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

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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

CNWC letter to PM: Help Preserve the INF Treaty

From Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

Jan 24, 2019
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to urge, in the strongest terms, you and your government to publicly and prominently call on all the parties to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to ensure that it is preserved.

De Rassemblement canadien pour une convention sur les armes nucléaires
Monsieur le Premier Ministre,
Nous vous envoyons cette lettre pour vous exhorter, ainsi que votre gouvernement, à inciter – publiquement et fermement – toutes les parties au Traité de limitation des armes nucléaires à moyenne portée (traité INF) à faire en sorte qu’il soit maintenu.

PDF here/ici: 2018-01-24-CNWCINF Letter to PM

Letter to Prime Minster Trudeau: Seeking Canadian action to lessen nuclear risk

January 31, 2017
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
RE: Canadian Emergency Response Plan

With the Presidency of Mr. Trump, we are urgently seeking your engagement in an emergency response plan to confront the possible use of nuclear weapons by President Trump. He has been quoted as saying “If we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” President Trump has joined the small group of “leaders” who claim the right to kill millions of people to protect their country’s interests. It is clear he is a man of little patience, no diplomatic expertise, no military or conflict resolutions skills. His control of “the button” places the global community in grave danger.

We call on you to use your considerable skill in inspiring communications and clear thinking to urgently lessen and eliminate the nuclear threat. We believe you have the capacity to ensure a more secure future for your family and our families, and indeed the global family.

More specifically, we would propose that you personally take these steps:

1. During your first meeting with President Trump, propose a Reykjavik-style bilateral summit between him and President Putin to discuss how they could further reduce nuclear arsenals and work together to pursue global nuclear disarmament.

2. Publicly commend President Xi’s proposal for nuclear disarmament, to press China for CTBT ratification and to actively explore with China ways to pursue nuclear disarmament on an urgent basis.

3. Seek cooperation with like-minded leaders of NATO member states to promote reduced Allied reliance on a nuclear deterrent and to make an active contribution to creating the conditions necessary for a “world without nuclear weapons”.

4. Direct Canadian diplomats to engage in upcoming negotiations on a legal instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons and in all other processes that will advance nuclear disarmament

5. Strongly support public advocacy on the increased threat of a nuclear weapons exchange and the need for urgent work toward nuclear disarmament.

We recognize the load on you has been heavy but want to assure you that should a nuclear exchange occur, a legacy of environmental agreements and pipelines will be irrelevant. There can be no greater 150th Birthday gift to Canada than one of increased security for Canadians and the global community.

Respectfully,
Bev Tollefson Delong
Chairperson, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

This letter has been endorsed by the following groups:
Canadian Peace Initiative(CPI)
Canadian Pugwash Group
Physicians for Global Survival
Religions for Peace Canada
Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Nanaimo Chapter