Vote yes to negotiations for a legal prohibition of nuclear weapons

Tasneem Jamal Nuclear Weapons

Letter from members of the Steering Committee of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau



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October 4, 2016

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa, ON

Dear Prime Minister,

The undersigned, members of the Steering Committee of Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, supported by 916 members of the Order of Canada, respectfully write to urge the Government of Canada to vote yes to the resolution, “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations,” at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in October.

The heart of the resolution is Operative Paragraph 8: “The General Assembly…decides to convene a United Nations conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” This will be Canada’s most important vote in nuclear disarmament since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996. It reflects the fervent wish of civil society experts, military leaders, academics, religious leaders, the science community, and a majority of governments for concrete action to finally turn back the scourge of nuclear weapons and the extraordinary humanitarian threat they represent.

We have carefully examined the 19 preambular and 15 operative paragraphs of the draft resolution that cover a wide approach to building the legal case against nuclear weapons. There is nothing in the text that the government cannot support.

The resolution specifically recognizes that, while a legally-binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons is desirable, additional measures for the irreversible, verifiable and transparent destruction of nuclear weapons are still needed to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. In other words, the new negotiating format, even if it only leads to a declaratory ban on nuclear weapons, is a worthy preliminary goal. We believe it can lead to a larger process later on with the nuclear powers joining in negotiations for the complete and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons. The direct action foreseen by the resolution would shore up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not harm it, as the nuclear powers claim.

Increased political tensions are leading to a new Cold War and make comprehensive negotiations “all the more urgent.”

Canadian public opinion supports this resolution. A major poll on this issue, conducted by Angus Reid a number of years ago, showed that 92 percent of Canadians want the government to take a leading role in nuclear disarmament, as it did in achieving the Anti-Personnel Landmines Treaty. An Environics poll in 2008, for The Simons Foundation, covering all regions of Canada and all ages of Canadians, showed that 88 percent support elimination of nuclear weapons through an enforceable agreement. In 2010, both the Senate and House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion calling on the Canadian government to take a major diplomatic initiative in supporting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for a nuclear weapons convention. Across Canada, more than 100 cities (including Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) have joined Mayors for Peace, a global organization embracing 7,000 cities, in calling for nuclear disarmament negotiations.

As noted, we represent 916 distinguished Canadians, all honoured by the Order of Canada, who have called on Canada and all member states of the U.N. “to endorse, and begin negotiations for, a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the U.N. Secretary-General in his five-point plan for nuclear disarmament.”

In this context, we specifically seek a yes vote on the resolution. Canada’s critical endorsement of this effort would signal an unambiguous commitment towards ending the greatest threat to humanity in the history of the world. It would respond to the overwhelming dangers to global health, development, the climate, social structures and human rights of the use of any of the 15,350 nuclear weapons still held by nine states.

Prime Minister, you and your government should be congratulated for wanting Canada to play a major role in making the world a safer, fairer place. Nuclear disarmament is a core issue of the U.N. global security agenda.

Canada should join the majority of states voting yes to negotiations for a legal prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Murray Thomson, OC
for: John Polanyi CC
Ernie Regehr, OC
Douglas Roche, OC
David Silcox, CM
Adele Buckley
Bev Delong
Debbie Grisdale
Cesar Jaramillo

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