Peggy Mason

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;

Attn: Stephen Fuhr, Chair,
cc. Vice-Chair James Bezan,
and Vice-Chair Randall Garrison,

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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Good News Service #58: Autumn 2018

  1. North, South Korea begin demilitarizing the ‘scariest place on earth.’
  2. UN conference adopts treaty banning nuclear weapons
  3. Luxembourg ratifies Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women
  4. The Netherlands accepts the Protocol amending the European Landscape Convention
  5. Nigeria creates website so vulnerable groups can get legal assistance
  6. UN Women’s Global Innovation Coalition for Change launches the Gender Innovation Principles
  7. UK boosts World Food Program efforts to break the cycle of hunger in Malawi
    Republic of (South) Korea contributes rice to serve 420,000 refugees in Uganda
  8. Djibouti and Eritrea normalize relations in the Horn of Africa
  9. UK announces 46 million pounds for land mines clearance benefitting 800,000 globally

Download the full issue here (docx)

The Koreas are getting along – but denuclearization questions remain

The Globe and Mail | 20 September 2018

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is a man in a hurry; North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is a man on a roll.

Prior to Mr. Kim’s 2018 New Year’s speech, the world watched North Korea relentlessly improve its nuclear weapon and missile capabilities to the point where it could threaten not only the immediate region but also North America, despite tightening UN sanctions, U.S. threats of “fire and fury” and China’s measured disapproval.

Mr. Kim’s initial opening to have North Korea participate in the Winter Olympics and Mr. Moon’s quick positive response to field a combined North-South Olympic team led to a frenzy of summit meetings that has not abated. The first Kim-Moon summit in April in Panmunjom reiterated the main themes of two earlier high-level attempts to ease North-South tensions and perhaps move toward eventual denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The third summit, which concluded Wednesday, has further moved the yardsticks forward in creating Mr. Moon’s vision of peace and co-prosperity for both Koreas. Mr. Kim, however, has yet to demonstrate his commitment to dismantle his nuclear weapons, linchpins for his regime’s survival.

And therein lies the rub. Since the New Year, Mr. Kim has repaired North Korea’s badly frayed relations with China by meeting with President Xi Jinping three times. Perhaps more importantly, the Panmunjom Summit led to Mr. Kim’s unprecedented meeting in Singapore last June with U.S. President Donald Trump. Their joint statement was short on specifics: establishment of new U.S.-North Korea relations, efforts to build a lasting peace regime, a North Korean commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and recovery of U.S. missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War. What remains worrisome is that the two leaders mostly talked in private, with only interpreters present, and no one really knows what else they agreed to except to seemingly be new best friends.

At issue is what denuclearization really means. North Korea complained of US. gangster tactics when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to establish a road map forward that would include complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Even Mr. Trump admitted that there has been no progress on denuclearization. Through South Korean officials, however, Mr. Kim recently proclaimed his “unwavering faith” in Mr. Trump and asked for a second meeting with him, perhaps as a way around any objections by more cautious and skeptical U.S. officials. Preparations for the second Trump-Kim meeting are under way.

Mr. Moon has now upped his courtship of Mr. Kim both in scope and urgency. With this week’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration, Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim agreed to implement a series of military confidence-building measures to prevent accidental military clashes. Mr. Moon promised Mr. Kim visions of prosperity by reopening North-South rail and road connections and eventually establishing special economic zones. The South Korean leader’s delegation of 200 people included heads of South Korea’s key chaebols, the huge industrial enterprises like Samsung and Hyundai. In addition, Mr. Moon promised to strengthen humanitarian co-operation. Mr. Kim should find these promises enticing. They agreed to participate together in the 2020 Summer Olympics and bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

Finally, both leaders agreed “to co-operate closely in the process of pursuing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Mr. Kim promised to dismantle a missile engine test site and launch platform, as he had already agreed, but this time under observation by experts “from relevant countries” (presumably including the U.S.) and to dismantle a nuclear facility, as North Korea had in the 1990s only to renege later. Mr. Kim also agreed to visit Seoul at an early date, a first for a North Korean leader.

As the North-South romance continues at a whirlwind pace, many questions remain, especially around denuclearization. North Korea, claiming that it has already taken concrete measures by stopping nuclear weapon and missile tests, has insisted that the U.S. take commensurate measures beyond cancellation of combined military exercises with the South. Promised U.S. security assurances to the North remain undetermined.

The North has not revealed numbers and locations of its nuclear weapons, missile systems or nuclear production facilities. Questions around verification have not been addressed. Indeed, it is not evident that any serious discussions, let alone negotiations, are taking place. Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon seem eager to declare the official end of the Korean War and eventually to sign a peace treaty. Both possibilities raise serious U.S. security concerns.

Previous North-South courtships ended in bitter disappointment and even military clashes. Maybe this time will be different.

Marius Grinius is the former Canadian ambassador to South Korea (2004-07) and concurrently to North Korea (2005-07). He is a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and an associate member of Canadian Pugwash Group.

Hiroshima Day Commemoration

Peace Garden, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto | August 6, 2018

One year ago, on July 7, 2017 at the United Nations in New York, 122 nations took a bold, historic step when the delegates voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty filled a gaping hole in international law, providing a comprehensive prohibition on the last weapons of mass destruction to be declared illegal; the only weapons that could not only end all of us, but deny future generations the very possibility of being born.

When the voting results were displayed I felt stunned and speechless with tears of joy welling in my eyes, and in the din of the thunderous applause I realized the significance of the event. I intuitively shared my euphoria with those massacred indiscriminately in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years before, to whom we made a vow that their deaths would not be in vain, that we would commit our lives to ensure that their experience would not be repeated by any other human beings.

The conference chair gave me an opportunity to offer concluding remarks. With great conviction I declared “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal! This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons! Let us move forward together and change the world!”

The Treaty opened for signatures at the United Nations on September 20, 2017 and the second signing ceremony will be opened this September 26th. We are now up to 59 signatories and 14 ratifications from diverse regions. When the 50th nation ratifies the TPNW it will enter into force. The pace of ratifications may seem slow, but experts tell us that it has been faster than for any other treaty related to weapons of mass destruction, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The Treaty Coordinator reports that parliamentary, departmental and legislative processes towards joining the Treaty are well underway in many countries in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia and the Pacific. Recently Switzerland’s first chamber of parliament voted to join the TPNW, and New Zealand’s Cabinet has ratified the Treaty just a few days ago. The European Parliament has repeatedly recommended that all 28 EU member states sign and ratify the Treaty.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, is a coalition of 468 civil society organizations in 101 nations. ICAN has played a leading role, working with 122 nations, in developing the Ban Treaty, and ICAN is now dedicated to seeing the implementation of the Treaty.

Tireless ICAN campaigners around the world have been engaged in a variety of activities to promote the TPNW and press the governments to ratify the Treaty. In Europe there were protests at the governments of Britain and Spain, protest at the NATO summit in Brussels, and protest at the
Helsinki summit between the presidents of the two nuclear super powers, who control 90% of all nuclear weapons between them. There have also been blockades of U.S. nuclear bases in Germany. After months of campaigning the Church of England Synod voted to support the nuclear ban treaty. We recall that the Holy See was one of the first to ratify the Treaty.

Around the Pacific, there has been a press conference in Singapore with ICAN’s clear roadmap to the elimination of nuclear weapons. In Australia protests have broken out against US weapons manufacturers investing in Australian universities. In Japan over 320 municipal and prefectural governments, 20% of all such governments, have given their support for the TPNW and demanded that the national government play a leadership role.

Another aspect of the campaigners’ action involves the divestment of funds from nuclear weapons manufacturing. Since the Treaty’s adoption, the Norwegian Pension Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with assets over US$ 1 trillion, the largest Dutch pension fund ABP, Deutsche Bank, and major Belgian bank KBC have announced that they will exclude from their investments companies that produce nuclear weapons.

Lastly but most importantly, what has our city, Toronto, been doing to ensure that the TPNW will come into force? In April, the Toronto Board of Health and City Council both unanimously agreed to “request the Government of Canada
to sign the United Nations Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”. In addition, City Council has re-affirmed that Toronto is a nuclear weapons-free zone.

In December I was elated and humbled to co-accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN for our “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and our “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. The TPNW combined with the Nobel Peace Prize have become a powerful force to further stigmatize nuclear weapons and their possession.

Thus far Canada has not supported, or even participated in, this U.N. Treaty. In a democracy we believe that citizens have a right to be listened to by the government, and the government has the responsibility to protect its citizens. 79% of Torontonians have expressed a desire for a world without nuclear weapons. Canada must return to its legacy of global peace building and be on the right side of history by ratifying the Treaty.