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

Bev Delong: Canada, missile proliferation and controls

Bev Delong: CANADA, MISSILE PROLIFERATION AND CONTROLS
Briefing note for Government-Civil Society Consultation Feb. 24 & 25th, 2004

The literature in this area seems based in a fantasy world of good guys and bad guys, or perhaps even a world where the only owners of nuclear weapons are North Korea, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. Rare are references to the legal obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons. And nonexistent are references to the warnings given by Dr. Joseph Rotblat, General Lee Butler, Dr. Bruce Blair and others of the dangers involved in states persisting with policies of launch on warning. (1)

Thankfully greater realism has obviously encouraged Canadian officials in their persistent work in moving from the MTCR to the Hague Code of Conduct. The clarity of thinking is very evident in Rob’s excellent paper. We are in a somewhat more secure world due to his work on Pre Launch Notifications in the Code. Mark Smith of the Mountbatten Centre has commented on the importance as well of the establishment under the Code of basic working relationships and he notes that “Stopgap solutions, after all, are better than a widening gulf.” (2)

There is some evidence the MTCR has slowed transfers of sophisticated technology.(3) But all these initiatives fail to define disarmament as an urgent legal obligation.(4) And I think that apart from improving the procedures defined under the Hague Code and widening its membership, we may now be at a halt.

Why do states want missiles? Regional quarrels obviously support the drive to buy nuclear weapons. But, more importantly, I think that demand is fuelled when states are subjected to threats of nuclear use. The US is known to have made such threats over 20 times.(5) And the new- and near- nuclear states have noted the profound hypocrisy of NATO states who, while claiming to support the NPT, simultaneously maintain their capacity to threaten nuclear use.

Given this dangerous state of affairs, what could the Government of Canada do to build international energy toward fulfilling our legal obligation of nuclear disarmament?

A. The Government could use the opportunity of the NPT PrepCom to publicly move to an authentic position of legal compliance with the NPT. We can join South Africa and 61 other states now in NWFZs in delegitimizing nuclear weapons. This soon-to-be-historic (!) speech at the PrepCom would require several elements. The Canadian Government would:

1st, call upon all Nuclear Weapons States to immediately de-alert their nuclear weapons recognizing the threat posed by launch-on- warning strategies;

2nd, Canada would refuse the offer made by the US to Canada in the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction to use nuclear weapons to defend us, noting that such a defence is immoral, unlawful and could trigger a nuclear holocaust (6).

3rd, the Government would announce that Canada will no longer participate in NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group noting that such planning for the use of nuclear weapons is both immoral and unlawful as a breach of international humanitarian law; [I reject the “seat at the table”argument and think officials need to be very mindful of the implications of the Nuremberg Principles for those “planning…a war in violation of international law..”]

4th Canada would call upon the US to honour its Negative Security Assurances and withdraw its threats against the several states named in the Nuclear Posture Review; and finally

5th, Canada would call upon the US to withdraw its threat of preemptive nuclear use against states thought to possess WMD. Such threats simply encourage those states to acquire missiles and weapons to protect themselves against the US.

Imagine how such a speech might serve to delegitimize nuclear weapons?

In addition, there are other steps Canada could take to limit missile proliferation and to delegitimize nuclear weapons.

B. It is obvious that Canada should withdraw from all US plans for missile defence, noting that this program is encouraging the maintenance and indeed expansion of nuclear arsenals and missile technology worldwide. (7) As an alternative, the government could engage like-minded states in discussion of the possibility of a missile flight test ban. Indeed, Canada should invite other states to discuss the new threat potentially posed to satellites by missile defence technology and the need for satellite security. (8)

C. Canada might host meetings to explore the necessary elements of model domestic legislation criminalizing not just the activities of those involved in sales of nuclear technology – as Dr. El Baradei has proposed – but the activities of those involved in all aspects of nuclear weaponry. If we start a process of one state after another criminalizing nuclear weapons activities, perhaps it would build public support and political momentum toward a norm of rejection of nuclear weapons.

D. Canada could investigate means of supporting the renewal of a US-North Korea security agreement. The American assurance against the threat and use of nuclear weapons from the 1994 Framework Agreement should be urgently renewed. North Korea should quite simply be bought off with food aid and fuel.

E. The Canadian Government should be strongly encouraged to support efforts through ASEAN to build military and popular support for a North East Asia Nuclear Weapons- Free Zone. As recommended by the Pacific Campaign for Disarmament and Security, Canada might play a role by encouraging the invitation of civil society from the ASEAN states to present their proposals for this Zone and engage in debate within a ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting. (9) And a similar strategy should be supported in other regions.

F. As for the Proliferation Security Initiative, I am a newcomer to maritime law, but my initial look at the Law of the Sea Convention leads me to believe that interdiction on the high seas – no matter how justified – is currently unlawful. Almost more worrying is my sense that it will be perceived to be an act of bullying by states. We need to avoid rash action. If we want our seas nuclear free, the time must be taken to build consensus on a Nuclear Weapons Free Seas Treaty – applicable to all – or amend the Law of the Sea Convention. The U.S. should be warned that bullying activities may provoke further proliferation or terrorism against them.

G. More generally, but still very important, the Canadian government can confront proliferation by increasing funding directed toward democratization and development strategies worldwide, such work being of particular importance in these “states of concern”. It is this work that will in the long term build a more stable international security. Ernie Regehr has written very persuasively on the need for attention to governance issues. (10)

H. Finally, in accord with its undertakings at the UN on Disarmament Education, the government could fund a nuclear weapons education program to build a norm supporting abolition of nuclear weapons. It could initially be directed to four specific groups each of which might become engaged in discussing missile proliferation within their communities. Might I suggest these groups – all potential citizen inspectors or whistleblowers:
1) new Canadians who might have important contacts in new or near nuclear weapons states
2) scientists who could potentially be invited to engage in research regarding nuclear weapons and their delivery systems,
3) Canadians engaged in work, study and travel abroad, and
4) unions involved in the transportation industry responsible for handling goods in ports, and airports.
Such strategies might provide a truer and nondiscriminatory path to engaging the global public in understanding the risks of missile proliferation.

Footnotes:
(1) Bruce G. Blair, “Keeping Presidents in the Nuclear Dark”, Feb. 16, 2004;
Bruce G. Blair, “Rogue States: Nuclear Red-Herrings”, Dec. 5, 2003 (both at
Generals Lee Butler and Andrew J. Goodpaster, “Joint Statement on Reduction of Nuclear Weapons Arsenals: Declining Utility, Continuing Risks”, 2002 (at ;
David Ruppe “Experts Warn of Accidental U.S., Russian Missile Launches”, Jan. 28, 2004, Global Security Newswire,

(2) Mark Smith, “Preparing the Ground for Modest Steps: A Progress Report on the Hague Code of Conduct”, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 72, August – September 2003, at p. 10 wherein he comments “…while provision of information such as the HCoC’s PLNs [Pre Launch Notifications] and annual declarations is certainly a limited cure for the insecurity generated by missile development, the modest impact of such basic working relationships should not be dismissed. Stopgap solutions, after all, are better than a widening gulf.”

(3) Mark Smith, “Pros and Cons of the MTCR, and Efforts to Move Forward”, INESAP Bulletin 21, publishing a paper delivered on Jan. 24-26, 2003 in Berlin.

(4) W. Pal S. Sidhu and Christophe Carle, “Managing Missiles: Blind Spot or Blind Alley?”, Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No. 72, August – September 2003, at p. 7.

(5) For instance, see the threat of nuclear use made by the U.S. in the Nuclear Posture Review. This is only one of a series of threats by the U.S. and other nuclear states. For a list of the threats, refer to “A Chronology of Nuclear Threats” which has been researched by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland, USA. For a further update, see the speech”Nuclear Weapons: Forgotten but not Gone”, by Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation, on Feb. 24- 25, 2001 at their website within which the author notes: “…. over the past decade the U.S. has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against Libya (April 1996), North Korea (July 1994) and Iraq (1991 and 1998).”

(6) In the U.S. “National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction” released in 2002, it states “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including through resort to all of our options – to the use of WMD against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.”

(7). Unhappily we note that Russia has just engaged in a huge military exercise to test ballistic missile launches in an attempt to develop weapons systems “capable of providing an asymmetric answer to existing and prospective weapons systems, including missile defence”states Col. Gen. Baluyevsky, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces quoted in “General says maneuvers are response to American nuclear development plan”, International Herald Tribune (online), Feb. 11, 2004.

The report of these exercises in “Military Exercises of the Nuclear Briefcase” from Rossiyskaya Gazeta of Feb. 11, 2004 advises that “Such large-scale exercises have not been organized in Russia for a long time….Strategic nuclear forces will play the main role in the exercise.”

(8) David Wright and Laura Grego, “Anti-Satellite Capabilities of Planned US Missile Defense Systems”, Union of Concerned Scientists, Dec. 9, 2002, at

(9) “Promoting a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free-Zone: An Opportunity for Canada”, Pacific Campaign for Disarmament & Security, August 2003.

(10) The need to support improved governance has been well argued by Ernie Regehr in “Missile Proliferation, Globalized Insecurity, and Demand-Side Strategies”, Ploughshares Briefing 01/4.