a) recognize the catastrophic humanitarian consequences thatwould result from any use of nuclear weapons, and recognize those consequences transcend national borders and pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security, and for the health of future generations;
(b) reaffirm the need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances;
(c) recall the unanimous vote in both Houses of Parliament in 2010 that called on Canada to participate in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention;
(d) reaffirm its support for the 2008 five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations;
(e) express disappointment in Canada’s vote against, and absence from, initial rounds of negotiations for a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons; and
(f) call upon the government to support the Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, released on May 22, 2017, and to commit to attend, in good faith, future meetings of the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from , who, I would like to point out, has been doing excellent work on this file. It is an honour for me to share my time with her.
I am truly honoured to rise in the House today to move this motion and talk about the very timely issue of nuclear disarmament.
As the Secretary-General of the United Nations has reminded us, nuclear weapons continue to pose a serious threat to humanity and our planet. Right now, there are approximately 170,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and just one of them could cause unthinkable damage. This problem is not going away. Countries are modernizing their weapons, the new American president wants to increase the strength of his country's nuclear arsenal, and then there are countries like North Korea. That is a major concern.
It is likely because of that concern that the House unanimously adopted the following motion in 2010:
That the House of Commons:
(a) recognize the danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security;
(b) endorse the statement, signed by 500 members, officers and companions of the Order of Canada, underlining the importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear proliferation and the progress of and opportunity for nuclear disarmament;
I will shorten it a little, since I do not have much time.
(c) endorse the 2008 five-point plan for nuclear disarmament of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations...
(d) support the initiatives for nuclear disarmament of President Obama of the United States of America; and
(e) ...encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.
Canada did not follow through on this major diplomatic initiative. That said, a major diplomatic initiative is being undertaken at the United Nations right now, and Canada is opposing this motion, which was supported by many members across the aisle and adopted by unanimous consent. Not only did Canada fail to take the initiative and support this, but it is actually fighting it, which I find completely unacceptable.
I would really like to know what has changed, exactly, for my colleagues across the way who supported this motion in 2010. Is the current U.S. government pressuring them to not take part in this effort? That would be terrible.
Let me read another text that states:
WHEREAS there are still at least 17,000 nuclear weapons [I cannot remember what number I gave earlier] in the world, whose very existence constitutes an unprecedented threat to the continuation of life on Earth as we know it;
WHEREAS nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet banned by international agreement;
WHEREAS as a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons...Canada has an international treaty obligation “to pursue negotiations” for the total elimination of nuclear weapons...;
WHEREAS the International Court of Justice ruled on July 8, 1996: i) that this [non-proliferation treaty] commitment is a legal obligation under international law, and ii) that it is generally illegal to use nuclear weapons, or even threaten to use them;
BE IT RESOLVED that [in the House, I guess] the Liberal Party of Canada urge the Government of Canada to:
comply more fully both with its international treaty obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and with the International Court of Justice ruling of July 8, 1996, by playing a pro-active role in achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world;
emulate the Ottawa Process (which led to the banning of land mines) by convening an international conference to commence negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would ban nuclear weapons—akin to the Biological Weapons Convention...and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The motion I just read was adopted by the Liberal Party of Canada last year. Not only are some of the members opposite turning their backs on what they supported in 2010, but they are turning the backs on their own party and supporters. This is quite unacceptable. I have raised this issue in the House several times, and each time I was told that Canada is working on a convention on fissile materials.
I am not opposed to working on such a convention, but I am not sure that this has anything to do with what I am talking about. It is a bit like if I said that this month I was going to breathe so I will not really have any time to eat. We can do both. What is stopping us from doing both?
Two days ago, in her foreign policy speech, the minister told us about the importance of multilateral systems and major international instruments. Here we have a multilateral process involving over 130 countries, and an international instrument, ratified by Canada, calling on all parties to take part in these kinds of negotiations, but Canada is missing in action.
Throughout her speech, the minister talked about all of Canada’s great accomplishments. Interestingly, she failed to mention one thing: the anti-personnel mine ban convention, signed in Ottawa. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor, was here yesterday and showed us books on this convention written in Japanese. It made Canada famous.
I do not know why the minister refused to mention the anti-personnel mine ban convention, but I sometimes get the impression that she is afraid of drawing parallels with the nuclear disarmament negotiations. The situation is quite similar. It is not easy; some countries do not want to participate, but leadership means taking the initiative. While certain countries did not want to participate in the anti-personnel mine ban convention, it created a catalyst, moral suasion and a movement. It is a great achievement for Canada.
With the negotiations under way, we are truly witnessing a historic moment. There is never an ideal time for such a convention, but if we do not start, we will not reach the finish line. Right now there is a momentum that we need to capitalize on. In what little time I have left, I will quote in English the letter signed by 100 members of the Order of Canada, including former ambassadors, a former minister of foreign affairs and former ambassadors for disarmament, calling on the Government of Canada:
Lead an urgent call to end provocative rhetoric and sabre rattling over North Korea in favour of a return to sustained engagement and negotiations in pursuit of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
Urge the US and Russia to publicly reaffirm and act on their “unequivocal undertaking,” as agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, “to accomplish, in accordance with the principle of irreversibility, the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
Unfortunately, I will not have the time—
Madam Speaker, it is my honour to share this time with the former diplomat, and my dear colleague, the member for .
Yesterday we were honoured to have two very special guests on the Hill, as the member mentioned, who have been tireless advocates for action on one of two global crises the UN Secretary-General has called for action on. One guest, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, has dedicated her life to ensuring that no other community experiences that catastrophe to humanity.
The first crisis, climate change, the Canadian government is beginning to tackle. The second, the nuclear threat, it is not, yet both crises pose equally significant threats to humanity, both to our environment and to life.
Nations are deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences posed by nuclear weapons. The threat, like climate change, transcends national borders. It has grave implications for human survival, the environment, the global economy, food security, and the health of future generations.
Since my election in 2008, l have become engaged through the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, a global association of elected officials and civil leaders advocating for nuclear disarmament. A few months back I attended the UN negotiations for a convention on nuclear disarmament. This convention is being premised on the principles and rules of humanitarian law and is considered directly consistent with the binding terms of the non-proliferation treaty.
Despite voting for the motion calling for Canadian engagement in these negotiations, Canada not only continues to boycott this global initiative but is counted among the few nations that last year voted against even commencing the negotiations. Why is this troubling? Canada is a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That multilateral treaty compels our country, along with the other signatories, to negotiate and complete a convention on a nuclear ban.
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction, as my colleague mentioned, not yet prohibited. Canada played a key role in global actions to ban chemical and biological weapons and landmines, yet our government is boycotting actions to ban nuclear weapons. Do the Liberals not share the global concern that the nine states possessing 15,000 nuclear weapons are determined to modernize or make it easier to deploy those weapons, not dismantle them? What is puzzling is that we have a and a government that claim to the world that they are back at the UN and are committed to a multilateral approach to addressing global crises. They seem to find that of value on climate change. Why not on the threat of nuclear war?
Last March, a majority of nations gathered in New York at the UN to draft a convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. I went to New York to observe first-hand these negotiations. What I heard in the speeches by state delegates, including, for example, the Netherlands and Ireland, was profound concern about the threat posed by nuclear weapons and a determination to stand together to call for their prohibition. It is anticipated that a final version of this convention will be completed this July.
In the wake of the government's decision to boycott, I travelled to hear first-hand and was inspired by the sense of commitment among these nations to pursue a common end to nuclear weapons. The very purpose of the UN, as pointed out by UN Secretary-General Guterres, is to prevent war and human suffering. We are reminded in a book by the former ambassador for disarmament, Douglas Roche, that the UN charter begins by saying that the purpose of the organization is “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”.
Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon issued a five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, including a call to ratify and enter into force a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. In 2010, this call, as my colleague mentioned, was unanimously endorsed by this place on a motion by the NDP. It called for Canadian engagement in these negotiations on a global convention and for kick-starting a Canadian diplomatic initiative to prevent nuclear proliferation. As my colleague has also pointed out, many have expressed support for this convention, including the lnter-Parliamentary Union, hundreds of Order of Canada appointees, and many former Canadian diplomats.
It is noteworthy that the Liberal Party, at its recent convention, adopted a resolution calling on the government to convene a conference to commence negotiations. That action is already happening, absent the government. What excuse has the government given for refusing to participate in the negotiations? Liberals argue that they are engaged in discussions on a fissile material ban to put a stop to the production of new fissile materials that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
However, unlike the open and transparent process at the General Assembly to negotiate a convention, that process is behind closed doors and requires consensus. There is little likelihood that those opposed, for example, Pakistan, China, Russian, Iran, Israel, Egypt, will agree, and to date have not. These nations, I am advised, have huge supplies of fissile material, regardless of any ban eventually negotiated for no new production.
It is not too late for Canada to come forward and join world nations in pursuit of this humanitarian action. Negotiations recommence this month in New York. For the sake of our children, for the sake of the planet, we implore the government to step forward to join the efforts of nations threatened by nuclear weapons, not those determined to retain and potentially deploy them.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss our government's position and actions on nuclear disarmament. This is a vitally important issue that affects both Canada and the world. It also comes at a critical juncture for the international community, where our diverging views about the path forward.
Before going any further, I had the great privilege of meeting Mrs. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor and wonderful Canadian who has dedicated her entire life toward bettering the world and ridding it of nuclear weapons systems.
In that context, let me assure the Canadians that advancing nuclear disarmament in a meaningful way remains a priority for the Government of Canada. Canada strongly supports concrete efforts toward nuclear disarmament. That is why we are taking meaningful steps to achieve nuclear disarmament, which in turn means doing the hard work in real and meaningful results. Members will note that I have used the term “meaningful” three times in two sentences.
We absolutely recognize the great consequences of even an accidental nuclear detonation, which could have catastrophic human impacts that transcends borders, harms the environment, the global economy, and even the health of future generations. Nuclear disarmament should be the goal of every country and of every government. It is certainly Canada's goal. That is why our government is fully committed to pursuing pragmatic initiatives that will lead to a world without nuclear weapons. We owe it our children and to future generations.
Let me remind the House that Canada gave up its nuclear weapons capability, which, in essence, acts as a role model for the rest of the world.
In 2016, for the first time ever, Canada rallied 159 states to support and pass a resolution calling for the fissile material cut-off treaty. With the support of nuclear and non-nuclear countries, Canada is chairing this high-level group to help phase out nuclear weapons, a meaningful contribution.
Recognizing the important work that has been done on the path towards nuclear disarmament, it is more important than ever that we make these pragmatic approaches to this very complex international issue as clear as possible. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the world witnessed a dramatic, almost 80%, reduction to the numbers of nuclear weapons, those primarily held by the United States and the former Soviet Union. A number of countries abandoned their nuclear weapon development programs and joined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, NPT. The NPT is now almost universal, with only four countries remaining outside of its obligations, which aim at achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.
The 1990s also saw the signing of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, CTBT, which prohibits the testing of nuclear weapons. Although still not yet in force, it is being partially implemented. Obviously there are some exceptions. Countries around the world, including those that have not ratified, have already built 116 monitoring stations to quickly identify a nuclear detonation anywhere in the world. While the treaty may not yet be in force, it has effectively established, in essence, a taboo on such testing. Only one country in this century, North Korea, has dared to break this taboo and faced global condemnation.
In terms of international security, the world does not become a safer place, unfortunately. Crises in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and I could go on for quite some time, continue to undermine regional and global stability. Irresponsible and reckless acts by North Korea, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions and its own international obligations, leaves the global community struggling to contain its behaviour and to assure their populations of their continued security. This is why Canada is taking meaningful steps that will deliver tangible results for all.
Many countries, including Canada, believe that this uncertain environment is not conducive to expediting disarmament. Historically, non-proliferation efforts and disarmament, or arms reduction, only occurred when the main stakeholders participated in the discussion. That was true in the case of the negotiations regarding landmines and cluster munitions, to give just two examples.
Significant progress requires a good dialogue and trust between the governments involved in the negotiations. Unfortunately, since that is currently not the case, we need to focus on measures that rebuild that trust and make it possible to open a dialogue.
Other countries believe that the current context warrants a more radical approach to total nuclear disarmament, but such an approach has very little chance of success in the near future. I am thinking of the initiative to negotiate an agreement to ban nuclear weapons. While we obviously appreciate the good intentions behind that initiative, unfortunately, it is not the right approach. We believe that the current negotiations are premature and ineffective, and that they could create divisions and complicate the path to nuclear disarmament.
Let me explain this further.
First, we believe the negotiations are premature because, in the current security climate, countries with nuclear weapons regard them as essential for their security. That is their point of view, and they are the ones that possess the nuclear weapons. It is unrealistic to expect countries to disarm when they face very real threats, including from nuclear weapon proliferators like North Korea. Only when these countries have the confidence in their security, without the need for nuclear deterrence, will they be ready to reduce and ultimately eliminate their nuclear weapon stockpiles. This is a pragmatic and realistic approach.
Second, we expect that the draft convention will be ineffective. Without the participation of states possessing nuclear weapons, it is certain that not a single nuclear weapon will be eliminated through this process. In this context, these negotiations will provide nothing else than a declaratory ban, as the countries participating in them are already prohibited from possessing these nuclear weapons through their obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In other words, any additional prohibitions that apply only to states party to the ban will not help to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.
Further, we are concerned that the treaty does not include credible provisions for monitoring and verification. Countries that are expected to give up their reliance on nuclear weapons will want to be assured that others are not able to cheat. We have already seen, in the very recent past, a nation that has cheated repeatedly. Unfortunately, the current discussions do not encompass such verification measures. As well, much technical work remains to be done in order for disarmament verification to be credible and effective, and Canada is currently actively engaged in advancing some of this work.
Finally, the proposed treaty is likely to be very divisive. Without any meaningful disarmament or verification measures, it will stigmatize nuclear weapons, with the aim of establishing customary international law prohibiting their use. In order to prevent this, countries with nuclear arms will become persistent objectors.
We all abhor nuclear weapons and their potential to be used. However, if it is going to create a divisive wedge, then it should be thought through extraordinarily carefully. Quite frankly, this is already creating an adversarial dynamic. Instead of striving to seek common ground on mutually agreed objectives, like happened between the former Soviet Union and the United States 20 years ago, this process will only reinforce the differences between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states, making further progress on nuclear disarmament even more difficult because there will be no continuation of the dialogue.
These concerns are not new. Indeed, Canada participated extensively and constructively in the process leading up to the current ban treaty negotiations. This included active involvement in the three conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the United Nations open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament. Throughout these processes, Canada worked to shape the dialogue and arrive at recommendations that addressed the security interests and disarmament objectives of all countries. We even hosted our mission in Geneva, a framework forum round table, to facilitate the work of the open-ended working group, with great results. Unfortunately, despite considerable efforts by Canada and others, the working group could not come to a consensus on its final report, and instead established the basis for the United Nations resolution of last fall, which authorized the current negotiations.
It is a long and complicated tale, but the bottom line is that the concerns raised by Canada and many of our like-minded partners were not addressed in the recommendations of the final report from the open-ended working group. We could not therefore support the UN resolution establishing these negotiations. Moreover, as we expect their outcome to be a merely declaratory document targeting important elements of our collective security obligations under NATO, we cannot participate in these negotiations in good faith.
Canada's approach recognizes that despite a problematic international security environment, there is great opportunity to pursue effective nuclear disarmament efforts over the longer term. The current ban treaty negotiations pit nuclear weapon states against non-nuclear weapon states, forcing both sides to entrench their positions. Leadership on nuclear disarmament demands the opposite, bringing actors together to realize concrete progress where it is possible and not merely driving groups of them apart. This is where Canada has its focus, as do our allies, 41 of which did not participate in the ban treaty negotiations.
What marks real, tangible action? In contrast to ban treaty proponents as suggested by the members opposite, Canada and her allies maintain that nuclear disarmament can only realistically be achieved through an approach that takes into account the views and security interests of all states. Our position is that the most effective approach is a step-by-step process, which includes the universalization of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a fully enforced comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, a negotiated fissile material cut-off treaty, and only as the ultimate step, a credible and enforceable convention or ban on nuclear weapons. We must act in a systematic, logical, progressive fashion to tackle this complex and hideously dangerous issue.
In keeping with the 2010 motion adopted unanimously in both Houses of Parliament here in Canada, encouraging the Government of Canada to deploy a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of nuclear disarmament, I am proud to say that is precisely what Canada is doing.
As the said a few days ago, in December 2016, Canada rallied 159 states, including those with nuclear weapons, to adopt a United Nations resolution calling for a fissile material cut-off treaty. Banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives is almost universally recognized as the logical next step.
This resolution establishes for the first time an expert preparatory group, which will develop aspects of an eventual treaty. This group will enjoy input from open-ended, informal consultative meetings with all UN member states. Canada is chairing this process. Under our leadership, the success of the process will be a major step toward nuclear disarmament. The vast majority of countries with nuclear weapons are participating in the preparatory group, which is key to its success.
In addition to our work in this regard, Canada is supporting work on the technical issues that will need to be addressed in order to establish a credible nuclear weapons disarmament regime. This includes engagement with the international partnership for nuclear disarmament verification, which aims to develop measures for the verification of nuclear disarmament, of which I spoke earlier.
Verification systems and methods are crucial to managing risks and mitigating threats related to weapons of mass destruction, and these, especially for nuclear weapons, are essential for providing assurance that all parties are in compliance with their obligations under the regime. Doubts and mistrust can and have stalled non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament talks in the past. Transparency and confidence provided by independent verification can be a true motivator, as seen by the 116 stations of which I have spoken.
Understandably, the global skills and knowledge base for nuclear disarmament verification is limited, resulting in significant capacity gaps. Through, however, a cross-regional partnership of over two dozen countries, including the United States, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, France, and the People's Republic of China, countries are now working collaboratively to develop in detail the measures required to address the technical challenges related to the monitoring of nuclear disarmament and to ensure that disarmament commitments are being faithfully implemented. This is progress.
In addition to providing a nuclear disarmament policy and technical expertise, Canada is finalizing a project, through its weapons of mass destruction threat reduction program, that contributes to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization that is hosting and facilitating a variety of meetings. This financial contribution will help the important work being undertaken through this initiative. Through this financial contribution, we will help the international partnership for nuclear disarmament verification continue its critical work.
We also support Norway's initiative to create a group of government experts on nuclear disarmament verification, one of the most challenging obstacles to nuclear disarmament. Concerted and inclusive action is necessary if we are to make genuine progress.
To conclude, let me reiterate that Canada is firmly committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it. However, rather than symbolic gestures, which can and will be divisive, Canada is staying focused on the pragmatic and on what will actually achieve concrete results toward global nuclear disarmament, emphasizing efforts that have broad support.
Canada and our allies are supporting practical efforts that will require time and effort, of course, but the outcomes are much more likely to be meaningful, enduring, and effective. Canada's determined leadership on nuclear disarmament initiatives, including on several panels, and on technical issues, such as verification, will achieve the results that will best serve all countries.
Once again, let me be clear. We strongly support concrete efforts toward nuclear disarmament. We welcome them, but we are taking meaningful steps to achieve this, and that means doing the hard technical work to deliver real and lasting results. The work we are currently doing will have a positive impact toward nuclear disarmament worldwide, and it is something to be proud of.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I would like to begin by taking members and folks viewing us across the country in the safety and security of their homes back to a moment in history: 16 minutes past eight o'clock in the morning of August 6, 1945. That was the instant when an atomic bomb, three metres in length, weighing barely 4,000 kilograms, containing less than 64 kilograms of uranium-235, and dangling from a descending parachute, exploded over Hiroshima, Japan. In that instant, some 80,000 people died in the blazing blast under a rising mushroom cloud of fire and smoke. The co-pilot of the American B-29 bomber, looking back, said to his fellow crewmen, “My God, what have we done?” What the Americans did that terrible day, and with a larger plutonium bomb three days later over Nagasaki, Japan, effectively ended the Second World War and far greater casualties, with Japan's surrender the next week.
We know that, since 1945, although there have been a number of close calls, nuclear weapons have not again been used in conflict. In the early years of the Cold War came the concept of mutual assured destruction, developed as a defence policy during the Kennedy administration. MAD essentially involves the United States stockpiling a huge nuclear arsenal, which in the event of a Soviet attack would have provided the U.S. with enough nuclear firepower to survive a first wave of nuclear strikes and to strike back at Russia and its Warsaw Pact partners. The resulting enduring theory of nuclear deterrence to this day meant that it would be unthinkable for either side to launch a first strike because it would inevitably lead to its own destruction.
Toward the end of the Cold War, 1987 to be exact, Margaret Thatcher said:
A world without nuclear weapons may be a dream but you cannot base a sure defence on dreams. Without far greater trust and confidence between East and West than exists at present, a world without nuclear weapons would be less stable and more dangerous for all of us.
Prime Minister Thatcher then offered a quote by Winston Churchill, and again this goes back to the period just after the Second World War when Churchill said, “Be careful above all...not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure and more than sure that other means of preserving peace are in your hands.”
Today, almost three decades after the Cold War ended, and despite the voluntary decommissioning of thousands of nuclear weapons, there are still more than 10,000 nuclear weapons of all sorts, bombs and warheads, worldwide. Eight countries have successfully detonated nuclear weapons: the United States, Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel. We know Iran is close to achieving nuclear capability. Five NATO member countries share nuclear weapons: Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ratified by Canada decades ago, aims at “sharing the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and the ultimate elimination of nuclear arsenals”. However, North Korea left the treaty; Israel, India, and Pakistan have never joined; Iran did join decades ago but, surprise, was found to be in non-compliance and brags today about its dark nuclear intentions.
In the past decade, our previous Conservative government worked multilaterally to improve international nuclear security and to address the threat posed by nuclear terrorism. We worked with our international partners to prevent the acquisition of fissionable materials by any individuals, entities, or countries that might threaten Canadian national security, which brings me to the NDP motion before us. Conservatives do not disagree with paragraph (a) of the motion; we have no doubt of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of atomic weapons.
At the same time, we in the official opposition agree with our democratic allies that possess nuclear weapons as a vital defence deterrent, the United States, Britain, France, and Israel; and our NATO partners that share them, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands, like Canada; which do not possess nuclear warheads. These countries all disagree with the talks to ban nuclear weapons, talks aimed at achieving total nuclear disarmament, which have absolutely no chance of success.
Russia and China, both nuclear powers, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, are not part of the democracies boycotting group, but they too see no reason to participate in the nuclear weapons ban talks. The Russian foreign minister has said that the 120 countries that are participating in the talks are trying to coerce nuclear powers into abandoning nuclear weapons, and he said it is absolutely clear that the time has not come. As well, President Obama during his presidency held essentially the same opposition to participation in the nuclear ban talks. That is because the world today is arguably in a much more dangerous place than it was during the Cold War and MAD. It is not because of the several hundred Russian and American weapons that are still on what is called hard alert, ready for launching within minutes of a perceived attack, but because of the nuclear weapons in the hands of a belligerent North Korea, because of the nuclear weapons still in development in Iran and that regime's continuing commitment to one day make a nuclear strike on Israel, and because of nuclear weapons at the ready today in Pakistan and in India, not to mention the fissionable material salvaged from Soviet era weapons believed to be accessible to international terror organizations.
While we Conservatives share with the NDP and peace-loving people around the world the dream of a nuclear weapons free world, while we agree that there are a couple of elements in the 2008 UN Secretary-General's five-point proposal that are still today worth pursuing—such as the call for the establishment of a central Asian and African nuclear weapons free zone treaty, the proposal for greater accountability and transparency by nuclear weapon states in documenting the size of their arsenals and weapons stocks, and continued efforts against other weapons of mass destruction—we in the official opposition do not believe that there is any benefit to participating in a marathon, wishful-thinking talkathon. There are more meaningful ways to work for greater peace and stability, fundamental human rights, and opportunities for those in the developing world and undemocratic states.
While we recognize the idealism of the NDP motion, we do not believe that the current precarious state of the world justifies Canada's engagement in these specific UN disarmament talks to ban nuclear weapons.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to join with my colleagues, the Conservatives, especially the foreign affairs critic, the member for , who clearly articulated why this motion is unrealistic.
I know that New Democrats have a utopian view of the world. They would like to get to a peace-loving and homogeneous situation where everyone gets along. It is very unlikely that we will ever get to that state. We know that there are many bad players out there today. We have worked for a long time to try to reduce nuclear weapons, but an all-out ban, which the conference in the motion the NDP has brought forward is calling for, is unattainable.
The Conservative government worked hard over its 10 years to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the possession of foreign governments and other international actors. It worked to prevent not just nuclear weapons but chemical weapons and biological weapons because of the traumatic effect they have on the lives of the innocent.
There have not been nuclear weapons on Canadian soil since 1984, and that goes back to the work done by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the Conservative government of the day to make sure that nuclear weapons were no longer stored on Canadian soil. Since then, government after government, Conservative and Liberal, have signed treaties and international agreements at the UN and with a number of organizations, including NATO, the G8, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Conference on Disarmament, to reduce the number of nuclear weapons available in the world.
We definitely need to work on stopping proliferation, but that is not happening. We need to work at reduction. That worked for a while between Russia and the United States, but now we are seeing the number of nuclear weapons increase.
Of course, we all want their eventual elimination, but this is not Shangri-La. We have to continue to drive ahead to try to reduce nuclear proliferation and to make sure that fissionable materials are not there for rogue states and terrorist organizations to get their hands on to produce nuclear warheads. The reality is that we cannot do it through an all-out ban. That is why the agreement the NDP is asking the government to support is unrealistic. Our NATO allies, western democracies, and the major UN nations that possess nuclear warheads are not participating in these talks. What is the purpose of it, then?
I am a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, an organization that represents more than 800 parliamentarians from 80 countries. It is something I am proud to belong to. However, it is about stopping proliferation, and that is not happening.
As I mentioned, the threat environment is still there. Not only is North Korea continuing to test its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads but Iran still desires to produce its own nuclear warheads, and of course, aim them at the state of Israel, the United States, and other western allies. We know that the Iranian regime has the ability to ramp up its nuclear production, nuclear testing, and ballistic missile development in a very short period of time. The P5+1 agreement that was signed, which released all the cash held in escrow by the international community against the Iranian regime, did not take away Iran's ability to produce nuclear warheads. All it did was pause it, and Iran mothballed 85% to 95% of its production capacity. It can very quickly ramp up its testing, development, and ultimately, the use of a nuclear warhead.
I also have to point out what is happening in terrorist organizations. All we have to do is look not just at the proliferation of nuclear warheads but the proliferation of cruise missiles. In the conflict we see today in Yemen, the Houthi rebels are fighting the Yemen government that is supported by Saudi Arabia. They came into possession of cruise missiles. We are talking ballistic cruise missiles that have the capability of carrying nuclear warheads. They fired a cruise missile at a U.S. destroyer, not once but twice, and the U.S. navy was able to take out the truck from which they launched it.
People need to realize that we need the ability to defend ourselves. When our major partners, the United States, France, Great Britain, and Israel, possess these nuclear warheads and the ability to shoot them down, then we have to be aligned with them. As was pointed out by the member for , other members of NATO also hold the same position.
We also have to look at the threat environment because of President Vladimir Putin from Russia. The Russian state continues to rattle its nuclear sabre. Putin has been bragging about having the most nuclear warheads in the world. He has also said that he wants to move nuclear warheads into areas where he wants to protect the Russian population. In 2016, he said, “We need to strengthen the strategic nuclear forces”. He wants to put them in Crimea. He wants to put them in the Baltic states in the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad, which is nestled right in there with Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. We are putting our troops into Latvia as part of our NATO mission. He said that he would do it, that he had talked with colleagues and told them that it was their historic territory, that Russian people lived there, they were in danger, and they could not leave them. He is going to put in nuclear warheads to do that.
That is one of the most telling factors of why we need to have deterrence measures, not just by putting troops in Latvia, not just by providing air policing, not just by having more NATO members spend more money on national defence and our collective security. It means that some members of the NATO alliance need their own nuclear weapons so it does not become a one-sided fight.
If the western democracy and NATO allies took away all of our nuclear weapons, as the member for said, “You don't take a knife to a gun fight”, it is more like what we would call surrender. We need like power and the ability to defend and deter, first and foremost. That is what nuclear weapons were used for in the Cold War and in the recent past.
There was success under the Reagan administration to reduce the number of nuclear weapons. Ukraine of course gave up all of its nuclear warheads. Unfortunately, Russia today, under Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs and his kleptocrats, continues to move forward with investments in developing more nuclear warheads.
As has already been pointed out, nuclear powers like the United States, France, the U.K., South Korea, Turkey, Russia, China, and almost 40 other countries have boycotted the negotiations for such a treaty because it is naive and it is unattainable. It is also at a time when North Korea continues to try to launch its own ballistic missiles with the capability of carrying nuclear material.
Ballistic missile defence has matured. The technology is great. It is effective to deal with North Korea, or Iran, or a non-state actor firing up a ballistic missile. However, it cannot deal with a bombardment of nuclear weapons from China or Russia. For anyone who thinks there is a shield out there that can protect North America from incoming nuclear weapons from Russia or China, I am sorry to say that it is not possible. There are not enough interceptors in the U.S. arsenal or in the arsenals any of our allies to shoot down that many warheads. It becomes a situation where we need the deterrents and our own potential of threat by our allies to possess these nuclear warheads.
I will close with this quote from the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said this about these talks:
We would love to have a ban on nuclear weapons, but in this day and time we can't honestly say we can protect our people by allowing bad actors to have them and those of us that are good trying to keep peace and safety not to have them.
It is just about balance. We need to continue to have that to reduce the risk.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on our NDP opposition motion and to stress the enormous opportunities being lost for Canada to play a role. It is the role that the alluded to when he termed “Canada is back”.
On the idea that Canada stands on principle for human rights and human security issues, whether it be development, nuclear armament, disarmament, environmental protection, and the advancement of human rights, Canada has never attempted to impose a solution. The crux of the argument today is this. The way to impose solutions is not a hard stance approach. It is to work creatively and publicly to bridge conflicting positions so solutions emerge collectively. In the international community, that is of the utmost importance. People who are elected and placed in the highest of these positions have a role and responsibility to fulfill those kinds of responsibilities. That is why they get paid the big bucks.
The exertion of ideas strengthens the notion that together we can create what has been called a middle power. The idea that we can work and build on the elements of soft power versus hard power needs to be finessed. It is being dismissed over time because might is right.
I will take the rest of my time today to talk about how we restore a human rather than a mechanistic response to the instruments of mass murder. Nuclear weapons are just that.
The idea of nuclear weapons or human rights is a values debate. I hear this idea being brought up today. It is being turned into a very simplistic debate about might versus right. One member even quipped in his speech “you don't bring a knife to a gunfight”. This indicates to me that I need to spend more time talking about the crux of the matter and the importance of engaging in treaty obligations, being active participants, not sitting on the sidelines. That way, we play a key role in the future. By saying we do not want to have to sit and pay attention and do some of the nuancing and finessing required to be active members of this exclusive club, which is now emerging, because it is too much trouble, and we will just dismiss it as Shangri-La, is concerning. It would be funny if it were not so poignantly disastrous. We need to think about what really happens with nuclear weapons.
We are having a values debate that civil society has already had and is being very persistent about. There is a way that we can be aggressive with this insistence for placing human rights first. How can all of us reconcile our moral and spiritual values for human rights, knowing that the horrible consequences of such weapons are at the very crux of whether we are active participants in our treaty obligations? That means sitting and participating in discussions.
We need a reminder every so often of exactly what a nuclear weapon does. Earlier a member quipped “the NDP are idealistic” and “you don't bring a knife to a gunfight”. This is alarming.
There is a clear and utter lack of comprehension about what we are talking about. To suggest that we should not trouble ourselves with partaking in international treaty obligations because there is no Shangri-La, as one member stated, is naive. That is actually unattainable.
I am going to segue into another aspect of my speech, and at this time, it is appropriate for me to stress again that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
To equate this issue with bringing a knife to a gunfight, to me, suggests that there is a need in this place for an unvarnished understanding of nuclear destruction, nuclear famine, nuclear winter, and nuclear mass murder. Unless nuclear weapons are abolished, these are the realities we are talking about.
Rather than using finesse, rather than developing our relationships and building bridges, rather than tapping into diplomacy and the art of consensus, rather than understanding and using our soft power, and there is a lot of talent for soft power here in this place so we know we have the capability to use it, to suggest that, instead of doing that, we would not partake in discussions because somebody else has a nuclear weapon that they might use is such a false logic that it is very saddening for humanity.
It was Carl Sagan who first coined the term “nuclear winter” decades ago. This was when people were starting to describe the unvarnished descriptions of the devastation and destruction of a nuclear weapon. We have to thank astounding and exemplary advocates like Setsuko Thurlow, who was here yesterday, a Hiroshima survivor. People talk about the incredible waves of heat and that people drop instantly like flies and then some of them writhe like worms that are still alive. These are actual descriptions. I am paraphrasing the actual wording of people who have given testimony on nuclear destruction.
However, a lot of people do not realize that the term “nuclear famine” talks about the aftermath because it is not just in that moment. Nuclear famine refers to the starvation that would ensue after a nuclear explosion. Even a limited nuclear war in one region, for example, would result in millions of deaths, firestorms with soot rising up into the troposphere, cooling temperatures, and a significant decline in food production.
Now we would have a famine. We would have mass migration, civil conflict, and war, not only because of resources that are being destroyed but because what resources are left are being competed for.
A “nuclear ozone hole” describes another consequence of nuclear war. Soot from burning cities in a nuclear war would severely damage the Earth's protective ozone layer. Large losses of stratospheric ozone would permit more ultraviolet radiation to reach us, with severe consequences, such as skin cancers, crop damage, and destruction of marine phytoplankton. The effects would persist for years.
My point is that the ripple effect of nuclear destruction has only been talked about in very distant terms. We need to bring the humanity back. If we do not do that, we will never have a meaningful debate in this place about what it would take and what the substance would be of our role in a treaty obligation, instead of dismissing it and saying, “Oh, somebody else has this weapon, so we're not going to be bothered.” That is what it boils down to for me.
Let us understand this so that from now on, as we debate today, we can actually be talking about what the crux of developing our soft power would be, how we can finesse our talents as diplomats here, how we can—
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to speak to the important issue of nuclear disarmament and the nuclear issue in general. This issue is important to all members no matter what they have said about it. There seems to be consensus for a world free of nuclear weapons. However, there seems to be a divergence of opinions among Conservatives and Liberals on how to achieve that.
This is a fine example of how we can work constructively as members in the House. I was elected to do constructive work.
I am pleased to take part in this debate and support the motion moved by my colleague from . The hon. member for and my colleague worked hard to move this motion today. I thank them because this is a good example of constructive work by the opposition; we are proposing something instead of always opposing things. This is a good example of the good work that the NDP does to advance ideas and propose tangible measures, in this case on the nuclear issue.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important issues for humanity. This is about the survival of our species and that of every other species on earth. This is a sensitive topic for me given all the many victims nuclear weapons have claimed around the world in the past—a not so distant past, at that. One victim would have been too many, but tens of thousands of people were affected and continue to be affected. The fallout from these weapons can still be felt years, generations after they were deployed.
I cannot begin to fathom why states and governments continue to fund nuclear weapon development, on top of defending the notion that this is a question of self-defence and, as such, countries should be able to keep stockpiling these weapons and fighting fire with fire. Amassing even more nuclear weapons is not really the way we want to go.
The current narrative seems to almost encourage nuclear proliferation. Countries produce nuclear weapons in the hopes of protecting themselves, fearing one will be used against them. That does not make sense to me. Continuing in that direction is much too dangerous. I am not an expert on the topic, but I assume that states with these weapons have adequate means of protecting them.
There is nonetheless a risk that these weapons could fall into the wrong hands. Some could decide to use them in the near future. Knowing that those weapons could fall into the hands of very ill-intentioned people is a major concern for our country, for the entire world, and for me.
Clearly, one has to be of ill intent to use nuclear weapons. There is no way to use such weapons for good, but some might use them anyway. These weapons falling into the wrong hands would certainly put humanity in jeopardy. The danger is real, as we have seen other types of weapons fall into the hands of terrorist groups. That is why the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into such hands is so worrisome.
I am also very surprised today to see the Liberals using the same argument the Conservatives used regarding international agreements to fight climate change. They claimed that these agreements would be of little to no value without the participation of major powers like China and the United States. That was the argument used by the Conservatives on climate change. That was also the reason we withdrew from the Kyoto protocol. They claimed it would be ineffective without the major players.
Today, the Liberals are using the same argument. They say some people like to sit around the table to discuss important topics and dream, but that, in the end, it changes nothing. If we had had the same attitude about climate change, we would never have had an agreement like the Kyoto protocol, much less the Paris accord.
We will never make any progress by constantly saying that we will wait for someone else to start the work before joining in. That is a very disappointing attitude from the Liberals. They wait for others to do the work and for the biggest players to sit at the table and, in the meantime, they leave the real power in the hands of the other powers.
As a country, we can work constructively on negotiations. That is why we propose that Canada return to the table to do constructive work that will finally show results. That is what we did with climate change, and we are all happy that this worked and led to the Paris accord.
We must have the same vision and work together, as we did on climate change. We were able to bring almost all powers to the table, and that actually gave results.
I would also like to point out that there are other types of treaties, such as those on chemical weapons. The Conservatives and Liberals say that an agreement on nuclear disarmament would never work, while the chemical weapons treaty shows that the work was quite effective. We can therefore draw on the work done in that negotiating forum to ban the use of chemical weapons and punish those who use them.
I humbly propose that the House examine this issue and draw inspiration from what has been done on that file. We were able to bring the major powers to the table and they agreed to ban chemical weapons. That is certainly something that the members can draw on.
The said that Canada wanted to engage anew in multilateral and international forums, naming almost all of them, and go against the approach of the Conservatives, who primarily favoured bilateral relations. Well, today, she has the opportunity to engage in multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament.
Now we are told that it is not necessary and that it will not work, when two days ago the Minister announced that she wanted to engage anew in multilateral forums. There is therefore a contradiction. I hope that the Liberals will act on that new engagement by the Minister and support this motion to engage in negotiations.
I would be pleased to answer questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, in 1962, for 13 days, the world was at the brink. I was very young at the time. I was unaware of developments. Therefore, I, like many children, was spared the angst that no doubt others who were more aware of the situation, parents and other adults, were experiencing. Fortunately, a terrible Armageddon was avoided, but tensions around nuclear weapons continued throughout the Cold War. During the 1980s, for example, children, and I believe my own wife, in fact, when she was in high school, protested against nuclear weapons. Films like The Day After
impacted individual and collective psyches as well.
Today we are in a very different situation, but there are nuclear tensions with rogue states like Iran and North Korea. Therefore, the permanent goal, if we are ever to have global peace of mind, is the elimination of nuclear weapons. However, it is a daunting task, which to many may seem unattainable. It is a daunting task because the nuclear powers also happen to be the permanent members of the Security Council, for example. When we think of the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, and China, they are all among the first nuclear powers, and they are the permanent members of that international decision-making body.
The challenge, however daunting it may be in the short term, does not deter activists and proponents of disarmament, like Judith Quinn, one of my constituents, Judith Berlyn, another Montrealer, or the late Joan Hadrill, who was a constituent of mine. Many years ago, she created a very small organization called WIND, West Islanders for Nuclear Disarmament. Joan Hadrill's favourite maxim was drawn from Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist: “Never doubt that a small group of...committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Joan Hadrill had that printed on her business card.
Earlier this week, we heard a visionary foreign policy speech from the . She emphasized the importance of international law for maintaining a stable and peaceful international order. She also mentioned that, as a middle power, Canada's greatest influence is not through economic or military might, but through the pursuit and application of legal instruments which provide small powers a measure of equal protection with larger ones, even superpowers.
Nowhere is the pursuit of legal international instruments perhaps more crucial than in the area of nuclear arms control. As a middle power with a strong humanitarian tradition and track record, Canada is well placed to be a moral voice and practical advocate for a world that is free of nuclear weapons, and to work for that goal through international legal arrangements. Let us not forget the role we played in bringing the land mines treaty to fruition. It is also true that as a principled and ambitious middle power, we can contribute to the attainment of meaningful international objectives, including in the area of peace and security. We can do that if we act wisely and strategically, among other things to maintain credibility with the actors whom we wish to influence toward a good and noble end. Indeed, this is how we are acting on the nuclear weapons front.
We are acting concretely to advance the disarmament agenda. In 2016, Canada rallied 159 states to support and pass a resolution calling for the establishment of a fissile material cut-off treaty expert preparatory group, which is an essential step towards a ban treaty.
We have also rallied the support of 166 states to pass a resolution creating a group of government experts to carry out an in-depth analysis of treaty aspects. This is important groundwork. We also supported Norway's initiative to create a group of government experts on nuclear disarmament verification. Verification, as we all know, is one of the most challenging obstacles to disarmament. All of these things that we have done in the international sphere in attempting to eliminate nuclear weapons in the long term are crucial steps. They are building blocks. We could say that Canada is helping to engineer and build the foundation of a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
There are a number of benefits to a fissile material cut-off treaty. I will read four very briefly. First, restricting the quantity of fissile material available for use in new nuclear weapons programs or for existing ones would be a significant tool for combatting horizontal proliferation, which means the spreading of nuclear weapons technology between countries, and vertical proliferation, which means the advancement of existing nuclear weapons technology in an already-nuclear state.
The second benefit of such a treaty would be limiting the pool of available fissile material, to reduce the risk that terrorist groups or other non-state actors could acquire these materials, thereby enhancing global nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism. Third, the fissile material cut-off treaty would also advance nuclear disarmament by providing greater transparency regarding the fissile material stockpiles of states possessing nuclear weapons. A future multilateral nuclear disarmament agreement will require a baseline of fissile materials by which nuclear disarmament efforts can be measured. By establishing this necessary baseline, the fissile material cut-off treaty would be the critical foundation of future multilateral nuclear disarmament agreements.
Finally, the FMCT would promote non-discrimination in non-proliferation and disarmament. In particular, and this is very important, a prohibition on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons could apply equally to the five non-proliferation treaty nuclear weapon states, the 185 non-proliferation treaty non-nuclear weapon states, as well as the four states that remain outside the NPT framework. Those are the benefits, the concrete tangible benefits, of a fissile material cut-off treaty.
If we wish to maintain influence in the international community, we must work with allies and Security Council members like the U.K. and France, who at this point are not part of current negotiations toward a nuclear weapons ban. Perhaps Canada can slowly lead these nations in that direction over time. Could we do more? The has repeatedly said that better is always possible. I encourage Canadians like Judith Quinn and Judith Berlyn, inspired no doubt by the example of the late Joan Hadrill, to continue to advocate and push the government to work toward a nuclear weapons convention that would ban nuclear weapons.
At the end of the day, in a democracy, true to Margaret Mead's maxim, persistent public attention and pressure on any given issue is the only way to move that issue forward. It is important that committed and concerned Canadian citizens continue to draw public attention to the need for progress on nuclear disarmament and continue to remind our government of its duty to work toward this vital objective. We must keep this issue alive in the newspapers and in communities across the country. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the nuclear disarmament debate, unfortunately, is not front and centre in the media these days, but that should not stop Canadians, especially committed Canadians, from taking part in assiduous efforts to keep the issue burning.
Meanwhile, our government must pursue a focused, step-by-step, realistic, concrete strategy within international institutions to create the building blocks and the foundation that are necessary if we are, in the long run, to achieve a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I would like to dedicate my remarks today to the late Dr. John Bury and his wife Betsy Bury, both local constituents of mine who have been working for peace for the past 60 years. Their efforts, a lifetime of dedication to peace and particularly nuclear disarmament, were recognized and honoured in our city when the couple were awarded the 2014 Joanna Miller Peace Prize.
The Joanna Miller Peace Prize in Saskatoon was established in 2013 to honour the late Joanna Miller for her years of activism, for peace, both within the Saskatoon community and globally as well. She was the president of UNICEF Canada, an active member of Project Ploughshares, and of particular note, because of the conversation we are having today, a special adviser on disarmament to the Canadian delegation to the United Nations.
Both John and Betsy were veterans of World War II. Because of this shared experience, they realized we must work for peaceful resolutions to world conflicts. They were longtime active members of the Saskatoon branch of Veterans against Nuclear Arms.
Betsy no longer has John by her side. John died at the age of 92 this past Christmas. The Saskatoon community will miss John and his thoughtful, well-researched letters to the editor in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. I know Betsy and many others in my community will continue to work for peace and disarmament in his honour. Therefore, it is a privilege for me to rise today to have an opportunity to speak to the opposition day motion and of course support it wholeheartedly.
I am sure my colleagues in this House have noticed that all around us, frantic preparations are under way for the big Canada Day party that will be held on Parliament Hill in a couple of weeks. As Canadians celebrate our nationhood and the country we call home, it behooves us to also reflect on our role on the world stage, past, present and future. It is a matter of immense pride to Canadians that we have worked for peace, an end to apartheid, and disarmament, no matter the party in power.
It is true that Canada has lost some stature over the last decade or so. With the election of the Liberals in 2015, we heard the claims that Canada was back. Sadly, it does sound like another piece of empty rhetoric. Canada cannot be back if we continue to boycott the talks for a nuclear ban treaty.
In the much-anticipated “reveal” of Canada's new foreign policy direction, the stood in the House and trumpeted that Canada would chart its own course, no longer in lock-step with the United States, and in defiance of President Trump's wishes if it went against the best interests of Canada.
The Minister mentioned the United Nations last after mentioning nine other multilateral forums the Liberals would support. There was absolutely nothing about the threat of nuclear weapons in her entire speech. Is this really how the government intends to win on the UN Security Council?
If Canada is to get a seat on the UN Security Council, we need a campaign that is bold, global and pertinent. Leading a global effort on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament should be a cornerstone of that campaign. Instead, there has been a deafening silence and a refusal to attend negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.
The need to act on nuclear disarmament is clear. Nuclear weapons threaten our collective existence, especially in the hands of non-state actors, such as Daesh, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and belligerent countries, such as North Korea. The financial cost to build, maintain and refurbish nuclear weapons is totally unsustainable. The proliferation of nuclear weapons also raises the risk of false alarms that could lead to inadvertent use.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, incredible global progress was made in the reduction of nuclear weapons, leading to a period of peace and prosperity, then the momentum was lost in the early 2000s following 9/11.
In 2007, there was a resurgence of optimism with a surprisingly idealistic op-ed by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn. Titled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons”, this bipartisan offering pleaded with the world to get serious about nuclear disarmament. This was followed in April 2009, by President Obama's historic speech in Prague that echoed President Reagan's vision, and then UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon's five-point plan on the subject in August of that same year. Sadly, since that time we have seen very little, if any, progress.
The world needs leadership and action on nuclear disarmament and Canada more than any other country is well positioned to move things forward. It is important to remember the political and historical capital we have to make a significant impact on nuclear disarmament. As a country that has never developed nuclear weapon, we have some credibility. As a G7 nation and a member of NATO, the Commonwealth, and the Francophonie, we have global connectivity. We have some of the best experts in diplomacy, science, and verification of nuclear weapons. No other country can make these claims.
In the face of this challenge are we ready to put forward serious ideas that will allow Canada to take its place at the UN Security Council and contribute to a more stable world? I hope and think the answer must be yes.
Yesterday, I was honoured to listen to a survivor of Hiroshima, Setsuko Thurlow, speak and advocate for a world without nuclear weapons. We all know the powerful and destructive impact these weapons have. Every high school student studies the end of the Second World War, and every August, we remember the victims and events that led to the use of these devastating weapons.
We live in a world where nuclear arsenals are multiplying. Ninety-five per cent of nuclear weapons are held between the United States and Russia. Furthermore, other nations strive to obtain these weapons as a measure of strength. Nine nations, including our allies, hold over, as has been mentioned but it is worth mentioning again, 15,000 nuclear warheads. A single one can kill millions of people and destroy the surrounding environment for decades.
We lived through the fear that permeated the Cold War and now live in fear of non-state actors acquiring these weapons. Unregulated, uncontrolled, and unmonitored nuclear development leaves Canadians, leaves our world, vulnerable.
In 2010, Parliament unanimously passed a motion to seek a way to negotiate an end to nuclear weapons. The majority of countries in the world are really fed up with the foot dragging on disarmament and they are orchestrating an end run around the nine nuclear states. The UN negotiations are a long-sought breakthrough for the disarmament community and the countries that feel held hostage by weapons they do not possess.
Former parliamentarian Douglas Roche, like many in the Canadian disarmament community, said that there was only one thing wrong with the UN talks, “Canada isn’t taking part. “I see this exercise in very positive terms, and it’s shocking that Canada is not going to participate.”
The two greatest security threats in our world today are cyberwarfare and terrorism. The proliferation of nuclear weapons makes it all the more likely that somewhere, eventually, a country's system will be without the cyber-defence measures needed to protect it from attack. All the more likely is that a nuclear weapon will be lost or stolen and end up in hands that would choose to use it.
I am looking for the government to lead again in the world community towards peace and nuclear disarmament. If ever there were a time and a place for Canadian leadership, it is now, at the UN, at the table, negotiating a ban on nuclear weapons.
I implore all Canadians, the majority of whom believe in a ban, to contact their MPs and talk to the government so we can once again take a seat at that important table.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand to speak to Canada's role in peace and security and restoring our reputation on the world stage. I thank my New Democrat colleagues who initiated this debate and everyone who is participating in it today.
Where we must start is that human rights are not optional. If the government wants to show that Canada is a leader in human rights, then it needs to ensure that we are indeed walking the talk.
Canada was once a leader on nuclear disarmament issues. I honour the shoulders we stand on. When I was a young woman in Toronto, I was especially inspired by the work of Dr. Rosalie Bertell and Ursula Franklin, women with amazing minds who worked very hard to push Canada to take the important action we needed to on the world stage. However, the international community is now negotiating a nuclear weapons ban convention, and Canada is boycotting the process. It is a shameful position. With this, Canada has effectively removed itself from nuclear disarmament diplomacy.
We do not understand how Canada can “be back”, in the words of the , on the international scene when we are turning our backs on the most important international negotiations in years. Arguably, with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pledged to increase the nuclear arsenal in the U.S., and the troubling actions taken by North Korea, the threat of nuclear war is so present on the international stage right now that it is even more important that the international community work together at this time.
The world is watching Canada. This motion today gives the government an opportunity to reaffirm Parliament's support for nuclear disarmament. We certainly hope cabinet will follow, in line with the motion, to re-support Parliament in that initiative.
On the waterfront of Nanaimo, one of the communities I represent, there is an annual honouring of the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing on August 6. Members of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, a long-standing activist organization across the country, with particularly strong roots in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, were talking about the UN vote that was coming up at that time on nuclear disarmament. They shared my optimism that given the campaign commitments the Liberal Party had made on peace, security, and restoring Canada's international reputation on the world stage, our was going to direct Canada to vote in favour of negotiations to end the nuclear weapons trade. We were all stunned when Canada voted against negotiations for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. It was seriously a shock to all of us.
These negotiations have been called for by former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Sixty-eight countries voted in favour of the motion, so Canada was completely outside the international consensus. The vote was called the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in two decades by one of the UN member countries, and Canada was not on board.
That vote by the Canadian Liberal government also flew in the face of a 2010 resolution of this House encouraging the Canadian government to join those negotiations. I will talk more about that in a few minutes. I want to say what a sad point it was that government did not follow through. Now that is has the power, why would it not carry through with that commitment? It would have made us all proud on the international stage.
We want to move forward in a more positive way, and there is even more United Nations consensus that Canada could move on theoretically.
Canada's responsibility in this area is particularly strong. At a session that two of my New Democrat colleagues hosted yesterday on the Hill, I was reminded of Canada's special responsibility with respect to nuclear weapons. The bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were made from uranium that was mined in Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. It was refined in Port Hope. As well, Canada has sold CANDU reactors around the world, which have a unique design capability that makes them particularly susceptible to nuclear weapons uses. They are of course not designed for that. It is a design flaw and an unintended consequence. This is how Pakistan and India got the bomb. It was by using Canadian power-producing technology.
Our responsibility is deep. We are reminded by the CCNR, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, in the summary of a book written in the eighties, that:
Through its dealings with other countries, Canada has played a major role in fostering the proliferation of nuclear weapons [around] the world. This brief history concerns itself with Canada's involvement as a supplier of nuclear reactors and uranium, leading to both “vertical proliferation”—the ever-accelerating competition for bigger, better, faster and smarter bombs among existing nuclear powers—and “horizontal proliferation”: a more insidious process whereby dozens of national and subnational groups are slowly but surely acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
CCNR has been raising the alarm on this for decades, and the danger is greater for us right now.
It is powerful to be reminded of the human toll when a nuclear bomb falls on a community. Yesterday we heard the testimony of Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian citizen but a Japanese schoolgirl, age 13, when the bomb fell at Hiroshima. She said that there were mostly children, women, and elderly people who were vaporized, incinerated, contaminated, and crushed in the wake of the bomb at Hiroshima, again, that Canada was complicit in.
She described her four-year-old nephew transformed into blackened, melted flesh. She said the family was relieved when he died. It is an appalling image she has carried her whole life. She said they made a vow to their loved ones at that time that his death would not be in vain, that all the deaths in her community would not be in vain.
Now, as a Canadian citizen, she says she is deeply disturbed by the absence of the Canadian government at the negotiations. She said she felt betrayed by Japan, of course, but also by her adopted country of Canada.
We have a responsibility to honour Canada's complicity in this and also the opportunity we have to enter the negotiations and make ourselves proud again on the international stage.
As New Democrats, we have been asking the new Canadian government to participate fully in the nuclear weapons ban multiple times since September. It has consistently hidden behind the excuse that it is working on the fissile material cut-off treaty, which is important and related but is not a nuclear weapons ban. That is what we are holding out for, and this is what we have the opportunity for on the world stage right now.
We had a unanimous vote of the House in 2010 committing Parliament to take this action. We had a very powerful vote by the Liberal Party at its last convention just a short time ago. It campaigned on this issue also.
The Liberal government has made multiple promises that are not being upheld. At a time when Canada is proclaiming its commitment to peace and security, its commitment to the United Nations, we see, on this side of the House, that Canada is not honouring its commitments to the United Nations. It is not too late, though. I urge the Liberal side to vote in favour of this motion to move forward in good faith, to have the country move forward, and for us to do the right thing collectively.
Please let us make Canada proud on the world stage again.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the very hon. member for .
It is an honour to rise in this venerable House to speak on a topic of great importance, not only to the residents of my riding of Davenport, but to Canada, and indeed the world. Before I give my prepared speech, I want to say that on the surface, by the government not supporting this NDP motion, it seems that the government is saying we do not support nuclear disarmament, that this is not an issue of great importance to the government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The federal government, which I am proud to be a part of, is strongly supportive of taking concrete action toward nuclear disarmament. We are taking a leadership role and meaningful steps toward achieving a world that is free of nuclear weapons. The bottom line of why we are not supporting the motion is that we think the current discussions on this convention are premature. I will give more context over the course of the next nine minutes about why we are on the current path we are on today, and why engaging this draft convention is not the right step at this moment.
In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined his signature five-point plan addressing the topic of security in a world that is free of nuclear weapons. I am going to outline those five points in his proposal, because we are largely following it. We believe it is the right step-by-step approach toward a nuclear arms free world.
The first point he outlined is that all parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, especially the nuclear weapons states, should fulfill their obligation to enter into negotiations on effective measures leading to nuclear disarmament. He suggested the negotiation of a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention. He circulated and updated a document called the “Model Nuclear Weapons Convention” to UN member states earlier that year. This model convention was 80 pages long, with 20 articles, and five separate indexes. It was quite extensive, and it outlined the use, possession, development, testing, deployment, and transfer of nuclear weapons. Most importantly perhaps, it would mandate the internationally verifiable dismantlement of nuclear arsenals.
In contrast, the draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which is currently what we are talking about, and currently under negotiation at the United Nations, is a mere eight pages long. Unlike the comprehensive convention that I just mentioned, the proposed convention concentrates primarily on legal prohibitions. It contains no provisions to eliminate even a single nuclear weapon, or any verification measures. Moreover, as mentioned, no nuclear weapon states are participating in these negotiations, because they do not take into account the current international security context of Russian military expansionism, or North America's testing of nuclear devices and ballistic missiles, designed to threaten the whole Asia-Pacific region, including North America. Sadly, this convention is premature and will be ineffective in advancing tangible nuclear disarmament.
Let me be clear: Canada strongly favours the negotiation of a nuclear weapons convention or ban, but as the final step in a progressive step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. We believe that there needs to be three other steps first: the universalization of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, entry into force of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, and the negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty. We believe these are mutually enforcing steps and mutually enforcing instruments. This approach aims to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive testing, reduce existing nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles, and build the trust and confidence to verifiably and irreversibly eliminate nuclear weapons.
This is why Canada, last year, led a very successful UN General Assembly resolution to establish a high-level expert participatory group, to clear the path for the eventual negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty, or FMCT, to ban the production of the explosive materials used in nuclear weapons. By pursuing the important technical work of a FMCT in the 25-member UN preparatory group that we chair, Canada hopes to be able to present the conference on disarmament with draft treaty provisions that will enable this body to commence negotiations on this important agreement.
The Secretary-General also identified the need for more investment by governments in disarmament verification research and development. I am pleased to let Canadians know that the Government of Canada has actively responded to this call by providing expert input to the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification.
Officials and experts from Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories are making important contributions to addressing the technical challenges of nuclear disarmament verification. This important work is aimed at building global nuclear disarmament verification capabilities. It is essential for the successful implementation of a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention and is a key element of our pragmatic step-by-step approach to disarmament.
I am also pleased to announce that Canada, through Global Affairs weapons of mass destruction threat reduction program, has just provided a financial contribution to help support the work of the international partnership over the next year. Not only are we saying that we are getting engaged, not only are we actively involved in it, but we are actually funding this commitment.
The second point of the Secretary-General's five-point proposal was his call for the nuclear weapons states to assure non-nuclear weapons states that they will not be the subject of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
These assurances are also known as negative security assurances, NSAs. Canada has been a proponent of such guarantees. We are the leading participant in the 12-member non-proliferation and disarmament initiative, NPDI. We have worked closely with our partners to develop ideas in the form of papers, and to promote these assurances in the international arena, most recently in the 2017 preparatory committee for the 2020 nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference meeting in Vienna in May.
The third point in the Secretary-General's plan is a very important one. It calls for existing nuclear arrangements and agreements, like the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, CTBT, which prohibits the testing of nuclear weapons, for instance, nuclear weapons free zones, and strengthened safeguards, which need to be accepted by states and brought into force.
In support of this approach, the former minister of foreign affairs joined the ministerial meeting of the friends of the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty at the UN General Assembly in pointedly calling for the remaining eight states to ratify the agreement immediately to bring it into force.
For our part, we have passed legislation to implement the CTBT when it enters into force, and we have completed the installation of 16 monitoring stations as part of this agreement.
The fourth point that the Secretary-General made is on his call for nuclear powers to expand the amount of information they publish about the size of their arsenals, stocks of fissile materials, and specific disarmament achievements. Members will be pleased to hear that Canada has taken a leading role in promoting greater transparency by the nuclear weapon states in their reporting of their nuclear weapons stocks. Within the non-proliferation and disarmament initiative, Canada has developed a standard reporting form, which we are asking nuclear weapon states to use for their regular reports on the implementation of their nuclear disarmament obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
We firmly believe that reporting is an effective instrument for increasing transparency on nuclear disarmament activities and for greater accountability. More needs to be done, of course, and Canada and our partners in the NDPI are committed to working with the nuclear powers to improve their reporting through concerted follow-up efforts.
The Secretary-General's final point is that in addition to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, complementary measures are also needed. Such measures include the elimination of other types of weapons of mass destruction, for example, chemical and biological weapons. New efforts need to be undertaken to prevent weapons of mass destruction terrorism; limit conventional arms; and ban new types of weapons, including missiles and space weapons.
Canada is a leader in pursuing these types of efforts. The government is making good on its commitment to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, and investing $13 million to allow Canada to implement the treaty and further strengthen its export control regime.
Canada is firmly committed to achieving a nuclear weapons free world. In conformity with the UN Secretary-General's five-point plan, we are pursuing a pragmatic step-by-step approach aimed at building the necessary confidence and trust needed for nuclear weapons to no longer be considered necessary for security.
I am proud to be able to say today that Canada is continuing its long tradition of leadership on disarmament issues, including strongly supporting this five-point plan.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to nuclear non-proliferation and the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
Since the advent of nuclear weapons, the international community has had various practical, multilateral instruments to try to stop their proliferation and help to eventually eliminate them. Global non-proliferation and disarmament regimes were designed to be the foundation for the careful management of nuclear weapons in the interests of international security.
The cornerstone of these regimes is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty or NPT. This treaty plays a fundamental role in guiding international mobilization on the most dangerous weapons in the world. The NPT outlines a three-part bargain: the nuclear weapon states commit to work toward nuclear disarmament; non-nuclear weapon states undertake not to acquire or try to acquire such weapons; and all state parties can continue to enjoy the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Canada maintains that these three key commitments are mutually reinforcing. The progress that has been made in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful uses of energy support the NTP overall and help to create a dynamic in which the treaty's laudable goals can be achieved.
Canada continues to support concrete, practical efforts in favour of nuclear disarmament. As set out in article VI of the NPT, nuclear weapon states should continue to take concrete measures to reduce the number of strategic and non-strategic weapons and to reduce their reliance on them in their security doctrines.
We note that progress has been made in that regard in recent history. At the end of the Cold War, significant steps were taken to reduce the world's nuclear arsenal, particularly in the United States and Russia. The United Kingdom and France took additional unilateral reduction measures. The global number of nuclear weapons dropped from 80,000 at the height of the Cold War to about 16,000 today. This is not insignificant. We will continue to further reduce the number of nuclear weapons through bilateral, plurilateral, or multilateral measures. Canada remains engaged in various international forums to encourage and support additional progress in that regard, particularly through the NPT review cycle.
While we remain firmly committed to working towards building a world free of nuclear weapons, we recognize that disarmament cannot happen in a vacuum and that it must take the strategic context into account as well as the practical issues associated with that commitment.
It is crucial to ensure that states with nuclear weapons participate in international processes to reduce the number of nuclear weapons or eliminate them entirely. We must also maintain the mutual trust among the parties involved as they move in the direction of reducing and eventually eliminating weapons stockpiles, a process that includes nuclear disarmament verification. Canada is steadfastly committed to the goal of nuclear disarmament.
The second pillar of the NPT makes a vital contribution to the international safety framework by limiting the number of nuclear-weapon states and strengthening our ability to detect inappropriate activity on the part of non-nuclear-weapon states. Thanks to its impressive system of safeguards, the International Atomic Energy Agency, dubbed the “nuclear watchdog”, conducts a number of activities, such as on-site inspections, to ensure that states comply with their non-proliferation obligations. Canada applauds and actively supports the IAEA's efforts to keep its safeguards up to date and enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
Here is a practical example of international nuclear non-proliferation action: Canada also supports the joint comprehensive plan of action, the JCPOA, an international agreement signed by Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—plus Germany in July 2015.
The JCPOA represents an important diplomatic achievement that helped in re-establishing the integrity of the global non-proliferation regime. As part of the JCPOA, Iran agreed to significantly curb its nuclear program and to comply with comprehensive international inspections. Canada continues to have serious doubts regarding Iran’s long-term nuclear ambitions given its history regarding nuclear proliferation and ballistic missile programs.
We join with our allies in supporting efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program. Canada firmly supports the mandate given the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct inspections. Furthermore, since 2015, Canada has made voluntary contributions totalling $10 million through Global Affairs Canada’s weapons of mass destruction threat reduction program.
A complementary element to non-proliferation is the right of all states signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to use nuclear energy in a peaceful manner. States that fully comply with their non-proliferation obligations can legally have access to specific applications of nuclear energy so as to promote sustainable socio-economic development. These include activities pertaining to human health, agriculture and food safety, water and the environment, energy, radiation technology, and security and safety. Canada is a world leader in nuclear energy and we will continue to expand our network of nuclear partners for mutual and beneficial co-operation.
We have made major voluntary contributions as part of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Peaceful Uses Initiative, which supports the agency’s activities to achieve sustainable development and mitigation of climate change objectives.
The NPT remains the cornerstone of the non-proliferation and disarmament regime as well as the central element at the basis of Canada’s global commitment on these important issues. Through our commitment to the relevant multilateral fora, we will continue to strengthen each of these three pillars.
Whereas the efforts made internationally to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons remain essential, we must work to eliminate nuclear tests forever through the signing of a legally binding treaty. Since being adopted in 1996, the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty, or CTBT, has helped strengthen the de facto international standard on nuclear testing. Among other things, this treaty has helped put in place a solid verification system that makes it possible to gather evidence of nuclear tests conducted anywhere in the world.
In fact, the international monitoring system has made it possible to detect each of the nuclear tests conducted to date by North Korea. The CTBT still needs to be ratified by eight countries to come into effect. Canada continues to play an active role in efforts to get other countries to ratify the treaty so that it can come into effect and be universally enforced. During a visit to New York in September 2016, the former minister of foreign affairs implored the eight countries in question to ratify the treaty so that it can come into force.
Regarding direct aid, Canada continues to promote concrete programs in support of the CTBT organization's activities, including by providing airborne radiation detectors, on top of other financial contributions.
In February 2017, field testing in cold weather was carried out in Ottawa, Canada. This test also involved the use of the detector mentioned above. Canada is also working to construct, test and certify a radionuclide monitoring station as a contributing national facility to strengthen the capacity of the international monitoring system to verify compliance with the treaty.
Recognizing that nuclear weapons are a clear and real danger, the international community developed a set of practical measures that help to stop proliferation, limit nuclear testing and work toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. Canada actively supports multilateral institutions established in support of achieving these goals.
We will continue to work with our foreign partners to achieve these laudable goals.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am pleased and proud to rise today to speak in favour of this motion calling on Canada to support the draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Some of the things I will say at the beginning of my remarks are well known.
There are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and about 95% of those are owned by the United States and Russia, but there is good reason to believe that the U.K., China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel also possess nuclear weapons.
It is important to note the second thing that most people who are tuned into this topic are aware of, that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not explicitly prohibited by an international treaty. That is why I am both shocked and appalled, although that phrase may sound trite, by the attitude of the government on this question.
More than 120 countries are participating in the negotiations. Yesterday I sat here during question period and I heard the call the negotiations “sort of useless”. His reason for calling these talks “sort of useless” was that the states that possessed nuclear weapons are not participating.
How will we make any progress on this issue if we do not apply pressure from the rest of the world on those countries that hold nuclear weapons? How will we get any of them to understand the necessity of renouncing not only the possible use but the possession of nuclear weapons?
There are really only two threats right now to the existence of humanity on this planet. One of those threats is global warming, and we have participated and the government claims leadership. Canada has participated in all of the international conventions to attack this main threat to humanity's existence.
We have not said that we will no longer participate in the Paris agreement because some leader of a country close to us does not believe that we should participate. That would be the same logic the used for not participating in the draft convention talks for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It makes no sense to me. It is also a cavalier attitude that treats this issue as trivial. I would submit that this is anything but trivial, because it is the second threat to the existence of humanity on this planet.
Thinking back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of nuclear weapons at that time, these were very small weapons in comparison to what exists today. We found out later that they were the only nuclear weapons in existence at that time There were no great stockpiles and, if they had not worked, there were not lots more to try to use.
Today, 15,000 nuclear weapons exist and there is no guarantee, with the proliferation that has already taken place, with the number of countries that already have access to this technology, that we are going to be able to control this. There is no guarantee that we will be able to stop these weapons from falling into the hands of groups at a sub-state level, groups that we might want to label as terrorist groups. Who knows who might get access to these weapons because of the broad distribution of the technology at this point?
It is incumbent on us to take every action we can to make sure that nuclear weapons are destroyed and no longer available for use by anyone on this planet. It is like firefighting. We train firefighters. We get them to work as hard as they can on fire prevention as well as putting out fires. Firefighters do not just go to fires and turn on the hose. They work every day to try to educate the public and to identify threats. In this case, it would be far too late if we waited until nuclear weapons were used to then say it was tragedy and we should have done something.
This is like fire prevention. This is like disease prevention. I cannot understand not just the but other members on the other side whom I've heard saying just recently that this is a waste of time. One of the things we are short of is time. We are short of time on climate change. We are short of time in banning nuclear weapons. We need to make the best use if whatever efforts we can to make sure these weapons are destroyed.
New Democrats have long held this position. It is not something new for us. Canada previously held this position, and Canada previously has been a leader in trying to work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Canada is part of the international treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
It makes no sense to me that the government is not participating in these talks, and not just participating, but we should be leading the talks. We should be applying the pressure on those of our allies who have nuclear weapons, and we should be offering whatever support they need to make that decision. Is there some way, through this convention, that we can offer greater security to those who feel so threatened that they feel they need nuclear weapons? Let us have Canada stand up diplomatically and try to solve those problems, to provide the leadership on those problems so that countries no longer feel so threatened that they have to possess these weapons of mass destruction. Again, it is not just participating; it is being a leader. lt is putting forward the ideas through this treaty and through surrounding actions that will get us to a place where we no longer face this threat.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of standing with Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian citizen who, as a child growing up in Japan, was severely injured and lost many family members and friends as a result of that nuclear explosion. I am very proud of her and the campaign that she carries on. She received a standing ovation at the United Nations. I would challenge the to tell Setsuko Thurlow that her campaign is useless. I would challenge him to do that.
However, the government would not even meet with her. Liberals would not even show up when she was here to hear what she had to say. With her was Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, which has worked tirelessly against all kinds of weapons, but in particular against nuclear weapons. I challenge the to tell Cesar Jaramillo that the work he does for Project Ploughshares is useless work. It is beyond belief that we have a prime minister who was so cavalier about this issue in question period yesterday. It is beyond belief after the speech that the gave in the House saying that, given the instability of the world, it was incumbent on Canada to step up and take a leadership role and that, because the United States is withdrawing from its responsibilities, it is going to be a more dangerous world. A day after that the stood and said here is something we are not going to lead on; we are not going to lead on trying to get rid of nuclear weapons.
A day after that we had the new defence strategy released. I am a somewhat naive member of Parliament sometimes. Having heard the say we are are going to step up to take a leadership role, I actually expected to see that in our defence strategy. Instead, the defence strategy has not one new dollar for the Canadian military in this fiscal year, but promises for increased funding that are 10 and 20 years down the road.
The crises we face of international insecurity are now, not 10 years or 20 years down the road. Do not get me wrong. I have no complaint about a government that is going to plan for our future needs and equipment and that is going to cost those out properly. The problem I have is the gap between those promises and the reality we face every day in the Canadian military. We are about to take on a NATO mission in Latvia, which I and my party fully support. It is important to send a message to both Putin and Trump that the Baltics are NATO members and an attack on one is an attack on all. That is a very important mission for us.
We have also promised to take on a peacekeeping mission in Africa, another mission that I very much look forward to hearing about even though we are about six months late. How is the Canadian military going to take a leadership role in both those missions when its budget increase this year was less than the rate of inflation? We are asking it to take on new duties, which I am very proud of, with fewer resources than it had last year.
I am a bit confused about the government's real attitude to international affairs. What does it expect Canada to accomplish if we are going to leave the obvious avenues for leadership vacant? I call on all members of the House to think very seriously about the implications of Canada continuing to be absent from these negotiations that would lead to a treaty that would make nuclear weapons illegal and that would lead to a much safer and secure world. Yes, the task is hard, but Canada did not shrink from this when it came to the Ottawa treaty to ban landmines. We did not shrink from this when we advocated for the International Criminal Court. Why are we shrinking from that responsibility to lead at this point? I have no answer to that question, and I would like the government to explain to me why it is not taking that leadership role.
Mr. Speaker, it is always such a pleasure to follow my colleague from . His eloquent speech is inspirational to me.
I would like to read another inspirational quote, from the high representative for disarmament for the United States. She said, on June 2, “Disarmament breeds security. It is not a vague hope or aspiration but must be a concrete contribution to a safer and more secure world.” She concluded that this ban treaty is a “core component” of mechanisms under the United Nations for “our collective security.”
She is so right, and that is why it is so deeply disappointing for me as a Canadian to stand in this place and observe the Liberals walking away from the leadership role that this country has played in the past.
Here is an anecdote. When I was a much younger high-school student, a gentleman came to my high school. It was probably the proudest moment of my life to that point. That gentleman was Lester B. Pearson. I was head of the student council, and he came and talked about peacekeeping. He won the Nobel Prize for peacekeeping. How proud I was that day of a Liberal prime minister leading the world to create a safer place for children in that audience and for our children today.
I think of Mr. Axworthy and the Ottawa treaty. He is another Liberal who stepped up and showed leadership when it was claimed it would make no difference, just another silly United Nations paper exercise. Now the Liberals brag about that, and justifiably.
Here we are today, talking about why Canada should walk away from over 100 other countries in the United Nations who are trying to create a safer world for the next generation. Here we have the top five—I could not find 10—list of why the Liberals think this is a joke and should not be proceeded with.
I want to go there, but first I want to tell members about what happened yesterday in a very emotional meeting that was organized where Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima, came to speak to parliamentarians. I must say I was moved by what she had to say. She was a young girl when they dropped that bomb in Hiroshima and watched her nephew melt away before her very eyes in 4,000-degree heat. Canada is her adopted country. She is a social worker now in Toronto.
What was the most concerning to me as a Canadian is that she said she has been “betrayed” by her adopted country, Canada, for failing to be part of this historic United Nations meeting that's considering the legal ban on nuclear weapons. Ms. Thurlow reminded me—and I confess I did not know this, but I looked it up and she is absolutely right—that the bomb that was dropped on her family and her neighbours in Hiroshima was fuelled by uranium from Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories and refined in Port Hope, Ontario, so Canada has been part of this story, sadly, from the get-go.
Nothing in the mandate letters of the former minister of foreign affairs or the current minister even talks about nuclear disarmament, even though we know we are leading the way with weapons of mass destruction. Be they biological or chemical weapons or the landmines treaty, Canada is right there. However, when it comes to nuclear weapons, what happened to Canada? What happened to that leadership I talked about before?
My colleague from , the critic for the NDP on foreign affairs, stood in this place, how many times, to ask about the government's participation in the UN talks that are soon to be under way? She stood seven times and seven times got a non-answer, which is no answer whatsoever.
Therefore, it might be helpful if I could, in the interest of time, go to the top five Liberal reasons for doing nothing.
Number one is the fissile material cut-off treaty, and it is an important thing. What did someone just say? If we do not have the matches, we are going to prevent the fire, so that is a good thing. Yes, it is sort of like saying that gun control efforts should be abandoned because they undermine progress on bullet control. I suppose that is the logic that the Liberals use.
I am entirely in favour of the fissile material cut-off treaty. Who would not be? Good for Canada for stepping up, in that context, and trying to prohibit the further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. That has to be a good step. However, that does not mean we cannot do other things with the over 120 countries on this planet that want to make progress on this. If we are talking about a straw man argument, that would be one: hiding behind the fig leaf of justifiable work on the fissile material cut-off treaty. That is argument number one.
Argument number two is that our position must be consistent with our NATO allies. Members heard it here first today. Multilateralism only seems to be what our NATO allies want and what Mr. Trump wants. I thought Canada wanted to be leading the world at the UN Security Council. Maybe I missed that, but it seems shocking—
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that.
The second argument that I guess the Liberals are putting up is that our position has to be consistent with our NATO allies.
What about The Netherlands? That is one of our NATO allies. It is going to the conference. It is not cowed by Mr. Trump. It is not getting a phone call, saying, “Please don't do what other NATO allies are doing.” It is not afraid to show the leadership that Mr. Pearson and Mr. Axworthy showed. It is stepping up. Good for The Netherlands for showing that courage, because standing up for peace usually does require some element of courage.
Argument number three is that there is no point going ahead without all nuclear weapon states on board. That is my favourite.
The minister has suggested there is no point in negotiations unless we have all nuclear weapon states on board. That is ridiculous. Past international agreements, from landmines to conflict diamonds, to the International Criminal Court, were challenged as complex and not necessary, but again, there was leadership and others came along. As Canadians on the world stage, we were proud of the work that our representatives did in those contexts. Not this time, though, now we are embarrassed.
Argument number four of the top five is that there is no point, given the global security environment. Therefore, the only time we step up for peace is when we are singing Kumbaya all together. How silly is this argument? We know the world is challenged. There is Crimea, North Korea, Syria. It is as if somehow that is an excuse, given the current security environment, to not take a more bold approach to nuclear disarmament. That is never going to be the case. We are never going to make progress if we can say that.
The fifth and last argument is that a ban would be ineffective anyway.
How do we know? The landmines one was not. The landmines treaty was effective. We managed to make progress on a number of environmental fronts, from the Montreal ozone-depleting convention, to other areas. Nobody thought that would work, and it worked. That lack of courage, lack of boldness by our government, again, in the context of such great leaders in the past who I mentioned before, both of whom were Liberal, is shocking.
We could make progress. If it is true that nuclear weapons conventions would be ineffective, which is what people are saying, then why are weapon states opposed to them? There is a contradiction here. If it is ineffective, then why are they opposed? Why do they not say it is another paper UN exercise? Is there a logic gap? I certainly think there is.
In conclusion, John F. Kennedy, one of my heroes, said the following of similar challenges in a very different time, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
That is what our motion today calls on Canada to do: to return to the table, to participate in good faith, as, by the way, article VI of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which we signed, requires us to do. Let us do what we said we would do. Let us stand up on the world stage again. Let us not be cowed by what a president says or what seems to be correct at the moment. Let us show the leadership Canada used to be famous for.