Eliminating nuclear weapons

"The consensus at the meeting was that Canada could be doing more to promote a nuclear free world."

Last May, I had the opportunity of attending a meeting in Ottawa of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).  The meeting was chaired by my colleague, Helène Laverdière, our NDP Deputy Foreign Affairs critic.

In addition to MPs from the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties, a few distinguished guests were present.  I had the pleasure of meeting Bev DeLong of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons as well as two former Canadian Ambassadors for Disarmament, Paul Meyer and Douglas Roche (both had just returned from the third Preparatory meeting of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York.)

The consensus at the meeting was that Canada could be doing more to promote a nuclear free world.  For example, we could be working with other countries to implement the 5 Point Proposal on Nuclear Disarmament as outlined by United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon:

Pursue negotiations in good faith – as required by the NPT – on nuclear disarmament, either through a new convention or through a series of mutually reinforcing instruments backed by a credible system of verification.  Strengthen security in the disarmament process, and …assure non-nuclear weapon states against nuclear weapons threats.

Ensure that disarmament is rooted in legal obligations through universal membership in multilateral treaties, regional nuclear-weapon-free zones, a new treaty on fissile materials, and ratification and entry into force of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

Ensure disarmament is visible to the public through greater accountability and transparency – thus countries with nuclear weapons should publish more information about what they are doing to fulfill their disarmament commitments.

Recognize that nuclear disarmament also requires eliminating other weapons of mass destruction and limiting missiles, space weapons and conventional arms.

Former Ambassador Meyer stated that Canada needs to undertake more proactive measures towards the goal of nuclear disarmament.  For example, Canada could launch a major diplomatic initiative, champion measures of risk reduction prevention and encourage NATO to wean itself off the attachment to nuclear weapons.  We could also re-invigorate our leadership position on outer space security.  Mr. Roche talked about the pressure of the military industrial complex to not move anti-nuclear initiatives forward and the need to resolve conflicts without war.  Our goal, according to him, should be a 21st century without nuclear weapons.

As the International Committee of the Red Cross states, “Humanity is at a crossroads: either a credible process or processes will be put in place leading to the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons or the number of States and other actors able and willing to use nuclear weapons will continue to increase.”

The more nuclear weapons we have, the greater probability that they will be used either accidentally or intentionally.  We only have to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 to see how close the world came to nuclear destruction.  Ultimately, all our concerns about quality of life, poverty, hunger and climate change will be meaningless, if our planet experiences a nuclear catastrophe.

Canada needs to step up to the plate in order to make a nuclear-free world happen.  We can do better.