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.

The treaty, which bans the possession of nuclear weapons, was adopted by 122 states at the UN in 2017 and must be ratified by 50 states before it enters into force. To date, 44 states have ratified it, so it won’t be long before the treaty becomes binding law for those who have signed it.

The Canadian government, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured Sept. 16, 2020, has said it cannot make such a commitment to sign the treaty because of its membership in NATO. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

But NATO, following the lead of the U.S., the U.K., and France, has vigorously rejected the treaty because it “risks undermining” the Non-Proliferation Treaty and supposedly creates divisions in the international community. It would be harder to find a more pungent example of nuclear hypocrisy. First, the treaty explicitly recognizes the NPT as the “cornerstone” of nuclear disarmament efforts. Second, it is the refusal by the nuclear weapons states to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons, as ordered by the NPT, that led to the development of the Prohibition Treaty.

NATO doesn’t have a leg to stand on in maintaining that nuclear weapons are the “supreme guarantee” of security. It has now been called out by its own strongest supporters—former high officials in 20 NATO countries, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, and others, as well as the Canadians—who have signed the letter organized by the Nobel Peace Prize winning-International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

The letter accuses the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China—permanent members of the Security Council that all possess nuclear weapons—of viewing the NPT “as a license to retain their nuclear forces in perpetuity.” They are all flouting the NPT by modernizing their arsenals.

The letter adds: “With close to 14,000 nuclear weapons located at dozens of sites across the globe and on submarines patrolling the oceans at all times, the capacity for destruction is beyond our imagination. … Without doubt, a new nuclear arms race is under way.”

The prohibition treaty is explicit in its condemnation of nuclear weapons, stating: “Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

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. This was the stand taken by Canadian Pugwash, a prominent civil society group, which said that Canada should sign the treaty and argue within NATO councils to get the nuclear policies changed. Indeed, Lloyd Axworthy, one of the signatories of the letter, went to NATO when he was foreign affairs minister to get the policy changed, but was rebuffed.

Pierre Trudeau, the father of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, once told me that NATO’s obsolete policies were one of the biggest thorns he had to endure as prime minister. Justin Trudeau has not yet learned how NATO contravenes the basic idea of nuclear disarmament, for he called the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Prohibition Treaty “useless.” And his government has continued to use NATO membership as a block to the new treaty.

COVID-19 has upended the world order. It has dramatically shown the uselessness of piling up military hardwire to provide human security. Many steps need to be taken to boost cooperative security. One of the most important would be to renounce nuclear weapons. That is what the Prohibition Treaty does. The nuclear weapons states’ plan to spend $1-trillion this decade on nuclear weapons is an outrage to a humanity crying out for resources to survive against the coronavirus.

The seven former Canadian high officials—all of them Liberals—have pulled the rug out from under the Liberal government’s pathetic excuse for not signing the Prohibition Treaty. These seven are not alone among prominent Canadians calling for this action.

Other signatories include: John Polanyi, Ed Broadbent, John English, Gerry Barr, Bruce Kidd, Margaret MacMillan, Stephen Lewis, Ernie Regehr, Jennifer Simons, Clayton Ruby, Jane Urquhart, and many other distinguished recipients of the Order of Canada who have signed a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau by Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, calling for Canada to make nuclear disarmament “a national priority.”

Another civil society organization, the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, representing 16 national organizations, wants Canada “to take a leadership role within NATO” to create the conditions for a nuclear weapons-free world. This was exactly what the House of Commons Committee on National Defence unanimously recommended in 2018.

Justin Trudeau and his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, should now look around and see what important people in the country are saying to them. Not least their own former colleagues.

Former Senator Douglas Roche was also Canadian ambassador for disarmament.

The Hill Times

Link to Hill Times online article.

New York Times article linked here

Co-signed letter is available here

French translation of the letter is available in La Presse: 
https://www.lapresse.ca/debats/opinions/2020-09-21/armes-nucleaires/la-prevention-est-notre-seule-option.php

CNWC Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau: “Make nuclear arms control and disarmament a national priority”

Dear Prime Minister:
Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, supported by more than 1,000 recipients of the Order of Canada, write once again to urge you and your Government to make nuclear arms control and disarmament a national priority. In this letter, we make specific suggestions, notably that Canada work diligently toward achieving an international consensus to save the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at its Review Conference in 2020….. [continue reading: CNWC Letter to Prime Minister.Jan22-2020]

Peggy Mason: Canada — From nuclear disarmament stalwart to nuclear weapons apologist

“To understand the extent of Canada’s retreat from staunch defender of meaningful steps towards increased nuclear restraint and eventual disarmament to the shocking role of U.S. nuclear weapons apologist, it is necessary to review the position of Canada in the context of the NPT and NATO.” (Peggy Mason is President of the Rideau Institute.)

Download pdf here: From nuclear disarmament stalwart to nuclear weapons apologist

Oped in Hill Times by Earl Turcotte: U.S. joint chiefs release alarming nuclear operations document

Opinion: Earl Turcotte,
Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

On June 19th, The Guardian and a host of other media reported that on June 11th the U.S. Joint Chiefs released a document simply entitled “Nuclear Operations”… Continued

Right mouse button click to open in new tab, and to enlarge image.
You can also use Control Key with scroll button on  your mouse to enlarge.

Lettre ouverte au Premier ministre Justin Trudeau

PDF  En & Fr

Le désarmement nucléaire: une forte position canadienne requise

Lettre ouverte au Premier ministre Justin Trudeau
cc. Membres du Parlement et sénateurs

le 15 mai 2019

Cher Premier Ministre,

Le risque grandissant de catastrophe nucléaire nécessite une urgente action de prévention. Car considérons les développements récents :

  • détérioration marquée des relations Est/Ouest, en particulier entre la Russie et l’OTAN;
  • retrait américain de l’entente nucléaire avec l’Iran;
  • retrait imminent des États-Unis et de la Russie du Traité des Armes Nucléaires à portée Intermédiaire (INF);
  • possibilité réduite d’arriver en 2021 au renouvellement du New START;
  • tension accrue entre deux pays nucléarisés, l’Inde et le Pakistan;
  • possible résurgence du programme nucléaire de la Corée du Nord;
  • risque grandissant de voir l’Arabie saoudite et/ou d’autres états s’armer de bombes nucléaires;
  • développement de bombes nucléaires tactiques et de systèmes de missiles hypersoniques;
  • vulnérabilité grandissante face à des cyber-attaques;
  • risque de voir des bombes nucléaires ou du matériel radioactif tomber entre les mains d’acteurs non-étatiques.

Ceci survient dans le contexte d’une nouvelle course à l’armement nucléaire, précipitée en grande partie par l’allocation américaine de $1.5 mille milliards pour ‘moderniser’ son arsenal nucléaire dans les prochains trente ans.

Le Bulletin des Savants Atomiques vient de régler son horloge de la fin du monde à minuit moins deux minutes, l’échéance la plus rapprochée depuis le pire moment de la Guerre Froide. L’humanité fait face à une réelle possibilité qu’à chaque moment, une folie humaine, un mauvais calcul ou un accident nucléaire puisse mettre fin à la vie sur terre ou même à la planète elle-même.

Le Canada est en position d’aider à empêcher cela.

Comme vous le savez, au début des années 80, votre père s’était personnellement engagé dans une campagne internationale de « suffocation » des armes nucléaires; et au cours des années récentes, nos parlementaires de toutes allégeances ont fortement appuyé ce genre d’actions. En 2010, une motion a reçu l’appui unanime de tous les membres du Parlement canadien (Sénat et Chambre des Communes):

« incitant le gouvernement du Canada à participer aux négociations en vue d’une Convention sur la sécurité  nucléaire…  et  à  mettre  en  œuvre  une  importante initiative diplomatique canadienne à l’échelle mondiale en prévention de  la  prolifération nucléaire et en accroissement du taux de désarmement nucléaire. »

Le 18 juin 2018, le Comité permanent de la Défense nationale de la Chambre des Communes a fait la recommandation suivante, appuyée par tous les partis:

« Que le Gouvernement du Canada exerce un rôle de leadership à l’intérieur de l’OTAN pour commencer le travail nécessaire à réussir la volonté de l’OTAN de créer les conditions pour un monde libre d’armes nucléaires…

 Et pourtant le Canada a travaillé en marge des problématiques et a boycotté les négociations qui ont mené au Traité de Prohibition des Armes Nucléaires (TPNW), une percée historique appuyée à l’Assemblée Générale de l’ONU du 7 juillet 2017 par cent vingt-deux autres nations.

Membre du G7, du G20 et de l’OTAN, ainsi qu’allié constant des Nations-Unies, le Canada pourrait faire bien davantage.

Le monde a désespérément besoin d’un ‘champion’ en désarmement nucléaire – un leader national qui, jouissant d’une position privilégiée, lui permettra de jouer un rôle déterminant auprès du Secrétaire général des Nations-Unies – pour inciter fortement les pays dotés d’armes nucléaires de renverser l’actuelle course à l’armement nucléaire en renouvelant et en raffermissant leur adhésion aux traités INF et new START, en signant et en ratifiant le Traité de Prohibition des Armes Nucléaires, ou en négociant une nouvelle et complémentaire Convention de Sécurité Nucléaire en état d’accomplir le but ultime – une dénucléarisation mondiale.

Nous croyons que vous pourriez être cette personne, monsieur le Premier Ministre.

Car nous avons espoir que vous seriez en mesure de mener la cause du désarmement nucléaire mondial, comme vous aviez bien entrepris en 2015 celle de la lutte au changement climatique -, l’autre grande menace à notre existence.

Le temps presse et les enjeux sont immenses.

Veuillez agréer cette expression de nos sentiments sincères,

Earl Turcotte, Président, Réseau canadien pour l’abolition de l’arme nucléaire (CNANW)

co-signataires :

Hon. Douglas Roche OC, Président fondateur du Le Réseau canadien pour l’abolition des armes nucléaires

Beverley J. Tollefson Delong, ex-Présidente, Le Réseau canadien pour l’abolition des armes nucléaires

Paul Meyer, Président, Les Conférences Pugwash Canada

Normand Beaudet, Fondateur, Centre de Ressources sur la Non-Violence

Roy Culpepper, Président, Groupe des 78

André Michel, Président-national, Les Artistes pour la Paix Jonathan Down, Co-Président, Médecins pour la Survie Mondiale Pascale Frémond, Présidente, Religions pour la Paix

Peggy Mason, Présidente, Institut Rideau

Rob Acheson, Président, Comité sur les armes nucléaires, Science pour la Paix

Kathryn White, Présidente et Directrice Générale, Association canadienne pour les Nations Unies

Fergus Watt, Directeur exécutif, Mouvement fédéraliste mondial – Canada

Murray Thomson 1922-2019

Tribute by Ernie Regehr:  linked here

 Murray Thomson was our friend, colleague, and mentor. He had the good fortune to lead a very long, productive, and exemplary life, and some of us had the very good fortune of sharing elements of it with him. The following brief tribute acknowledges his central role in launching the initiative we know as Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and celebrates his life of activism and optimism in the face of the challenges that he felt so deeply. The way in which we truly honor him is to continue to pursue the kind of world that he imagined and never stopped pursuing. Continue reading…

Tribute to Murray Thomson by Douglas Roche

Murray Thomson was relentless in his work for peace. He just never stopped. Even at 96, he was a force to be reckoned with. Only a few days before he died, he phoned to tell me he had some new ideas for nuclear disarmament, and why wasn’t I doing more to implement them?  He challenged me all the time, and I was a better person for it. Murray’s contribution to a more peaceful world and particularly to a world freed of nuclear weapons was outstanding. And that is too weak a word. There was nobody else like him. Although his life was filled with peacemaking activities (when he wasn’t playing tennis or chess), I believe his crowning achievement was the creation of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, an organization composed of more than 1,000 recipients of the Order of Canada calling on Canada to take a worldwide initiative for nuclear disarmament. The peace movement has lost a hero and our only proper response is to redouble our efforts.

— Douglas Roche

MILITARY STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

MILITARY STATEMENTS ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

“US military leaders would reject illegal order for nuclear strike, senators told,” The Guardian, Nov. 14, 2017
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/14/us-military-nuclear-weapons-strike-senate-trump
As senators raise concerns about ‘unstable’ Donald Trump’s decision-making, former commander says military is ‘not obligated to follow illegal orders’

Dec. 6, 2014 – Statement by US General (Ret) Lee Butler speaks for a ban on nuclear weapons
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBgF-2HK8H0

Statement by Generals and Admirals of the World Against Nuclear Weapons , December 5, 1996.

Address by General Lee Butler to Canadian Peaceworkers, March 11, 1999, Ottawa.
https://www.cnanw.ca/1999/03/11/voices/

General Lee Butler, Remarks to National Press Club, Dec. 5, 1996
https://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/Butlpress.txt

Joint Statement on Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Arsenals: Declining Utility, Continuing Risks by Generals Lee Butler and Andrew J. Goodpaster, Dec. 4, 1996, National Press Club
http://prop1.org/2000/gengood.htm

Letter to Bill Graham M.P., Chair, Standing Committee on oreign Affairs and International Trade from Lee Butler, General, USAF, Ret., July 1998
http://www.ccnr.org/scfait_recs.html