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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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)