Canada edges toward deadly nuclear embrace

I hope you find the following article on canada’ shifting policy on nuclear disarmament interesting.

– Anthony Salloum
  Program Director
  Rideau Institute on International Affairs

Canada edges toward deadly nuclear embrace

The Toronto Star
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Page: AA08
Section: Opinion
Byline: Anthony Salloum
Source: Special to The Star

The growing uncertainty over the status of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is another reminder that these weapons continue to threaten the world, and suggests why Canada should be pushing for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, worldwide. There has never been a more important time for Canada’s voice to be heard in support of nuclear disarmament, but if recent votes at the United Nations last month are any indication, Canada is slowly shifting toward embracing nuclear weapons. Traditionally, Canada has been a champion of nuclear disarmament. But last month, our position was put to the test on a key UN vote to diminish the risk of nuclear war, and Canada sat silent.Our ambassador, on instructions from Ottawa, abstained on an important UN resolution “calling on Nuclear Weapons States to lower the operating status of nuclear weapons.” This was the first time such a motion had made it to a vote.The intent of the motion, championed by retired Canadian senator Douglas Roche and his organization, the Middle Powers Initiative, was to lengthen the time required for a nuclear launch, reducing the risk of an accidental or premature launch.But the Harper government doesn’t see it that way. In explaining Canada’s silent abstention, our ambassador said that while “reducing operational readiness remained important … at the same time, deterrence remained an important element of international security and a fundamental part of the deterrence policy of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”In other words, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided that NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy reigns supreme.

At the urging of anti-nuclear organizations such as the Canadian Pugwash Group, last spring then-foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay reported to Parliament that he had raised concerns about NATO’s reliance upon nuclear weapons at a meeting of the alliance.

Then the government shifted tactics, and a few weeks later then-defence minister Gordon O’Connor told Parliament: “We are a member of NATO and we stand by NATO’s policies. NATO, at this stage, has no policy of disarming from nuclear weapons.”

Not surprisingly, the old policy supporting “the complete elimination of nuclear weapons” was changed on the foreign affairs department website to say that Canada’s policy is “consistent with our membership in NATO.”

But the reason for this shift may have less to do with NATO itself than with acquiescence to the United States’ interests in keeping the door open to a renewal of nuclear weapons testing.

Equally worrisome this year was Canada’s reticence to put its name behind a motion to prevent nuclear weapons testing. Last year, Canada co-sponsored a resolution calling for a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In October, Canada failed to co-sponsor the resolution that stressed “the vital importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions, to achieve the earliest entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.”

Thankfully, the resolution passed, 166 in favour to only one opposed (United States) with four abstentions (Colombia, India, Mauritius, Syria).

Ultimately, Canada voted in favour, but could Canada’s decision not to co- sponsor the resolution, as it had done in the past, be related to the U.S. plan to develop new nuclear weapons?

This is a troublesome shift in Canada’s policy on nuclear disarmament. One can trace its beginnings to 2005 when the Liberals, trying to curry favour in Washington, started getting cold feet on nuclear disarmament.

In her book Holding the Bully’s Coat, Linda McQuaig notes positively that, by 2005, Canadian leadership over several years had led to 13 other countries breaking ranks with their NATO allies and voting with Canada in support of a resolution aimed at ending the deadlock that is paralyzing the UN’s Conference on Disarmament.

Consistent with its leadership, Canada announced its intention to support another important nuclear disarmament resolution at the UN First Committee, the body responsible for disarmament. Canada’s support of the creative and inspired initiative was intended to try to break the impasse on disarmament talks by proposing new, ad hoc committees that would bypass the deadlock.

But with hours to go, Canada pulled the plug on supporting the UN resolution, and as a result other countries followed suit. The reason: Paul Martin’s government succumbed to intense pressure from the White House. McQuaig notes, “tragically, the moment had been lost.”

While Martin’s failing may have been an aberration, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives may be making a more permanent policy shift.

Parliamentarians and Canadians need to raise the alarm about this shift. It is inconceivable that, at a time of renewed threats from nuclear weapons, Canada would be shifting away from an active role in advancing nuclear disarmament.

It is up to those who feel strongly that such a move is disastrous for global security to hold all parliamentarians accountable for allowing this to take place. It’s not too late to stop this shift in its tracks.

© 2007 Torstar Corporation


December 11, 2007 at 7:01 pm 1 comment

Seize the Moment for a Nuclear Free World


The welcome news that US intelligence agencies have disavowed earlier reports that Iran was hell-bent on making nuclear weapons has given the world a breather.  Rational people can now fortify the case against the Bush Administration’s plans to unilaterally and pre-emptively attack Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities.  It would be sheer folly to start yet another unauthorized war.  Nevertheless, technology used to produce “peaceful” nuclear energy, an “inalienable right” guaranteed by the Non-Proliferation Treaty to its members, also gives countries the technology they need to manufacture nuclear bombs, as we’ve seen with North Korea, Pakistan, India, Israel, as well as other nations who started down that path but gave it up like South Africa, Argentina, and Libya

During this blessed respite from war against a potential nuclear state, let’s not squander our opportunity for greater security. All nations should be brought to the table to negotiate a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. Let us follow the lead of Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry, former cold warriors, who called this year for such a commitment, understanding that the longer we delay, the more dangerous it will be as othercountries emulate our nuclear prowess.  The US must honor its own agreement under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), put a halt to the development of new nuclear weapons, and take up Putin’s offer of several years ago to cut our mutual nuclear arsenals of about 10,000 weapons to 1,000. Once the US and Russia get down to reasonable numbers approaching the arsenals of the other nuclear weapons states – China, UK, France and Israel, who have stockpiles in the hundreds, and India, Pakistan, and North Korea who have less than one hundred bombs in their arsenals – then we can take up China’s offer to negotiate a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons and call all the nuclear weapons states to the table.

Civil society has already produced a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention introduced into the UN General Assembly by Costa Rica as a discussion document.  It lays out all the steps for dismantlement, verification, guarding, and monitoring the disassembled arsenals to insure that we will all be secure from break-out.  We must also take up Russia and China’s proposal, offered every year for the past four years in the UN, to ban all weapons in space.

That is a pre-condition for Russia and China’s agreement to abolish nuclear weapons as they do not want to be dominated from space by the US.  And we’ll also have to include a Missile Ban Treaty and forego provocative US actions of planting missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, rattling our sabers at Russia, or in the Asian-Pacific region, starting an arms race with China.

Finally, we must supersede the NPT’s guarantee to so-called “peaceful” nuclear technology, upon which Iran is now lawfully relying, by establishing an International Sustainable Energy Agency as we phase out nuclear power. To think we can control the nuclear fuel cycle, saying Brazil and Japan can enrich nuclear fuel, but not Iran, would create a new system of nuclear apartheid, doomed to fail.  Ending the nuclear age would take off the table any plans to go to war against countries with nuclear facilities with which we disagree.

It’s totally naive to think that anything less than the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and their evil twins – nuclear reactors – would actually work.  Let us not condemn our planet to a state of perpetual war – with unimaginable catastrophes.Giving peace a chance by negotiating an end to the nuclear age is the only practical way out of our terrifying dilemma. Let us seize the opportunity of this brief pause on the path to war and move with hope into a nuclear-free 21st Century.

Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Convener of the Abolition 2000 Sustainable Energy Working Group

December 11, 2007 at 5:37 pm 1 comment

In Memoriam…Janet Bloomfield, 1953 – 2007

In Memoriam…

Janet Bloomfield

Janet Bloomfield, 1953 – 2007 

In 2005, Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat asked, “Are we going to base our world on a culture of peace or on a culture of violence?” in his message to the 7th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

That message was carried by the Atomic Mirror, for which Janet acted as UK Director until her untimely death on April 2, 2007.

Janet Bloomfield knew the answer to that question and dedicated herself to working with likeminded global citizens who were equally committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. 

Janet’s accomplishments are numerous…they include: 

  • Activism in the anti-nuclear movement since 1981.
  • Chairing the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1993 to 1996) and producing the highly influential “Blueprint for a Nuclear Weapon Free World.”
  • Convenor of the Abolition 2000 Working Group, beloved founding mother of Abolition 2000, and a member of the Global Council of Abolition 2000 the global network to eliminate nuclear weapons.
  • Consultant and Vice-President (1994 -1997) to the Geneva based International Peace Bureau, a Nobel Peace Prize winning network of non-aligned peace organizations in 44 countries, which nominated Joseph Rotblat for the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Organizing and leading the Atomic Mirror Pilgrimage 1996 around nuclear and sacred sites of England, Scotland and Wales, which was filmed and made into a documentary called “Sacred Fire”.
  • Senior consultant on UK Security Policy to the Oxford Research Group.

She leaves behind husband Richard Bloomfield, two children – Lucy and Robin – and countless friends and admirers across the globe.

On April 30th, thousands will begin to convene in Vienna for the 2007 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prep com meetings.  Janet’s absence will be sorely felt. The anti-nuclear movement lost a valued member on April 2. Janet’s family and friends will stop to mourn, to remember, and to celebrate her legacy. That legacy has and will continue to inspire countless citizens to pick up where Janet left off.

Janet Bloomfield, Sit Jospeph Rotblat, Pamela MeidellFor those of us who also know the answer to Joseph Rotblat’s question, we know what Janet would want us to do…. persevere in our common efforts to make the culture of peace a reality for the sake of our children and their children. 

Rest in peace Janet, your mission is in good hands.

April 5, 2007 at 3:01 pm 30 comments

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