Science for Peace / Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Remarks on Canada and Nuclear Weapons
It is deeply moving to be part of this conference in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the world, so many years ago when I was a girl of 15, discovered the apocalyptic horror of nuclear weapons. I come from a country caught in contradiction. In response to a parliamentary committee's recommendations on the basis of public input, especially from peace groups, the Canadian government officially acknowledged in April 1999 that elimination of nuclear weapons is the only sustainable strategy for the future. But Canada remains in NATO, which clings to nuclear weapons.
I bring the moral passion and commitment
of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW), a non-governmental
organization (NGO) founded in 1996 following the International Court of
Justice advisory opinion on the obligation to nuclear disarmament.
It was at the CNANW's request that Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy invited
the parliamentary committee to hold the public hearings on nuclear weapons
policies. The peace groups' demand for a review of NATO's nuclear
policies led to the committee's recommendation
that Canada urge that the NATO review of its Strategic Concept cover its nuclear component. Thus at the Washington NATO Summit in April 1999, Canada introduced a process that led to examination of security and arms control options, a process that Axworthy confirmed would include review of nuclear policies.
Canada faced hostile criticism and interference
all along: the US opposed even the holding of the parliamentary hearings
on nuclear weapons policies and NATO's leadership denigrated Canada as
a nuclear "nag." The CNANW and its member groups kept up the pressure.
They launched a campaign to write letters to the Prime Minister and the
ministers of foreign affairs and national defence pressing them to ensure
a thorough, transparent NATO review as well as to support the New Agenda
Coalition (NAC) resolution at the UN aiming
at commitment to negotiate total nuclear disarmament. When NATO defence ministers met in September, CNANW member groups held a press conference to reiterate public demand for the NATO review. The CNANW delivered a long statement to the government that identified NATO's backpedalling on the review and that urged Canada to support the NAC and to work for change in NATO policies. With Canada's leadership, most of the non-nuclear members of NATO joined Canada in abstaining on, rather than continuing to oppose, the NAC resolution in 1999.
CNANW develops its action agenda by e-mail and twice yearly meetings. It also meets with experts to gain knowledge of issues and participates in consultations with government. Focusing in February 2000 on the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, CNANW got its citizen nominee, Ernie Regehr of Project Ploughshares, on the Canadian delegation. In March a seminar held in Toronto by the Canadian Pugwash Group and Science for Peace (of which I am a board member) raised the voice of academics and activists. In the report which was sent to the Prime Minister, we denounced reliance on nuclear weapons as the ultimate "march of folly" and we urged Canada to become a moral leader for nuclear disarmament at the NPT conference and within NATO. We called for Canada to refuse to participate in the proposed US national ballistic missile system (which we thought certain to destroy the possibility of meaningful arms control), and instead to foster the human security approach and the culture of peace. In March also CNANW in various cities across Canada had been fired up by Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament at the UN, Chris Westdal. His impassioned denunciation of nuclear weapons as the stuff of murder, earth rape, and potential human extinction, his terrifying description of their destructive power, his scorn of nuclear deterrence as a disgrace, were inspiring. We have taken up his challenge to stir public concern and raise the profile of this issue in Canada so as to build the energy and political will needed for abolition.
CNANW had been encouraged at the NPT conference
in May 1999 that the nuclear weapons states made an unequivocal undertaking
to accomplish the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. More good
news came with Canada's shift, in the fall of 2000, along with the rest
of NATO (except France), to support the NAC resolution at the UN, which
included the NPT undertaking and the 13 action steps attached to it so
that they now have the force of a UN commitment. Although this resolution
affirmed that a negotiated legally binding instrument -- a
nuclear weapons convention -- will be required to underpin a nuclear weapons free world, Canada has so far not supported UN resolutions directed to this end. Canada needs to start working more closely with the New Agenda countries, especially since the NATO review, in December, mostly reiterated its 1999 Strategic Concept, with reassertion of nuclear weapons as "essential" and of the intent to retain them for the foreseeable future. But NATO did reaffirm their NPT commitment to nuclear weapons elimination and the 13 action items, and it made a promise to broaden its engagement with NGOs, academe, and the public on nuclear weapon and disarmament issues.
In the past year CNANW and its members
have put their energies into pressing the government to oppose the proposed
US national missile defence system (NMD) and reject Canadian participation
in it. In October 2000 Science for Peace held an all-day seminar
on Star Wars with American expert Karl Grossman. As peace activists,
we have taken part in debates on national TV, written articles for newspapers
and magazines, and submitted briefs for the review conducted by the parliamentary
committee on national defence. We have urged Canada to focus on abolition
of nuclear weapons as the only real answer to the threat of missiles, pointing
out that NMD already is stalling and will undermine abolitionist efforts.
We have urged Canada to choose working once more for international law
as the way forward. We have stressed that NMD will violate the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, and lead to a renewed arms race, jeopardizing non-proliferation
and arms control and disarmament agreements that Canada has long supported.
Some groups have stressed that it will provide the missing link to US First
Strike capability, and that it will be the first step in the US plan for
space domination. This plan, put forward in US Space Command's Vision
for 2020 (together with its later Long Range plan setting out implementation)
plain that the missile scheme is but the first step towards building the capacity to fight both from and in space. The goal is to achieve dominance through weaponization of space to protect American military and commercial interests and investment worldwide. CNANW and its member groups have been working hard to get letters and campaign postcards to the government, as well as petitions signed and put before parliament. Getting church bodies to take a public stand against NMD is another strategy we have used. We have organized meetings to educate people, and dialogues with government officials and members of parliament We have established two missile defence web sites, one for young people, the other for the Network of Opposition to Star Wars. We know that vested military and industrial interests in the US are the force behind it and these may draw in similar forces in Canada, which the US is eager to have support
the scheme for credibility. Science for Peace developed a striking small pamphlet to distribute among the crowds at the recent Quebec Summit. We believe that Canada could indeed make a real contribution to peacebuilding by promoting and helping develop an international satellite surveillance system that could provide early warning information to all states about pre-launch conditions of all nuclear weapons delivery systems, missile launches, and air traffic. We have urged the government to object publicly to the dangerous US Space Command vision. Five of us Science for Peace board members went to Ottawa and presented our information and pleas on missile defence and space weaponization to Canada's Minister of National Defence. CNANW issued a formal policy statement on NMD in February. Through the Simons Foundation, Lloyd Axworthy, now director of the Liu Centre for the study of global issues at the
University of British Columbia in Vancouver, held a consultation and issued a report on guiding Canada's role.
Another issue of concern that Physicians
for Global Survival has brought forward is the need for a new study on
nuclear winter, to follow up 1980s research that predicted devastating
impacts of dust and smoke from nuclear blasts and the ensuing fires. We
are getting cities and towns to adopt resolution supporting abolition.
We got the Mayor of Toronto to sign the call for abolition put forward
by the mayors of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
NATO still commands attention. The
March 2001 Pugwash-Science for Peace seminar focused on Canada, NATO, and
nuclear weapons based on a paper by Senator Roche and Ernie Regehr.
They urge that having pressed for the nuclear review, Canada has a special
responsibility for the contradiction between NATO's undertaking for abolition
and its clinging to nuclear weapons. Canada should no longer see
its obligation as finding a balance between NATO and disarmament. It should
see its duty as carrying out its nuclear disarmament commitments.
Canada should work with New Agenda countries to implement the unequivocal
undertaking to abolition. They urge Canadian leadership in nuclear
weapons abolition, suggesting that civil society leaders and the government
explore formation of a new coalition of like-minded governments and leaders
that would encourage the nuclear weapons states to take active steps towards
implementing their undertaking to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The seminar also heard NATO and Canadian government viewpoints from officials
and it gained insights on Russia and Europe from a Toronto political science
professor from Russia. A report of the proceedings with a host of
concerns and suggestions about advancing global nuclear disarmament was
sent to the ministers of foreign
affairs and national defence.
And now, on August 4, for the third year
in a row, Physicians for Global Survival will publish a large advertisement
in the front section of our major newspaper, the Globe and Mail (Toronto)with
the names of 1,000 of the Canadians who paid for it. Its messages include:
"Remember Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945," "Say No to Missile Defence"
and "Earth's best defence against nuclear war is to abolish nuclear weapons."
If we, who know and care, are determined, we can rid the world of the nuclear
scourge ? and we must, for
the sake of humanity and earth itself.