stated principles.

The TPNW has been dubbed the “first feminist law on nuclear weapons” since it specifically recognizes the different ways in which nuclear weapons production and use disproportionately impacts women. Additionally, the TPNW strengthens the international rules-based order by making these weapons that are immoral also illegal under international law.

There’s a terrifying gap between what the Liberals say and do on weapons that continue to pose an existential threat to humanity.

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Trudeau ignores threat of nuclear annihilation

sign-or-resign-CA-216x300

Justin Trudeau presents himself as “progressive” on foreign affairs. The Liberals claim to have brought Canada “back” after the disastrous Harper Conservatives. But their nuclear weapons policy demonstrates the emptiness of this rhetoric.

Reducing the chance nuclear weapons are used again should be a priority for any “progressive” government. But, powerful Canadian allies oppose nuclear arms controls so Trudeau’s government isn’t interested in the “international rules based order” needed to do curb the existential threat nukes pose to humankind.

The Liberals have voted against UN nuclear disarmament efforts supported by most countries. At the behest of Washington, they voted against an important initiative designed to stigmatize and ultimately criminalize nuclear weapons. They refused to join 122 countries represented at the 2017 Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Last month Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström hosted a high-level meeting to reinvigorate nuclear disarmament commitments made by states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). While most of the 16 countries were represented in Stockholm by their foreign ministers, Chrystia Freeland did not attend. Instead, the government dispatched Parliamentary Secretary for Consular Affairs Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.

Reducing or eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons isn’t mentioned in the Liberals 2017 defence policy statement (North Korean nukes receive one mention). Instead, Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy makes two dozen references to Canada’s commitment (“unwavering”) to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Ghastly nuclear weapons are fundamental to NATO’s strategic planning. According to the official description, “nuclear weapons are a core component of the Alliance’s overall capabilities.”

Through NATO, Canada has effectively committed to fighting a nuclear war if any country breached its boundaries. Additionally, the alliance does not restrict its members from using nuclear weapons first. Canada participates in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group and contributes personnel and financial support to NATO’s Nuclear Policy Directorate.

While NATO maintains nuclear weapons in Turkey and various European countries, Canadian officials blame Russia for the arms control impasse and the recent demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which banned an entire class of nuclear weapons. In April Director General of International Security Policy at Global Affairs Canada, Cindy Termorshuizen said, “we call on Russia to return to compliance with the INF Treaty.” But, it’s not clear Russia violated one of the most significant nuclear accords ever signed. The Trump administration, on the other hand, began to develop new ground-launched intermediate-range missiles prohibited under the pact long before it formally withdrew from the INF. US military planners want to deploy intermediate-range missiles against China, which is not party to the INF.

In December Canada voted against a UN General Assembly resolution for “Strengthening Russian-United States Compliance with Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”

At that vote Canada’s representative said Moscow’s position on the INF reflects its “aggressive actions in neighbouring countries and beyond.” But, it is Washington that broke its word in expanding NATO into Eastern Europe, withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 2001 and established missile ‘defence’ systems near Russia. As part of NATO Canadian troops are stationed on Russia’s border in Latvia and Ukraine, which isn’t conducive to nuclear retrenchment.

A look elsewhere demonstrates the Liberals’ ambivalence to nuclear disarmament. They strengthened the Stephen Harper government’s agreement to export nuclear reactors to India, even though New Delhi has refused to sign the NPT (India developed atomic weapons with Canadian technology). The Trudeau government wouldn’t dare mention Israel’s 100+ nuclear bombs or endorse a nuclear free Middle East. While they’ve publicly stated their support for the Iran nuclear accord, they have not supported European efforts to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (Or restarted diplomatic relations with Iran as promised.)

Despite some progressives claiming otherwise, Canada has never been an antinuclear country. In fact, if one were to rank the world’s 200 countries in order of their contribution to the nuclear arms race Canada would fall just behind the nine nuclear armed states. Among many examples of nuclear complicity, Canada spent tens of millions of dollars to help develop the first atomic bombs, CF-104 Starfighters stationed in Europe carried a nuclear weapon and various US nukes were stationed in Canada.

Still, governments from the 1970s through the 1990s expended some political capital on nuclear non-proliferation. While the follow-through was disappointing, Trudeau Père at least spoke about ”suffocating” the nuclear arms race.

His son, on the other hand, responded to a call to participate in a widely endorsed nuclear disarmament initiative by stating “there can be all sorts of people talking about nuclear disarmament, but if they do not actually have nuclear arms, it is sort of useless to have them around, talking.” Justin Trudeau also refused to congratulate Canadian campaigner Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, who accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Justin Trudeau’s government does not even talk the talk, let alone walk the walk when it comes to ending the threat of nuclear annihilation.

 

As part of its 50th anniversary commemoration Black Rose Books – initially Our Generation Against Nuclear War – will host a conference on nuclear disarmament in Montréal on September 21, 2019.

 

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