Questioning Canada’s lack of engagement in nuclear disarmament negotiations

On Thursday, June 8th, 2017 in Debate, Parliament

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I completely support the supply day motion. I first raised this issue in the House on October 25, 2016, that these negotiations were to begin, and that Canada should play a leadership role. I raised it again on February 22, 2017. I am very concerned that Canada is not there.

I was one of 900 recipients of the Order of Canada who have asked that Canada play a leadership role in these negotiations, so I put it to the hon. member. He is absolutely right that Canada played a lead role in the effort to get rid of land mines, and we undertook those negotiations knowing that both countries that used land mines the most were not at the table.

The United States and Russia were not at the table. They plan to modernize their nuclear weapons regime. I was a watcher during the Cuban missile crisis. I remember it. We do not want our children to have nuclear nightmares. We must negotiate at the UN for nuclear disarmament. I hope the Liberals will reconsider.

Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, the most important thing I can do in response to the member is to assure the leader we have a government that is, in fact, progressing and moving forward on the issue, as I have indicated. Canada led 159 countries in bringing forward a UN resolution that brings nuclear powers to the table to work pragmatically toward disarmament through a fissile material cut-off treaty. The fissile material is the explosive stuff. That is what causes the reactions. This is Canada playing a leadership role on the important file where we have nuclear power states at the table with us. We can all be proud of that fact.

—–

Elizabeth May

Monsieur le Président, je remercie mon collègue de son discours, très fort, sur lequel je suis tout à fait d’accord.

Je suis une des officière de l’Ordre du Canada. J’ai signé, avec les autres, la déclaration selon laquelle le Canada doit se joindre à ces négociations essentielles pour la sécurité de la Terre.

I am just back, today actually, from the United Nations for work on the Oceans Conference, and the subject of Canada’s absence in these nuclear disarmament talks came up. I was asked by other delegates why it was that Canada was not participating, as under the new Liberal government it has been seen that Canada is back. We have played a constructive role in the Paris negotiations. The absence of Canada in these talks makes people wonder why. This is a role Canada traditionally had played: Lloyd Axworthy led the negotiations for the landmines treaty and the Ottawa process, for an example. It baffles me that we are not at the table. I wonder if my hon. colleague has any theories as to why Canada is staying away from these talks.

Alexandre Boulerice – Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I also thank her for signing the letter to the current Prime Minister. I obviously congratulate the Green Party for the efforts it has been making these past few years in the fight for world peace.

First, the Liberal government’s response was to hide behind the fissile material cut-off treaty. Working on adopting this treaty is fine. However, the negotiations on banning the production, possession and use of nuclear weapons are not a substitute for the efforts needed to achieve nuclear disarmament.

It also seems as though the Liberal government is hiding behind Canada’s membership in NATO, and right now it is giving in to pressure from the United States, which told its NATO allies to oppose the negotiations.

Canada has no reason to follow President Trump on this issue. Canada’s membership in NATO does not mean that it must vote only with the nuclear states.

Canada should learn from the Netherlands. They also belong to NATO, but they are taking part in the negotiations.

——

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, though, and the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot will not be surprised that I disagree, this is not an NDP motion to engage the world in action. This is a United Nations negotiation that is taking place. It is being led by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, countries with whom we have strong relationships, countries with whom we are in strong trading relationships, it is not far fetched that we start the negotiations and bring others in. I note that Iran is actually in these negotiations. I also note that Canada started out in the lead on landmines and cluster munitions when the countries that used landmines and cluster munitions were not in the room.

The question is, while the United Nations negotiate, and this is my question for my friend from Battle River—Crowfoot, what possible advantage is there for Canada? As a country, it wants to show leadership in the world. To ignore negotiations where there is even a chance that the process of negotiation would bring in those countries who are now, as he said himself, modernizing their nuclear weapons and endangering our entire world.

Hon. Kevin Sorenson – Battle River—Crowfoot

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government today has determined that there is not a lot of benefit to being at those kinds of exercises. I am not certain why they decided not to be engaged in them. The Liberals went to their convention where they said they were going to be involved in those kinds of exercises and today they are saying they are not worthwhile.

In preparation for this debate I went back to 2007 to a meeting that we had with my good friend Doug Roche, a previous Alberta member of Parliament, and senator Ernie Rigour from Project Plowshares. In response to my hon. colleague from Toronto who spoke prior to the question by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, the concerns that they talked about that day seemed in some regard to already have taken place, so the threat is even greater.

When the threat becomes greater, we must be vigilant in what we do but we should not be spending time on things that perhaps may not be effective.

——

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, earlier in the debate the member for Calgary Shepard described what Ronald Reagan had done as though he was happy with incremental work to remove nuclear weapons from the world.

I had the honour of working with Mikhail Gorbachev. He related a personal story to me of the moment he got frustrated with the pace of negotiations. He picked up the phone and told his staff, “I want to call the president of the United States.” Ronald Reagan personally took his call. Mikhail Gorbachev asked him, “Mr. President, do you want to get rid of nuclear weapons? I do.” Ronald Reagan replied, “Yes, I do.” Gorbachev said, “I’m afraid all our negotiators are going to do is drink vodka forever and just talk, but we need to do this.” They intended to do it.

The world’s political leadership have dropped the ball. It is time for us to pick it up.

The speech given by the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay said what I am about to ask him, but I would like him to reiterate. Why on earth is Canada not at the table with nations like the Netherlands, a NATO ally, working to raise the political momentum towards getting rid of nuclear weapons?

Richard Cannings – South Okanagan—West Kootenay

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for that comment, because I totally agree. We cannot get anywhere if we are not talking. The Prime Minister said the other day that he thinks these negotiations are “useless”. They are becoming more useless to Canada because we are being written off the world stage as a real player in negotiations around the diplomacy of getting rid of these weapons.

Canada has to be at the talks. We have to be working. We have to lead as much as we can. The major players will come to the table when they see the rest of the world working on this. They are all human beings, as we are. As the member said, they probably want to get rid of these weapons as well. We have to create that space, the climate to make that happen.

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