Statement by the Canadian Pugwash Group on the USA-Iran Confrontation

The deaths of 176 passengers on a jetliner struck by an Iranian missile (apparently in error) is a tragedy of immense proportions felt intensely in Canada because 57 of the persons on board were Canadians. Canadian Pugwash Group extends condolences to the families, loved ones and friends of all who died. We also fully support the Government of Canada in its efforts to ensure a full, transparent and independent investigation of the circumstances that led to the strike, and to obtain adequate support and redress for the victims’ families.

But this is not only an unimaginable tragedy for all those with loved ones and friends on the Ukrainian airline.

Peace in the world is threatened by the USA-Iran stand-off following mutual attacks on each other, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made a passionate appeal for action in capitals across the world. The UN chief has presented a clear four-point message for what needs to happen now:

“Stop escalation. Exercise maximum restraint. Re-start dialogue. Renew international cooperation. …

“It is our common duty to make every effort to avoid a war in the Gulf that the world cannot afford,” the Secretary-General said. “We must not forget the terrible human suffering caused by war. As always, ordinary people pay the highest price.”

This is a message the Government of Canada, which wants to join the United Nations Security Council, should take to heart.

Canada should immediately step up its efforts to promote the rule of law as set down in the United Nations Charter by giving practical support to the new Alliance for Multilateralism. The Alliance, formed in 2019 and led by Germany, is a group of nations working to boost international cooperation, strengthen the United Nations, and reform international institutions.

Closer to home, Canada should revive the process of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Iran. We simply cannot continue to rely on other nations to provide the consular services and diplomatic interactions that are fundamental prerequisites for addressing any issue we might need to discuss with Iran.

At the same time, Canada should make it clear to NATO partners that the only appropriate role for the collective defence organization is one of counselling mutual restraint, and providing diplomatic support for a negotiated solution to the current USA-Iran crisis, in full accordance with the UN Charter and international law, to which all NATO members are bound.

All nations must re-commit to the UN Charter, which places the primary responsibility for peace and security with the Security Council, but which also gives the General Assembly a role, should the Security Council fail to act.

The extraordinarily serious environmental and security challenges facing the world today require extraordinary measures by governments large and small. Canadian Pugwash urges the government of Canada to put the common good of humanity as its first consideration in policy-making in international affairs.

[ signed: Paul Meyer, chair; Peggy Mason, vice-chair ]