Author:

Hon. Douglas Roche, OC

Trudeau Liberals ditch their party’s moral high ground on nuclear disarmament

The Hill Times, October 10 | Page 16

There I was, at the microphone reading the official policy of the Liberal majority government of Canada on nuclear disarmament to a rather perplexed seminar audience. Why was Doug Roche, a severe critic of this policy, pronouncing it from the podium? The answer is: not one Liberal Member of Parliament would come forward to speak on their own party’s policies on a paramount issue that affects the safety of every Canadian.

The Liberal Party is running away from one of the great issues of our time. It hasn’t always been like this. Thirty-five years ago, the Liberal prime minister at the time, Pierre Trudeau, stuck his neck out by journeying to the capitals of the major nuclear-weapons states to plead with them to come down from their nuclear mountains. Two decades ago, the Liberal foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, pushed NATO to change its nuclear policies and align them with the goals of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

So why the reticence today?

The empty Liberal chair last week was at a seminar sponsored by the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which embraces 16 civil society organizations across Canada, and Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, a nongovernmental organization that signed up more than 1,000 members of the Order of Canada calling on the government to take major diplomatic action for nuclear disarmament.

The seminar, titled Canadian Leadership on Nuclear Disarmament, featured Joe Cirincione, a renowned American nuclear security expert; a panel on NATO with Ernie Regehr, Peggy Mason, and Tom Sauer, all of them distinguished experts on nuclear disarmament issues; and it tried to have a panel of representatives from all the major political parties to give their parties’ policies. The process of lining up speakers started last June. We were sent from one Liberal official to another, and finally were told that Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, could not leave the Parliamentary Precinct on a Monday (the day of our seminar). I wondered: could he not go eight blocks for a 20-minute presentation at the Cartier Place Suite Hotel?

We thought the government’s policy on nuclear disarmament should at least be read into the record of our meeting (the result of which will be an informed letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on policy proposals). So I read Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s statement filed in the House of Commons Sept. 17.

It said Canada “does not intend to sign” the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations in 2017 by 122 states, because the major nuclear-weapons states oppose it and, “without the participation of nuclear-weapons states it will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon.” Rather, Canada wants more work done to build a treaty that would end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor personally contributed his party’s position and the Green Party sent a statement. The Conservative Party, like the Liberals, was nowhere to be found. It had also sent us on a merry-go-round chase to find a speaker. It was the absence of the Liberals—the government—that was most revealing of the dire situation Canada has descended to from the days of Axworthy and Pierre Trudeau.

In 2016, during the run-up to the negotiations at the United Nations that produced the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty, the United States government sent a letter to all its NATO partners demanding that they oppose such negotiations. The U.S. feared the stigmatization of nuclear weapons and a legal challenge to the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence—which is precisely what the framers of the prohibition treaty want. The treaty, when it arrived a year later, prohibited the possession of nuclear weapons. This went further than the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which enjoins state parties to negotiate “in good faith” the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Blustering, Washington (along with London and Paris) said it would never sign. Prime Minister Trudeau got some very bad advice and, in the House of Commons, called the negotiations “useless.” That is not what UN secretary general Antonio Guterres thinks: he has called the treaty “historic.” Pope Francis went public in “firmly condemning” the “very possession” of nuclear weapons, and the Holy See was one of the first to sign and ratify the treaty. Now, nearly 70 states have signed and close to 20 have ratified. When the number of ratifications reaches 50, it will enter into force. What will Canada do then?

Canada’s Liberal government is pretending that this historical shift to the moral and legal stigmatization of nuclear weapons isn’t happening. But it is. Maybe the big powers will hold onto their modernized nuclear weapons for a long time to come, but they will do that without a shred of moral or legal standing.

Nobody thinks we can get to a nuclear-weapons-free world overnight. But shouldn’t Canada keep standing up for the principles involved? Is there not one Liberal MP who will do so?

When I read the government’s policies at the seminar, I did so without comment. My job, at that moment, was to be a bland spokesperson.

But now I am back to my regular life, dissenting and stating as clearly as I can that the present Canadian Liberal government has abandoned the valued moral and legal policies of the past, which were aimed at saving Canadians from the spectre of nuclear warfare.

Douglas Roche, a former Independent Senator, Progressive Conservative MP, and former ambassador for disarmament, is author of Hope Not Fear: Building Peace in a Fractured World.

NATO: Canada in or out?

Prepared for the Canadian Pugwash Group 2018 Research Roundtable

Canada was an early advocate for NATO and a founding member of the Alliance in 1949. The military organization was perceived as an “all for one, one for all” solidarity pact (NATO’s core collective defence principle in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty), to (in the famous quip) “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down”. Canada pressed for inclusion of democratic and economic goals within NATO although these were secondary to defence and military security priorities. At the end of the Cold War, many saw the Alliance raison d’être as having expired along with the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.

Whether seen as legitimate or problematic at its founding, some now believe NATO encourages an arms race, empowers the “Military Industrial Complex” and enables solo US global dominance, while marginalizing the United Nations. NATO nuclear weapon advocacy within its strategic concept is problematic. The USA or USA/UK appear to dominate the alliance. They push for interoperability (therefore also escalation, perpetual weapons modernization, forces integration, higher military spending). Contrary to promises made, NATO expanded into Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. NATO also widened its purview outside the North Atlantic and has directed the controversial (“illegal but legitimate”) Kosovo campaign and unrestrained R2P intervention into Libya. And yet NATO survives, despite the criticism. Canada seems to go along.

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Letter to Hon. Chrystia Freeland re Recommendation 21

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
125 Sussex Drive, |
Ottawa ON K1A 0G2
Email: chrystia.freeland@international.gc.ca

9 October 2018.

Dear Minister Freeland,

As President of the Rideau Institute and on behalf of the civil society organizations listed below, I am writing today in regards to Recommendation 21 of the unanimous report1 on Canada and NATO, tabled by the Standing Committee on National Defence on 18 June 2018. That recommendation reads:

Recommendation 21

That the Government of Canada take a leadership role within NATO in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. That this initiative be undertaken on an urgent basis in view of the increasing threat of nuclear conflict flowing from the renewed risk of nuclear proliferation, the deployment of so-called tactical nuclear weapons, and changes in nuclear doctrines regarding lowering the threshold for first use of nuclear weapons by Russia and the US.

The National Defence Committee has identified a constructive and timely approach for Canada to begin a long-overdue conversation within NATO on how to move away from the nightmare of mutually-assured destruction toward the vision of sustainable common security grounded in the UN Charter.

As we conveyed in a separate letter to the NDDN Committee Chair, Stephen Fuhr, this pragmatic and forward-looking recommendation also reflects a proud, but too-long neglected, tradition of collaborative parliamentary work in support of Canadian leadership in global efforts for nuclear disarmament.

The ball is now in your court, Madame Minister, to ensure that our government rises to the challenge.

Accordingly, through you, we call upon the Government of Canada to respond positively and promptly to this recommendation, including sharing its vision for realizing this work within NATO. This could include, in our view, identifying which NATO body should be tasked and which other NATO members Canada might cooperate with in advancing this important and urgent work.

Very sincerely,
Peggy Mason,
President, Rideau Institute

Alphabetical List of Supporting National Organizations

  • Canadian Peace Initiative, Chairperson Saul Arbess
  • Canadian Pugwash Group, Chair Paul Meyer
  • Group of 78, Chair Roy Culpeper
  • Project Ploughshares, Exec Director Cesar Jaramillo
  • Religions for Peace Canada, President Pascale Frémond
  • Rideau Institute, President Peggy Mason
  • Science for Peace, Rob Acheson
  • Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada (SGI), General Director Tony Meers
  • World Federalist Movement – Canada, Exec Director Fergus Watt

1 Please note that the focus of this letter is only Recommendation 21. We take issue with other aspects of the report, such as the regrettable failure to call for NATO to adopt an unequivocal No First Use of nuclear weapons policy, but that is not the subject of this letter.

Letter to the Standing Committee on National Defence, re Recommendation 21

Stephen Fuhr Chair,
House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence,
Sixth Floor, 131 Queen Street
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6;
email: NDDN@parl.gc.ca

Attn: Stephen Fuhr, Chair, Stephen.Fuhr@parl.gc.ca
cc. Vice-Chair James Bezan, james.bezan@parl.gc.ca
and Vice-Chair Randall Garrison, Randall.Garrison@parl.gc.ca

9 October 2018.

Dear Chairman Fuhr,

In my role as President of the Rideau Institute and on behalf of the civil society organizations listed below, I wish to congratulate the Standing Committee on National Defence for Recommendation 21 of your report1 on Canada and NATO, tabled in the House of Commons on 18 June 2018, quoted herewith:

Recommendation 21

That the Government of Canada take a leadership role within NATO in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons. That this initiative be undertaken on an urgent basis in view of the increasing threat of nuclear conflict flowing from the renewed risk of nuclear proliferation, the deployment of so-called tactical nuclear weapons, and changes in nuclear doctrines regarding lowering the threshold for first use of nuclear weapons by Russia and the US.

This pragmatic and forward-looking recommendation reflects a proud, but too-long neglected, tradition of collaborative parliamentary work in support of Canadian leadership in global efforts for nuclear disarmament.

We have today also written to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, encouraging the Government of Canada to respond positively and promptly to the Committee’s recommendation including sharing its vision for realizing this work within NATO. This could include, in our view, identifying which NATO body should be tasked and which other NATO members Canada might cooperate with in advancing this important and urgent work.

Once again, we thank you and the Committee you chair for your important and timely contribution to global efforts, both at the government and non-governmental level, to begin to move us back from the nuclear brink onto the firmer ground of negotiated reductions, mutual confidence building and, ultimately, the realization of verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament.

Very sincerely,
Peggy Mason
President, Rideau Institute

Alphabetical List of Supporting National Organizations

  • Canadian Peace Initiative, Chairperson Saul Arbess
  • Canadian Pugwash Group, Chair Paul Meyer
  • Group of 78, Chair Roy Culpeper
  • Project Ploughshares, Exec Director Cesar Jaramillo
  • Religions for Peace Canada, President Pascale Frémond
  • Rideau Institute, President Peggy Mason
  • Science for Peace, Rob Acheson
  • Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada (SGI), General Director Tony Meers
  • World Federalist Movement – Canada, Exec Director Fergus Watt

1 Please note that the focus of this letter is only Recommendation 21. We take issue with other aspects of the report, such as the regrettable failure to call for NATO to adopt an unequivocal No First Use of nuclear weapons policy, but that is not the subject of this letter.

Gandhi and the Right to Peace

Address to the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Council Charity Dinner | Ottawa, October 2, 2018

Today, we enter the 150th anniversary year of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nonviolence, a man who will be remembered for a thousand years, a leader who never commanded an army but was more powerful than any maharajah or Viceroy. Gandhi inspired today’s human rights movement, and wherever peace is found in our troubled world, its roots can be traced to that ascetic man, staff in hand, who challenged the British Empire with conscience his only weapon. After Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, Albert Einstein wrote movingly: “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

I am a Gandhian, though I am personally not worthy to walk in his footsteps. The Mahatma has taught me about the power of nonviolent protest against injustices. All my political career, I have dissented from the anti-humanitarian policies of waging war in the name of peace. On the eve of my 90th birthday, I am not stopping, and I have come here tonight to urge us, in Gandhi’s name, to re-kindle the flame of hope for peace with justice and never let it be extinguished no matter the bizarre conduct of modern-day politics.

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Talks to ban nuclear materials need a fresh start

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

If grades in disarmament diplomacy were given out for perseverance, then Canada would surely merit an “A” for its efforts on behalf of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, or FMCT. Forging this treaty, which would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, has been a supposed goal of the international community for over half a century. In that time, though, negotiations to bring the treaty about never even started, suggesting that the FMCT is one of those worthy goals that are periodically affirmed without any serious effort to realize them. And though Canada has traditionally led efforts to move forward on the treaty, the Canadian-led group most recently charged with supporting future negotiations has submitted a report that deserves a failing grade.

This is unfortunate, because the FMCT, if it ever happens, could have a major impact on reducing nuclear proliferation. The problem is that the 25-member preparatory group asked to facilitate the task of future negotiators has recommended that “the negotiation of a treaty … begin without delay in the Conference on Disarmament.” This is not a realistic solution, as anyone familiar with the Conference on Disarmament knows it does not act “without delay” on anything. It simply does not get things done. To initiate work on the FMCT will require its liberation from this diplomatic dungeon.

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