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Canada, formerly a supporter of nuclear disarmament, now failing to sign UN nuclear weapons ban treaty

Canada is missing its chance to shut the gate on nuclear weapons everywhere The Conversation, MV Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British ColumbiaLauren Borja, Incoming post-doctoral fellow, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, University of British ColumbiaLast month, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or the Ban Treaty) opened for signatures to all member states at the United Nations. The treaty is a product of sustained activism by civil society and key non-nuclear weapon states.

As researchers who study nuclear policy, we see this development as a landmark in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The Ban Treaty would make it illegal for signatories to develop, produce, test, possess, use, threaten to use, or transfer nuclear weapons, among other restrictions.

Within days of being opened for signature, 53 countries have signed the treaty, and three have ratified. After signature and ratification by at least 50 countries, it comes into force.

Canada, a historical supporter of nuclear disarmament, has neither signed nor even participated in the negotiations that led to the treaty, which could become the most significant step toward nuclear disarmament since the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970.

Humanitarian shift in nuclear arms control

The Ban Treaty was motivated by a clear recognition that the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use and testing should be at the forefront of all discussions about these weapons. Dr. Tilman Ruff, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear Wartestified at the United Nations in March: “An understanding of what nuclear weapons do invalidates all arguments for continued possession of these weapons and requires that they urgently be prohibited and eliminated as the only course of action commensurate with the existential danger they pose.”

The Ban Treaty, therefore, represents a shift in nuclear arms control, away from talking about nuclear weapons in terms of security and deterrence to focusing on the horrendous consequences of nuclear warfare.

This shift is reflected in the language of the Preamble of the Treaty which highlights concerns that the “catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons” would “transcend national borders” and “pose grave implications for human survival.” The Treaty also posits that “complete” elimination “remains the only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons are never used again under any circumstances.”

Canada abandons traditional arms control emphasis

An emphasis on the humanitarian consequences, however, is not unique within arms control. Other forms of warfare, such as land mines, biological and chemical weapons, have also been outlawed because of such concerns. And such humanitarian concerns have often guided Canada’s diplomacy in the past, as illustrated by its leading role in the appropriately named Ottawa Convention to ban landmines……….

Looking ahead on nuclear disarmament

There has been widespread political support within Canada for being more active in furthering nuclear disarmament. In 2010, both the Senate and House of Commons unanimously adopted a resolution encouraging the Government of Canada “to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention” and “deploy a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.” The dynamic set off by the Ban Treaty offers a suitable opening for launching such an initiative.

In April of this year, Chrystia Freeland issued the following statement to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention: “Twenty years ago today, the international community was united in denouncing the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstance.”

Isn’t it time for the same to be said about nuclear weapons? https://theconversation.com/canada-is-missing-its-chance-to-shut-the-gate-on-nuclear-weapons-everywhere-84672

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October 4, 2017 - Posted by | Canada, weapons and war

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