Canadian silence on nuclear issues becoming deafening
The 2019 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., assesses current troubling trends in nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. Among the more than 800 attendees was former Canadian Disarmament Ambassador Paul Meyer:
The conference provides an unrivalled platform for policy wonks to take the pulse of current strategic postures and programs….The gloomy atmosphere reflected the mood of most participants.
Ambassador Meyer, in an article for OpenCanada.org, highlights some key areas of concern for conference delegates:
- The breakdown of relations between the two leading nuclear powers — Russia and the USA — and the consequent urgent need for a revival of strategic stability talks;
- The failed Hanoi Summit and the negative implications for future deal making of the Trump withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) despite Iranian compliance; and
- Increasing prospects of a debacle at the 2020 NPT Review Conference, given the manifest lack of progress toward nuclear disarmament.
Ambassador Meyer recalls that:
A Chinese expert warned that when combined with shortened flight times of new hypersonic missiles and the conflation of conventional and nuclear systems the strategic situation was “more risky than ever before.”
Decrying the “decline of Canadian engagement in the arena of nuclear affairs”, Ambassador Meyer cites the dismal response of the government to a unanimous recommendation of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence that Canada undertake a leadership role within NATO, on an urgent basis, in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons.
On 9 October 2019 the Rideau Institute sent a letter, supported by eight other civil society groups, to Foreign Minister Freeland, calling for timely action on this important, forward-looking recommendation.
However, like Ambassador Meyer, civil society found the government’s formal response so disappointing that it necessitated a follow up letter, which states in part:
While the Government of Canada’s response to Recommendation 21 begins with the words “[t]he GOC agrees with the recommendation”, it offers no new actions within NATO or elsewhere, on any basis let alone an urgent one. Instead, there is a reiteration of current Canadian actions in the Conference on Disarmament and at the UN General Assembly. [emphasis added]
After outlining specific actions that Canada might take in furtherance of the Standing Committee’s recommendation, RI President Peggy Mason goes on to say:
This is an opportunity for Canada to contribute in a tangible way to reducing global tensions and nuclear risks as the National Defence Standing Committee has recommended. We urge you to act on it.
For the full text of the original Committee recommendation, the formal reply from the Government of Canada and the follow up letter from civil society groups, see: FM Freeland follow up letter on Rec21.
The penultimate word goes to Ambassador Paul Meyer and his question:
If some of the destructive consequences of the current impasse… come to pass, Canada will not be immune from their effects, and people may well ask: what did Canada do to prevent them?
The final words go to Kyodo News, writing about Japanese-Canadian A-bomb survivor and peace activist Setsuko Thurlow, who met with the Pope at the Vatican on 20 March. She and an accompanying Peace Caravan delegation brought a lamp kindled from the “flame of peace” in Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan:
The flame is said to have been taken from the burning ruins of Hiroshima after the U.S. nuclear attack of Aug. 6, 1945 during World War II and since maintained with the intention that it be extinguished only when the threat of nuclear weapons no longer exists.
For an important update on the Venezuelan crisis, see: Ex-UN Human Rights Expert Blasts ‘Manipulation’ on Venezuela: ‘We are Swimming in an Ocean of Lies’ ( Ben Norton, thegrayzone.com, 20 March 2019).
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Trump and Kim at Hanoi Summit)