Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 35 Issue 2 Summer 2014
More than 40 years after the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force, there are still more than 17,000 nuclear weapons in existence, which are capable of destroying the biosphere and human civilization. The continued disregard by Nuclear Weapons States of the NPT obligation to disarm not only creates strong nuclear proliferation pressures, but also constitutes a clear and present threat to international peace and security.
Some states and international civil society organizations have repeatedly called for concrete steps toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons—without exceptions or exemptions, focusing particularly on a global legal ban on the possession, deployment, and use of these instruments of mass destruction.
In 2010 a unanimous motion by both houses of the Canadian Parliament urged the government “to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General” and “to deploy a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”
Civil society organizations, former diplomats and government officials, and more than 600 recipients of the Order of Canada are urging the Canadian government to support UN resolutions calling for formal negotiations toward a nuclear weapons convention. Polls indicate that more than 88 per cent of Canadians support a legal agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Achieving such a ban would require determined leadership, and Canada is uniquely positioned to provide it. Besides enjoying credibility as a responsible international actor, Canada is a member of NATO (a nuclear alliance), an active player in the global nuclear energy industry, a state party to the NPT, and a member of the G7 and G20. However, the current Canadian government has not made nuclear disarmament a top foreign policy priority, despite the fact that such a stand would have wide public support. And while at multilateral forums Canada has consistently pressed for action to curb proliferation, it has been all but mute on compliance with disarmament obligations.