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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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