September 26, is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013. The objectives of the day are to enhance public awareness about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and encourage action by governments and civil society to prevent nuclear war and achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The organizations that have signed onto this letter are calling on the Canadian government to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
On July 7, 2017, the UN adopted the TPNW. It was an historic achievement with the potential to rid the world of the danger of nuclear weapons. Of the 193 UN member states, 122 voted to adopt the nuclear ban treaty, but Canada was among the 69 nations, including all NATO members, that regrettably withheld support by not voting.
The Treaty opened for signatures at the UN headquarters in New York on September 20, 2017. At the signing ceremony, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the product of increasing concerns over the risk posed by the existence of nuclear weapons, including the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of their use.”
Currently, there are 84 signatories and 45 states parties of the TPNW including New Zealand, South Africa and Ireland. The Treaty will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries. However, the Government of Canada is refusing to sign onto this important treaty because of Canada’s membership in nuclear-armed NATO.
Moreover, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not meet with Japanese-Canadian nuclear disarmament activist Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in 2017. She is appealing to the Prime Minister to show leadership for peace by becoming a state party to the TPNW.
Public opinion shows that Canadians are overwhelmingly opposed to nuclear weapons and want the federal government to work for the abolition of these weapons of mass destruction (IPSOS 1998 and Environics 2008). In the past Canada has taken significant steps for nuclear disarmament. In 1969, Canada ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article 6 of the NPT requires state parties to negotiate in good faith and take effective measures for nuclear disarmament.
In 1978 at the United Nations, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared: “We are thus not only the first country in the world with the capability to produce nuclear weapons that chose not to do so, we are also the first nuclear-armed country to have chosen to divest itself of nuclear weapons.” By 1984 the last U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in Canada were removed.
This year, on September 21, the International Day of Peace, 56 former leaders and ministers including several eminent Canadians signed an open letter issued by ICAN to urge all countries to join the TPNW. The Canadian signatories include Former Prime Ministers John Turner and Jean Chretien, former Defence Ministers Jean-Jacques Blais, John McCallum and Bill Graham, and former Foreign Affairs Ministers Lloyd Axworthy and John Manley. They are urging current leaders to “show courage and boldness — and join the treaty.” The full letter can be read here: https://www.icanw.org/56_former_leaders
For the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, we too are calling on the federal government to adhere to its legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to abide by the United Nations’ Agenda for Disarmament, to respect the will of Canadian citizens and to honour the desires of the international community to live in a world free of nuclear weapons by signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as soon as possible.