Expert Seminar on Restoring Canada’s Nuclear Disarmament Leadership
April 9, 2008
Canada must recover its leading role in working for the elimination of nuclear weapons, a role that has been cast into doubt under the Harper government. That was the dominant finding for the sponsors of a special seminar of 20 nuclear disarmament experts held February 3-4, 2008 in Ottawa.
The seminar was co-sponsored by six leading groups: the Middle Powers Initiative, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Rideau Institute, the Simons Foundation, Canadian Pugwash Group and Physicians for Global Survival — all of which have endorsed this statement.
The seminar considered the new report of Canada World’s Poll, principally sponsored by The Simons Foundation, showing that 88 percent of Canadians think nuclear weapons make the world a more dangerous place and would support the elimination of nuclear weapons through an enforceable agreement.
Special attention was paid to the incoherence and contradiction between Canada supporting the “unequivocal undertaking” to the total elimination of nuclear weapons required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Canada’s continued allegiance to NATO’s policies stating that nuclear weapons are “essential.”
Concern was expressed during the seminar that NATO’s policies for the retention of nuclear weapons are now trumping the NPT’s legal obligations for nuclear disarmament. The government’s own website, stating that Canada’s nuclear policy now must be consistent with NATO’s policies, calls into question whether the NPT is still the central instrument in which Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament policy is rooted. A strong call was made for Canada to work with Germany and Norway in their current efforts to overhaul NATO’s outdated policies, particularly as set out in its Strategic Concept, for retention of nuclear weapons.