Why do we Still Have Nuclear Weapons?

by Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux, Co-chairpersons, CNANW

A recent Nanos poll found 80% across-the-board support for nuclear weapon elimination. A strong 74% majority believe Canada should join the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (“the ban treaty” or TPNW), even if there is pressure from the United States to stay clear. Those results are no surprise. Similar enthusiasm is found in older polls, and in Canadian municipalities where Councils have supported “nuclear-weapons-free zones” for many years

In an International Committee of the Red Cross 2019 global survey, millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) in the 16 countries polled, overwhelmingly (82%) oppose the use of all weapons of mass destruction – be they nuclear, biological, or chemical – in any circumstance.

And yet, almost half “believe nuclear weapons are an effective instrument of deterrence.”

How can this be?

There lingers a belief that possessing a nuclear arsenal may protect you from enemies. There is also a lack of political leadership countering this dangerous illusion.

For example, just recently the United Kingdom announced they would increase their Trident submarine nuclear warhead limit. There are also plans to “modernize” the arsenals of most nuclear-armed states, including Russia, the USA and China. Some militaries see these weapons as war-fighting options, or as an appropriate response to an overwhelming conventional weapon attack.

And the Canadian government has snubbed the new ban treaty. Rob Oliphant, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the ban is “inconsistent with Canada’s collective defence obligations” as a member of NATO. Within the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, however, we point to NATO’s own policy in support of “eventual” nuclear weapons abolition. And Canada has options: Either sign the treaty while pushing back against alliance nuclear deterrence policy; or work harder for a nuclear weapons convention, as Canada did before. Get back in the game.

Canadian disarmament practice hasn’t always been so hesitant – over decades, leadership was shown on antipersonnel landmines, but also nuclear weapons policy. A resolution was supported by all members of the House of Commons and Senate as recently as 2010. It called on the government to “engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention” and to “deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative” towards that end.  Despite the all-party mandate, the last ten years saw little initiative by Canada.

There is, however, a new effort — that includes Canada — known as the Stockholm Initiative. Sixteen states are engaged, including ban supporters New Zealand, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, but also NATO members Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain, as well as two non-NATO nuclear umbrella states (South Korea and Japan). Will this be a fresh start?

“The initiative is positive in principle, but it is too soon to tell whether it will have any meaningful impact,” says Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of CNANW member group Project Ploughshares. “Efforts to reframe, rename and relaunch a series of steps or stones or blocks are also not new.” Canada should participate, and at the ministerial level, if this is to be a serious contribution.

Canada can also at minimum sit in as observer to the inaugural meeting of States Parties (likely in January 2022) of the new TPNW to show solidarity with the goals of its 122+ supporting or signatory states. This is also being considered by Germany.

A new global campaign for No First Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons has been established and encouraged the US and Russian leaders Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin at their bilateral meeting in Geneva to engage in talks to reduce nuclear risks. US President Biden is on record as questioning “first use” of nuclear weapons for the US. At the NATO summit of leaders this month, Canada had a chance to promote NFU for the alliance as a game-changing safer policy, but also as an early step towards nuclear weapon elimination.

This opens up the urgently needed discussion of alternatives to nuclear deterrence, a shift to sustainable common security for all peoples, and protection of the global environment. Canada needs to be there.

CNANW endorses Cdn Pugwash Group submission to UN Human Rights Committee re nuclear deterrence

Regarding: Canada’s support for Nuclear Deterrence and the Right to Life
Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Submission by the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW)

April 30, 2021
United Nations Human Rights Committee
Dear Human Rights Committee Members,

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) offers as our submission to the Periodic Review of Canada our endorsement of the statement submitted by Canadian Pugwash Group on April 27, 2021. Our statement follows, attached.

On behalf of CNANW,

Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux
(Co-Chairpersons of CNANW)

Note: This effort was initiated by Alyn Ware and Basel Peace Office, among others.

Canadian Nuclear Weapon Abolitionists Call on U.K. to Reconsider Warhead Increase

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) joins with other disarmament organizations critical of the nuclear weapons policy shift of the government of the United Kingdom.



CNANW Statement March 25, 2021

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) joins with other disarmament organizations critical of the nuclear weapons policy shift of the government of the United Kingdom. The British defence and foreign policy review, “Global Britain in a Competitive Age”, would increase the number of nuclear weapons in the U.K. arsenal. It would also extend the declared purposes of nuclear deterrence to a wider range of perceived threats. Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has cautioned that “there are already too many nuclear warheads in the world, not too few.” He added: “The past has shown that if one side has more nuclear weapons, the other side will try to catch up. And that is the disastrous arms race we have been in for decades.”

We urge the government of British Prime Minister Johnson to reverse these regressive and provocative steps as they are in violation of treaty obligations. They carry the inherent risk of re-fueling both a nuclear and conventional arms race.

Instead of reducing to a maximum of 180 nuclear warheads from the current 195, as previously promised, the new plan moves in the opposite direction by increasing the Trident-purposed arsenal to a new cap of 260 warheads. In contrast to limiting the scope of nuclear deterrence and moving towards full elimination as required by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the UK’s declared policy is being extended to “emerging technologies” and to a wider range of weapons of mass destruction.

Three former Canadian U.N. Disarmament Ambassadors quickly reacted to the U.K. policy shift.

The Honourable Douglas Roche O.C. stated that:

On February 26, 2020, the United Kingdom joined a unanimous statement by the U.N. Security Council calling on all states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to cooperate in nuclear disarmament measures. What happened to suddenly move the U.K. government to increase its nuclear arsenal by 40 percent?  This appears to be the U.K. response to the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. So much for the humanitarian movement against nuclear weapons! Power politics rears its ugly head once more. This unconscionable act, which drives ahead the nuclear arms race, jeopardizes the success of the NPT Review Conference later this year. Canada must join Germany in criticizing the U.K.’s reckless act.

Peggy Mason, who heads the Rideau Institute, further said that:

The new UK defence policy reduces transparency in that country’s operational stockpile and deployed warheads. It also expands the circumstances in which it would use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT, beyond weapons of mass destruction, to include threats from unspecified “emerging technologies” of “comparable impact”.   It is hard to see these extraordinarily destabilizing actions as anything other than a desperately diminished post-Brexit Britain struggling to maintain some semblance of global prestige.

And Paul Meyer, who is also the Chair of the Canadian Pugwash Group, notes that:

At the last NPT Review Conference in 2015, the UK delivered a statement committing to limit operationally deployed warheads on its ballistic missile submarines to no more than 120 and to reduce its overall nuclear warhead stockpile to no more than 180 by the mid-2020s. The announced change in UK nuclear policy represents a betrayal of that pledge and sends the worst of all possible signals to the NPT community in the lead up to its August Review Conference. In 2015 the UK promised “to strive to build conditions for a world without nuclear weapons”. Doesn’t Prime Minister Johnson’s Government realize that increasing nuclear arsenals is not one of the ways to get to that goal?

CNANW joins many others in challenging the rationale of the UK’s decision. Whatever the political reasons for the redirection of official United Kingdom defence policy, CNANW sees the proposal as an affront to the entry into force of the two-month-old Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), and as a challenge to this year’s planned Review Conference deliberations for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

We call on the Canadian government to clearly state its disappointment to its NATO ally, to urge caution and press Prime Minister Johnson to reverse the implementation of a policy that would lead to a more dangerous world with a greater likelihood of proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In these days of pandemics and other global stresses, the world requires sober and thoughtful vision, with leadership that pulls us together for shared mutual security and risk reduction goals. We need to avoid — not increase — global risks from dangerous, and regressive policy changes.

Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux
CNANW Co-Chairpersons

cnanw@web.net  www.cnanw.ca

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW) was established in 1996 by representatives of national organizations that share the conviction that nuclear weapons are immoral and should be abolished.

Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux Succeed Earl Turcotte as Co-Chairs of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW).

Mr. Robin Collins, an active supporter of nuclear disarmament and global governance for more than 30 years, and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel army engineer and public service executive, will jointly Co-Chair the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, effective March 19, 2021.

Continue reading “Robin Collins and Dr. Sylvie Lemieux Succeed Earl Turcotte as Co-Chairs of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW).”

Statement by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C. Press Conference on Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Ottawa, January 21, 2021

We are celebrating the entry into force tomorrow of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Why is this treaty necessary?

          Let us cast our eyes back fifty years to another treaty entry into force, this time the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The NPT was essentially a bargain: non–nuclear weapons states would forsake any attempt to acquire nuclear weapons in return for the nuclear weapons possessors to negotiate in good faith their elimination. 

Continue reading “Statement by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C. Press Conference on Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Ottawa, January 21, 2021”

So many words, but so little action on nuclear disarmament

Earl Turcotte
Opinion Hil Times January 20, 20201

Who in their wildest dreams would have thought that the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, would feel compelled earlier this month to plead with the chairman of the Joint  Chiefs of  Staff to deny access by an increasingly unstable president to the nuclear launch codes, for fear that he might order a nuclear strike? As if this were even possible, since, under U.S. law, no one can counter such an order by the commander in chief.

Continue reading “So many words, but so little action on nuclear disarmament”

Jaramillo: Latin America and the Quest for Nuclear Abolition: From the Treaty of Tlatelolco to the Ban Treaty

photo credit: OPANAL

On February 14, 2014, as the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons came to an end, conference Chair Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo—then deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico—captured the sentiment in the room in the powerful last few words of his closing remarks: in global efforts toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, this conference marked a “point of no return.” His optimistic conclusion was met with a roar of applause.

Read further: here 

Turcotte: US trying to sabotage ban treaty

(text version below image version)

Earl Turcotte – Letter to The Hill TimeAs. Published in modified form on Nov. 2, 2020.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), negotiated in 2017 has been endorsed by 122 nations.  Since that time, 50 nations have signed and ratified the Treaty, triggering its entry into force in 90 days.

While most of the world will celebrate this historic event, almost 75 years to the day after the UN’s first-ever resolution that called for the elimination of atomic weapons, the United States of America is doing its level best to sabotage the Treaty.

In a now widely circulated ‘non-paper’ sent to countries that have joined the TPNW, the US registers its outrage and requests that they withdraw from the Treaty. Why? Among the long list of reasons cited by the Americans, because “Russia and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) are engaged in a nuclear arms buildup with the goal of military dominance that if left unimpeded, will result in a new nuclear arms race. Should they succeed, the result will be profoundly negative for the future of the democratic way of life… And let’s be frank: The TPNW will not stand in Russia’s or the PRC’s way in remaking the global order in their own cynical, autocratic image.”

Leave aside that China has approximately 300 nuclear weapons, compared to the US and Russia that have 6,000 each and that the US spends more on defence each year than the next 10 countries combined.   It is precisely this kind of ham-fisted rhetoric, combined with the US’ own actions in recent years, that render nuclear disarmament a global imperative.   

The United States itself triggered the new nuclear arms race when it announced that it would budget $1.5 Trillion dollars over the next 30 years to ‘modernize’ its nuclear arsenal. Donald Trump, in addition to increasing tension with adversaries and allies alike, has threatened “fire and fury” on North Korea, withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran and  the Intermediate-range Nuclear forces Treaty with Russia, stated his intention to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty and has not to date agreed to renew the critically important New START Treaty with Russia that will expire in February 2021 – despite repeated offers by Russia to extend the Treaty without preconditions.

While there is indeed cause for concern about an ascendant China and Mr. Putin’s clear longing for the glory days of the former USSR, it is lunacy to engage in this kind of brinkmanship. All hell could break loose – deliberately or accidentally – plunging the world into an existential crisis that could make a global pandemic feel like a day at the beach.

What to do? Looking (and praying) for change south of our border after November 3rd, Joe Biden has indicated that, if elected, he would try to scale back Trump’s buildup in nuclear weapons spending and would make the US less reliant upon the world’s deadliest weapons.  There could be an opportunity here, to engage a more rational and mature administration in the United States. Either way, the rest of the world has to make it clear to all nuclear armed states that enough is enough! We’ve got to get rid of these damned weapons before they get rid of us!

Earl Turcotte
Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Roche: Canada can’t hide behind NATO in refusal to sign treaty on nuclear weapons prohibition

Douglas Roche: “The Canadian government has said it cannot make such a commitment because of its membership in NATO. But the letter contests this stand, arguing that nothing in the new treaty precludes a NATO state joining, as long as it never assists the use of nuclear weapons.”

EDMONTON—Lloyd Axworthy, Jean-Jacques Blais, Jean Chrétien, Bill Graham, John McCallum, John Manley, and John Turner.

These seven names hardly need an introduction to readers of The Hill Times, and certainly not to the Government of Canada. Two of them are former prime ministers, three are former foreign ministers, and two are former defence ministers, who ran and served Liberal governments.

All of them signed an open letter [en français], released on Sept. 21, that features 53 former high officials of NATO countries expressing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is an astonishing rebuke of NATO’s moribund policies on nuclear weapons, and the most serious challenge to NATO’s nuclear orthodoxy in the organization’s 71-year history. Even two former NATO secretaries-general, Javier Solana and Willy Claes, as well as former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, joined in this protest.

Continue reading “Roche: Canada can’t hide behind NATO in refusal to sign treaty on nuclear weapons prohibition”

Canadian Call to Action on Nuclear Disarmament

On the historic occasions of,

The 75th Anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 people,

The 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations whose stated purpose is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” and whose first Resolution sought the elimination of atomic weapons, 

And the 50th Anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that binds almost all of the world’s nations,

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons issues to the Government of Canada the following Call to Action on Nuclear Disarmament:

Continue reading “Canadian Call to Action on Nuclear Disarmament”

75 Years Since the Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – We Remember

August 6th and 9th, 2020 marked 75 years since atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 200,000 people.

The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons* (CNANW) hosted a virtual event on August 6th from 2:00 to 3:30 Eastern to honour the victims of this unspeakable act, and to consider new action to help rid the world of nuclear weapons. Which can be viewed above.

Continue reading “75 Years Since the Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – We Remember”