About Canadian Pugwash Group

We are the national affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization, which had its birthplace in Pugwash, Nova Scotia in 1957 and which was awarded the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize together with its founder Sir Joseph Rotblat. The purpose of the Pugwash Conferences is to provide scholarly insights into the prevention and resolution of armed conflict, including nuclear and conventional disarmament, control of the arms trade, the peaceful settlement of disputes and to contribute to solutions for environmental threats to human security.

Education on global security, in a broad sense, is the mandate of the Canadian Pugwash Group, carried out by sponsoring conferences, roundtables and other events to foster informed discussion and to generate ideas and proposals relevant to the formulation of government policy. For example in recent years Canadian Pugwash has organized a conference on “Canada’s Contribution to Global Security” (July 2017) and one on “Towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons” (July 2015), both of which yielded a set of policy recommendations that were conveyed to the Government of Canada for consideration.

Canadian Pugwash Bylaws

On July 2, 2014, the Canadian Pugwash Group received a Certificate of Continuance under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (NFP Act). The original incorporation of the organization was July 12, 1990. This followed a period of activity that dated as far back as the Pugwash foundation meeting in 1957.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs:

wwnwGroup08-16-2012The Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955 was a call to action in the campaign to prevent war and to realize nuclear disarmament. It was the inspiration behind the establishment in 1957 by the philanthropist Cyrus Eaton of the Pugwash Conferences and the gathering of scientists from East and West at his summer residence in the small seaside village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia (now the National Historic Site of “Thinkers Lodge”). Pugwash members continue to uphold the principles set out in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Nobel Peace Prize

For more than sixty years the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs have been working for the control, reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. It was in recognition of these efforts that Pugwash, together with its President of the time, Joseph Rotblat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In December 2017, Canadian Pugwash was honoured that one of its members, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, was selected to receive alongside the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) the Nobel Peace Prize for ICAN’s efforts to ensure the negotiation of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


Canadian Pugwash Group member Setsuko Thurlow accepts the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN (jointly with executive director Beatrice Fihn, right).

The Canadian Pugwash Group has two categories of members: full members who are elected by the current Board of Directors on the basis of a nomination originating with one or more of the current members. New members have made significant contributions in their professional lives to advancing the goals of the Pugwash movement. A category of Associate Members is aimed at individuals at an earlier stage of their careers or those unable to participate on a regular basis with Canadian Pugwash activities, who nevertheless support the principles of the movement and who wish to engage with like-minded colleagues. Associate Members are appointed by the Chair upon consultation with the Board of Directors. All members have access to a dedicated listserv for the sharing of articles and other information relevant to Canadian Pugwash’s mission. Please feel free to contact the Chair or Vice-Chair for information about becoming associated with Canadian Pugwash.

Please use the menu to explore our website and to find out about current peace and security issues and initiatives involving Canadian Pugwash members.

Conference on “Global Markets, Inequality and the Future of Democracy”

The Canadian Pugwash Group is sponsoring the Group of 78 (G78) Annual Policy Conference on “Global Markets, Inequality and the Future of Democracy” to be held at the University of Ottawa on September 27-28 2019. Members of the Canadian Pugwash Global Issues Project participated in the research and planning of this Conference. You can find a brief background on the Global Issues Project at https://pugwashgroup.ca/global-issues-project,

The focus of the G78 Conference is on the proposition that the roots of the current nightmare of economic inequality and economic insecurity in democracies around the world can be traced to three interrelated causes: a) the rise of a global financial system that is no longer regulated in the public interest; b) the rise of an international trading system that has dramatically undercut the ability of labour to share in productivity gains; c) the enshrinement of a deeply individualistic ideology that has weakened democracies and thereby greatly increased the power of corporate capital to act with virtual impunity. The conference objective is to explore the most promising avenues for resistance to the powerful interests that have poisoned efforts to address these causes in an informed and free public debate.

The G78 is an informal association of Canadians seeking to promote global priorities for peace and disarmament, equitable and sustainable development and a strong and revitalized United Nations System. You can see the G78 Conference outline, program and registration forms at https://group78.org/event/2019-g78-annual-policy-conference/

How to build an architecture of peace, when destruction can rain down in mere minutes

Contributed to The Globe and Mail | Published July 7, 2019

The existence of 13,865 nuclear weapons held by nine countries has not been enough, seemingly, to demonstrate political power. Now science and technology are giving us faster, more precise methods of destroying “the enemy.” The name of this new danger: “hypersonic” missiles.

The United States, Russia and China are leading the way on the development of hypersonic missiles, purportedly capable of travelling at more than 15 times the speed of sound and striking any target in the world in a matter of minutes. They will be powerful enough to penetrate any building with the force of three to four tonnes of TNT.

Although hypersonics are intended to carry conventional explosives, as distinct from nuclear, that’s not the main threat right now. Hypersonic missiles, conventional or nuclear, will be capable of striking at an adversary’s nuclear arsenal. Given the very short warning times of such attacks, states with nuclear weapons will have to assess how to respond to such threats quickly, and may be tempted to bypass political consultation. Their systems will also be placed on even higher levels of alert, increasing paranoia and pressure.

And, of course, it is highly unlikely that hypersonic weapons will stay “conventional.” Indeed, Russia is already boasting that it can place nuclear warheads on its hypersonic missiles. We’re looking at a world where catastrophic destruction is possible – and with unimaginable speed.

If the world is getting to be a better place, as so many indicators of progress reveal, how can we tolerate the constant modernization of the killing process? Is our struggle ultimately against particular weapons systems, or is it against humanity’s more fundamental lust for perfecting the art of killing?

These are questions that are made relevant again with the emergence of what The New York Times Magazine recently called “unstoppable hypersonic missiles.” As Times writer R. Jeffrey Smith reminds us, there are no international agreements on how or when hypersonic missiles can be used, nor are there any plans to start such discussions. Instead, he says, the world now faces a new arms race with Russia and China – “one that could, some experts worry, upend existing norms of deterrence and renew Cold War-era tensions.”

The issue of hypersonic weapons should highlight the growing urgency of reconstructing a reliable nuclear-arms control regime. Such a system should place a legal obligation on all countries to pursue and complete comprehensive negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Stunningly, the reverse is happening: The U.S. and Russia continue to violate their disarmament obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as they abandon other treaties.

Immediate steps are necessary. At a minimum, keep nuclear warheads off hypersonics; remove all nuclear systems from high-alert status to prevent false alarms from triggering nuclear catastrophe; commence negotiations to control hypersonic weapons before the emerging hypersonic arms race swings into a no-holds-barred contest among a small but widening circle of countries.

Of course, the dismal state of nuclear disarmament in this chaotic period of world history sometimes raises doubts about the effectiveness of the nuclear disarmament movement. But the arrival of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which buttresses the nearly 50-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, highlights the deepening humanitarian concern about the massive evil of nuclear weapons. Focusing only on nuclear disarmament is not enough to ensure sustainable world peace, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, there can be no world peace.

The new age of hypersonics reminds us that the agenda for peace is very long. It already includes curbing global warming, controlling cyberwarfare, promoting sustainable development, and continuing to learn that human rights include the right to be free of warfare.

Hypersonic marks another milestone in the development of instruments of warfare. We must respond by building a new architecture for peace. And one cornerstone of that architecture remains the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Ernie Regehr is chairman of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Douglas Roche is a former senator and the former Canadian ambassador for disarmament.

U.S. joint chiefs release alarming nuclear operations document

The Hill Times | July 1, 2019

On June 11, the U.S. joint chiefs released a document simply entitled ‘Nuclear Operations,’ the first such doctrine paper in 14 years, and one that marks a major shift in U.S. military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war.

On June 19, The Guardian and a host of other media reported that on June 11 the U.S. joint chiefs released a document simply entitled “Nuclear Operations,” the first such doctrine paper in 14 years, and one that marks a major shift in U.S. military thinking towards the idea of fighting and winning a nuclear war. The document states that “nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

The Nuclear Operations document was taken down from the Pentagon online site after a week, and is now available only through a restricted access electronic library. Before it was withdrawn, it was downloaded by Steven Aftergood, who directs the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. Aftergood said the new document “is very much conceived as a war-fighting doctrine, not simply a deterrence doctrine.”

This falls in the wake of the United States Nuclear Posture Review released in February 2018 that expands the role of nuclear weapons by identifying new circumstances in which they could be used, namely in response to “strategic non-nuclear attacks” including cyber-attacks. The Nuclear Posture Review also outlined U.S. plans to mount lower-yield nuclear warheads on submarine-based missiles, increasing the possibility that they might actually be used. Other nuclear-armed states, including India and Pakistan, are following suit.

Many have noted that this change in doctrine and practice runs directly counter to a commitment in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies in order to facilitate disarmament, and to the legal commitment to pursue nuclear disarmament, in good faith.

And of course, all of this is happening as the U.S. and Iran edge closer and closer to war, a war that could draw in Russia, China and other nuclear powers; as the U.S. and Russia are about to formally withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Weapons Forces (INF) Treaty; amidst a new nuclear arms race led by the U.S. with an allocation upwards of $1.5-trillion to modernize its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years; and technological developments including the aforementioned lower yield nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles that travel at 15 times the speed of sound, missiles roundly considered to be virtually unstoppable.

I feel like the guy wearing an old-style sandwich-board that reads “The End is Near!” But in truth, without being unjustifiably alarmist, it could well be. When the top military commanders of the, militarily, most powerful country on Earth suggest that “nuclear weapons could create the conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability,” we should all be worried sick and ask ourselves, what can we do—individually and collectively—to prevent this insanity from continuing.

Earl Turcotte is chair of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The Dissent of a 90-Year-Old

Douglas Roche (right), with Reiner Braun (co-President International Peace Bureau) and Steven Staples (left)

Address by Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Presentation of Sean MacBride Peace Prize, Toronto, April 25, 2019

“A 90-year-old man appears before you, sighing not for the past but crying for the future. It is not my lost youth that I pine for but a lost future for my grandchildren and their children. Nuclear weapons and climate change threaten their very existence. I dissent from public policies today that will lead to their world being blown up or burned up.

“Much of my public career, which started nearly a half-century ago, has been marked by dissent, and I’m not stopping my protest now. I dissent from the anti-humanitarian policies of war for peace. I dissent from the perpetuation of poverty through the greed of the rich. I dissent from the despoliation of the planet by short-sighted industrialism. Most of all, I dissent from the fabric of lies spun by the proponents of nuclear weapons who would have us believe that these heinous instruments of mass murder make us safer.

“Governments go on pretending that the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence will bring security and that the half measures of a carbon tax will curb global warming. But these policies are failing. We are in a climate emergency and continued global warming threatens to make huge areas of earth uninhabitable. Likewise, a new nuclear arms race is underway and the current modernization of the 15,000 nuclear weapons held by nine states increases the chances of a nuclear war that would wreck the environment and trigger global famine.

“It is not hard to predict that nuclear weapons will one day be used if they continue to proliferate among countries, to foresee rising terrorism that exploits discrimination and inhuman living conditions, to anticipate that rising temperatures and waters will forces the dislocation of millions of people who will swamp already overcrowded systems.

“These threats to humanity ought to spark outrage, for they are caused by human folly.

“We in Canada, this land blessed beyond belief with natural resources of land, minerals, forests and water, bear a special responsibility in building humane global policies. We used to be a world leader in implementing the broad U.N. agenda for peace. Now our silence is deafening.

“It isn’t that globalization is just too much for us to figure out, that we lack the brainpower or international instruments to bring stability to the world in the midst of change. Far from it. We have immense stores of knowledge and, in the United Nations, the essential machinery to address the problems of armaments, poverty, pollution, and human rights violations. But the captains of our society — the politicians, the diplomats, the media and the corporate structures — cannot, do not, will not, all to varying degrees, lift up their vision and work together to make Canada a driver in preserving the world as a fitting habitat for all humanity.

“I want a world that is human-centred and genuinely democratic, a world that builds and protects peace, equality, justice and development. I want a world in which human security as envisioned in the principles of the U.N. Charter, replaces armaments, violent conflict and wars. I want a world in which everyone lives in a clean environment with a fair distribution of the earth’s resources. and international law protects human rights.

“Since governments have shown that they cannot muster the political will to build true human security, civil society must step in. In fact, it is the leading edge of civil society that is today advancing the ideas of nonviolence that are at the core of the human right to peace. In the great world transformation we are living through — moving from a culture of war to a culture of peace —the real creativity is found in civil society movements. The International Peace Bureau, the Pugwash movement, Public Response and Peace Magazine, all represented here tonight, provide us with the hope we need to go on working for peace.

“I have found that, for me, personal creativity is the best way to express my dissent. The two groups that I have led, Parliamentarians for Global Action and the Middle Powers Initiative, provided outlets for me to inject energy into the political systems. Dissent can become creative when we care enough about failed public policies to do something to move forward. Out of our griefs and anxieties, we build a new basis of hope.

“What I feel most is that the human journey cannot be stopped. We are often, in spite of ourselves, raising up our civilization. An alliance of civilizations lies ahead — if we can avoid blowing up or burning up the earth. The photograph of Earth taken from space by the astronauts reveals our wholeness and, street fighting notwithstanding, our unity as a human family. Our vulnerability is apparent, but so is our strength — in knowledge, technology and creativity.

“I suppose I won’t see the world of my dreams. Time is running out for me. But I am not unhappy about that. I have had a marvellous life and I know how blessed I am. To have had such opportunities as a journalist, educator, Member of Parliament, ambassador and senator is a rare privilege. To have participated in the struggles of our time to advance human security has developed me as a person. To have been sustained by the love and support of my family has enriched me in countless ways.

“Even though I am often in dissent at the news of the day, I am at peace with the world, and I think I have found peace within myself. This is perhaps another paradox, like the world going in two directions at the same time. Because I want peace in the world so much, I feel it, and this, in turn, makes me want to keep working for it. I could not stand up and lecture about peace or write books about it if I did not feel peace within me. The words of the prophet Isaiah guide me: ‘Peace, peace to the far and near, says the Lord, and I will guide them.’

“Though relinquishing positions of responsibility, I’ll go on working for peace until God decides otherwise. The grandstand has no appeal for me. I’ll never quit this work. There’s too much to do.”

Bleak prospects for the ‘cornerstone’ Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

OpenCanada.org | May 16, 2019

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is set to mark the 50th anniversary of its coming into force at its 2020 review conference. Whether this will be an occasion for celebration or lamentation is an open question: Will the progress made in global nuclear governance over half a century be jeopardized by irresponsible state action now?

The 190 states that are party to this cornerstone of the global security order met in New York recently, between April 27 and May 10, for the final preparatory session before the May 2020 review conference. The mood was decidedly downbeat at the session and “external events,” as a senior UN official present said, weighed “heavily on these proceedings.” Strong disagreements among participating states prevented a consensus endorsement of the chair’s concluding recommendations, which had to be issued under his personal authority.

The failure of the last review conference in 2015 will put additional pressure on the 2020 gathering to produce some form of agreement that will demonstrate that the three “pillars” of the NPT — nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy — are being implemented in a balanced fashion. However, without a radical re-prioritization of the NPT on the part of key states, the current foreign policy context suggests that the prospects for success are bleak. In the absence of such remedial action, the threat to the continued viability and authority of the treaty is great.

This list of problems the NPT faces is lengthy, varied and growing. Among the most prominent: the failure of the five nuclear weapon states to fulfill their nuclear disarmament commitments set out in Article VI of the treaty and their unchecked engagement in what can only be described as a new nuclear arms race; the recent US and Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; and lack of apparent interest to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which would mean the end of any legally-binding constraints on their nuclear arsenals.

In addition, what had been heralded as a successful multilateral diplomatic effort to curtail the Iranian nuclear program, the so-called JCPOA agreement, is now imperiled by the US withdrawal. Its aggressive imposition of sanctions on other states trading with Iran has now prompted an Iranian reaction that threatens to kill the deal entirely.

There are several other serious problems including the defection of North Korea from the NPT and its overt development of nuclear weapons., and the rift between supporters and opponents of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the former say complements the NPT and the latter says undermines it.

Combine these with the continued lack of progress to universalize the NPT (India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea with their nuclear weapons remain outside), and it is a wonder that the NPT retains any credibility as a framework for global nuclear governance.

Abandoning the step-by-step approach for…the impossible?

At this critical juncture for the NPT, the United States has decided to turn its back on implementation of commitments agreed to at past review conferences in favour of a re-imagining of the enterprise as one of “let’s pretend we can fashion a better world.”

Using its leverage as a sort of hegemon for the NPT, the US has set out a future course of action for the treaty parties that constitutes a major departure from previous nuclear policy orthodoxy. The new US approach was unveiled initially in a working paper entitled “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament,” submitted to the April 2018 NPT preparatory gathering. Its contents were elaborated on by its author, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-proliferation Christopher Ford, in remarks delivered on April 30 at a side-event during the recent NPT proceedings.

Ford essentially argued that the traditional “step-by-step” approach with a focus on nuclear arms reduction between the US and Russia had failed in that bilateral context, and had also ignored the nuclear build-ups of China, India and Pakistan. A new discourse was necessary that would be more realistic than the old in addressing the “conditions” that would be conducive to further disarmament.

These conditions, as detailed in the 2018 working paper, range from relatively modest measures such as adoption of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s additional protocol to strengthen international safeguards agreements, to fundamental transformations of inter-state relations until they are no longer “driven by assumptions of zero-sum geopolitical competition but are instead cooperative and free of conflict.”

To put it in other terms, when the lion lays down with the lamb, and milk and honey flow, we might hope to see some disarmament.

The fact that the Article VI commitment on cessation of the arms race and the negotiation in good faith of nuclear disarmament is not conditioned in this or in any other way does not seem to have concerned Ford. Nor did the fact that the US approach is at odds with the successive, specific steps towards nuclear disarmament agreed to at the 2000 and 2010 review conferences. The NPT’s legal and political commitments on nuclear disarmament, agreed to by all states parties, is apparently only so much “old think” to Washington. Ford also presented another paper outlining how the US initiative — now renamed “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (an example of “green washing” perhaps) — was to be implemented.

Although lip service was paid to establishing a “diverse” international working group to pursue the initiative, the US clearly wishes to remain in the driver seat and will be the one to decide which states are invited to the inaugural meeting to be held in Washington this summer. The limited number to be included will be asked for their views on the US ideas, but with a secretariat from the State Department and clear control of the agenda, this will likely produce a “Made in America” process, with participation limited to suitably deferential allies and partners. It will serve US interests in providing a distraction from the deeply disturbing deterioration in implementation of NPT-originated commitments and will enable the US to point to a “process” and “fresh thinking” in the runup to the 2020 review conference.

Some shiny tinsel in the window, however, doesn’t hide the fact that the US initiative, with its dismissal of the “step-by-step” approach as unrealistic and ineffectual, pulls the rug out from underneath its nuclear-dependent allies, including Canada, who have dutifully argued that “step-by-step” is the only practical way to make progress on nuclear disarmament. What contortions are they now going to have to go through to align themselves with the new gospel from Washington? Having been supporters of an NPT-centric approach to global nuclear governance, rooted in treaty obligations and the political commitments made at successive review conferences, these non-nuclear weapon states will be hard pressed to acknowledge that this focus was misguided. Which among them will be brave enough to speak truth to power and point out that if the US wishes to improve the current security environment, it could start by returning to compliance with existing international commitments?

Ignoring this diplomatic legacy to embrace a discussion group on remedying the ills of the world, before realization of nuclear disarmament can be contemplated, will expose participating states to domestic criticism and deflect from more relevant preparatory work. Such side-shows, alas, will also further erode the credibility of the NPT as the central framework for global nuclear affairs.

True friends of the NPT will, in the leadup to 2020, need to decide whether to keep the focus on implementation of the goals and commitments endorsed by the treaty, or to turn their back on this and embrace the new faith of “environment” creation. The NPT’s future viability could largely depend on their choice.