A call to amend Bill S-10, an Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Tasneem Jamal Conventional Weapons

Kenneth Epps

Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade re Bill S-10, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions

October 18, 2012

Kenneth Epps, Senior Program Officer, Project Ploughshares

Honourable Senators, thank you to the Standing Committee for the invitation to appear as a witness today. I represent Project Ploughshares, the ecumenical peace agency of The Canadian Council of Churches. My responsibilities include research and policy development on conventional weapons issues, including disarmament treaties like the landmines and cluster munitions conventions, and arms control treaties such as the anticipated international Arms Trade Treaty.

Since 1987 Project Ploughshares has published an annual report on armed conflicts throughout the world. Tracking wars over a twenty-five year period points to trends in recent armed conflicts that are relevant to the Committee’s deliberations on Bill S-10. Most strikingly, today almost all of the wars in the world are intrastate not inter-state conflicts. They involve governments fighting internal opponents, as we currently see in Syria. While there are international dimensions to many armed conflicts – such as ISAF forces fighting in Afghanistan – currently there are no instances of states fighting other states.

We also see that the number of armed conflicts has generally declined over the past 15years, from a high of 44 conflicts in 1994 to a low of 24 conflicts in 2010. This, of course, is a welcome trend that indicates the world community has increased its ability to end conflicts and prevent them from recurring. Together these two trends — the changed nature of war and the decline in the number of wars — provide an opportunity to reflect on, and alter, traditional doctrines and tools of war.

Despite the striking decrease in the number of wars, what has not changed is the disproportionate impact of intrastate armed conflict on civilians. Across the globe, every year tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of men, women and children are killed, injured and displaced as a result of armed conflict and, of particular importance when considering cluster munitions, in the aftermath of conflict. The devastating impact of cluster munitions on civilians during conflicts, and for years after, is the primary motivation for adopting and comprehensively implementing humanitarian disarmament treaties such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

It is understandable that military leaders may argue for certain weapon systems and arrangements they believe are necessary to train or protect their troops or fulfill other military objectives. As the Committee has heard in earlier testimony, the Department of National Defence supports Bill S-10 and its section 11 in part because it wants to maintain the status quo on training and interoperability with certain allies. But it is the duty of political leaders to take a wider view. You also need to consider the full range of international humanitarian obligations to which Canada has agreed.  In this instance, the obligation to prevent the use of cluster munitions to protect civilians must be paramount.

We invite the members of the Committee to take this wider view. We are concerned that Bill S-10, and especially section 11, contains loopholes and invites uncertainty that will undermine the spirit and purpose of Canada’s commitment to implement the CCM. We call on the Committee to consider the changed nature of modern warfare and to recognize its disproportionate impact on civilians, especially the impact of cluster munitions. We call for political leadership and innovative thinking that would amend Bill S-10 to allow Canada’s military to maintain interoperability with allies while ensuring that Canada fully implements the CCM.

Through an amended Bill S-10 Canada can demonstrate leadership that achieves results. By reinforcing the full ban on cluster munitions, a revised Bill S-10 will advance civilian security and save human lives and limbs across the globe.

Thank you for your attention.   

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