Where is Canada? On eve of First Meeting of State Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Parliamentarians call on government to engage international community on nuclear disarmament

June 20, 2022

Where is Canada? On eve of First Meeting of State Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Parliamentarians call on government to engage international community on nuclear disarmament

On the eve of the First Meeting of State Parties (1MSP) to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), taking place from June 21-23, in Vienna, Senator Marilou McPhedran, MP Elizabeth May, and MP Heather McPherson speak out regarding Canada’s continued refusal to engage in the deliberations, including the common practice of sending an Observer delegation to the international meeting. In stark contrast, other NATO countries Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium have all sent observer delegates.

The TPNW is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of total elimination. It was adopted on 7 July 2017, opened for signature on 20 September 2017, and entered into force on 22 January 2021. There are currently 86 signatories, and 62 state parties. Canada is not a signatory. Since treaty negotiations began in 2017, Canada has consistently voted against all UN TPNW resolutions and the treaty process. According to the International campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) NATO members have been pressured by the US to actively vote against the treaty. The UN has encouraged nonsignatory states to send observer delegations to monitor the upcoming treaty conference. Canada has refused to designate an observer delegation, nor provide any rationale for this position.

Independent Senator Marilou McPhedran has travelled to Vienna to attend 1MSP meetings, joining Canadian civil society groups, advocates, and youth volunteers, who comprise the only Canadian presence at the meetings. The hashtag #WHEREISCANADA is trending on social media. She joins other parliamentarians from other non-treaty states, such as Scotland, England, and Australia, who are seeking to draw attention to the absence of their respective governments from the TPNW treaty table.

Sen. McPhedran: “If the Government will not heed the overwhelming majority of Canadians on this issue, it falls to individual parliamentarians to do so. Not only was Canada not at the table for these negotiations, they weren’t even in the room. This is a total shirking of responsibility and global leadership. Canada once led on disarmament issues, such as the Ottawa Convention on landmines and the abolition of cluster munitions, so the government’s total refusal to engage in any significant manner towards nuclear disarmament is appalling. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s repeated threats of nuclear escalation puts this issue into clear context. Deterrence and containment are insufficient;
what is required is full disarmament.”

Elizabeth May, MP: “I am deeply troubled by the refusal of Canada to join the legally-binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). But not only have we refused to sign, or ratify the Treaty,
we will not even have a delegation to observe this critical first meeting. When I raised this in the House, the Hon Parliamentary secretary replied the government was committed to nuclear disarmament, but how can this claim be reconciled with our refusal to even observe the first meeting. Other NATO allies are there. In the face of Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling, how can we fail to even observe?” Heather McPherson, MP: “Now, more than ever, the world must recognize the existential threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons. As we watch in horror the illegal invasion and war in Ukraine, we must all understand the urgency and importance of nuclear disarmament. If the world does not want to
be held hostage by men like Vladimir Putin, nuclear disarmament is the only option. Canada has an obligation to use its voice, its power, and its influence.”

A 2021 Nanos Research poll found that 74 per cent of Canadians want the government to join the treaty, with just 14 per cent opposed. Furthermore, 73 per cent think that Canada should join even if, as a member of NATO, it might come under pressure from the United States not to do so. 74 MPs and Senator have signed the ICAN parliamentary pledge, and cities such a Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal have endorsed the nuclear ban treaty. Currently, there are more than 13,000 nuclear weapons spread across the globe. Annual spending on
nuclear armaments surpassed $82.4 Billion USD in 2021. Through an ever changing and challenging security environment, from security threats of climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nuclear weapons spending has steadily increased, with no resulting measurable improvement on the security environment.

Where is Canada?

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For more information, contact:
Office of Sen. Marilou McPhedran
John Inca Anderson
Director, Parliamentary Affairs
Johninca.anderson@sen.parl.gc.ca