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A new course for Canada: on MArch 18th, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade began a review of Canada's nuclear arms control and disarmament policies.

On March 18th, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade began a review of Canada's nuclear arms control and disarmament policies. The following statement was presented to the committee by former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Douglas Roche, OC, and Ploughshares staff members Ernie Regehr and Bill Robinson.

We wish to thank the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade for this opportunity to appear before you.

The Committee should be complimented for undertaking this review of Canada's policies concerning nuclear weapons. Your study is of historic importance in the evolution of Canadian foreign policy because the International Court of Justice, the highest legal body in the world, has brought longstanding international concerns over nuclear weapons to a watershed moment. In effect, the World Court de-legitimized nuclear weapons as a war-fighting strategy. The Court's decision is thus in direct conflict with NATO's continued policies. Canada, wishing to uphold international law, on the one hand, and committed to a military alliance, on the other, must resolve the most severe foreign policy dilemma it has faced since the end of the Cold War. It is the purpose of our testimony to help Canada respond constructively to this challenge.

Following a recent visit to Japan, where we once again saw the horrors of nuclear devastation, we have received from the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki messages of solidarity and support for this committee, which are hereby tabled [see boxes on pages 4 and 5].

World Court decision

On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice issued an Advisory Opinion that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly those of the principles and rules of humanitarian law. Although the Court believed it could not determine definitively whether there might be an extreme circumstance of self-defence in which nuclear weapons could be used lawfully, it did conclude that all use and threat of use of these weapons must comply with international law. Also, the Court said, unanimously and clearly:

There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.

The Court took the position that, inasmuch as there is no existing law either authorizing or prohibiting nuclear weapons, it could not invent such a law. Moreover, in the present state of world development, the Court has no mandatory powers of enforcing its opinion. But there should be such a law, and governments, through an international treaty, are the only instrument that can create one. The Court said:

any realistic search for general and complete disarmament, especially nuclear disarmament, necessitates the cooperation of all States.

This Committee must now probe the sharply competing positions on the future of nuclear weapons. Nuclear retentionists hold that nuclear weapons are essential for security, and that, as long as they are regulated by the law of armed conflict, they are not prohibited. Nuclear abolitionists, on the other hand, believe that these weapons, and the threat of universal genocide that they embody, threaten the security of everyone. Nuclear weapons are the antithesis of security, and their continued existence will guarantee only disaster. Recourse to nuclear weapons, with their indiscriminate consequences, can never be compatible with the rules of humanitarian law and must therefore be considered prohibited. Although the Court itself did not feel that it could conclude that the current state of international law definitively rules out recourse to nuclear weapons in all circumstances, it did state that the use of such weapons seems "scarcely reconcilable" with respect for the requirements of the law applicable in armed conflict. Even in the case of an "extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake," the Court was unable to conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful. Contrary to the statements made by some nuclear retentionists, this aspect of the Court's ruling in no way endorses their claim that the strategy of nuclear deterrence is legal.

The Court warned that the stability of the international order will suffer from the continuing difference of views on the legal status of nuclear weapons. Nuclear disarmament is the best means of resolving this dilemma. Accordingly, the Court points to the famous Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), obliging nations to negotiate in good faith on nuclear disarmament. It is not enough to promise to negotiate: "The obligation involved here is an obligation to achieve a precise result -- nuclear disarmament in all its aspects."

Letter from the Mayor of Hiroshima

We, the citizens of Hiroshima, who have suffered a nuclear bombing, deeply believe that the development and possession of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity and that nuclear weapons and the humankind cannot coexist. Once the nuclear weapons are resorted to, the possibility of annihilation of the whole humankind without knowing how to stop is immense. Nuclear weapons cannot guarantee the national security. The issue of security of today should be approached not from the standpoint of just one state but from the standpoint of the whole globe.

July last year, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is generally against the international law and that the negotiations for the nuclear disarmament should be pursued by the international community and brought to a conclusion. In September the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty with a decisive majority of 158 countries voting for it. In December the UNESCO Committee for World Heritage decided to list the A-Bomb dome as a symbol for the commitment for the abolition of nuclear weapons and eternal peace.

I sincerely hope that the desire for a nuclear free world will become a huge surge and change the policies of the nuclear states leading to the realization of the abolition of nuclear weapons and eternal world peace as soon as possible.

Takashi Hiraoka, Mayor of Hiroshima

NATO's nuclear weapons policies

The NATO Defence Planning Committee/Nuclear Planning Group meeting in Brussels on December 17, 1996 issued a communique in which the Alliance Defence Ministers reaffirmed that:

The nuclear forces of the Allies continue to play a unique and essential role in the Alliance's strategy of war prevention.

Not only did the statement ignore the World Court decision, it went on to declare that the Alliance has "[no] need to change any aspect of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy -- and we do not foresee any future need to do so." The presence of American nuclear forces in Europe, NATO said, "remains an essential and enduring political and military link between the European and North American members of the Alliance." The only concession NATO made to world opinion was a statement, issued by the North Atlantic Council on the following day, announcing that the Alliance does not plan to station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members once the current NATO expansion is completed.

The three Nuclear-Weapon-States (NWS) members of NATO, the US, the UK, and France, are deliberately pursuing new deployments of nuclear weapons, despite their assurances that they stand for "ultimate" nuclear disarmament:

* In 1997, the United States will spend $24 billion to maintain the capability to deliver 7,000 strategic warheads anywhere in the world. The US is preparing to deploy the new B61-11 (known as a "bunker-busting" nuclear weapon) designed to strike command bunkers buried hundreds of metres below the ground and other deeply buried targets. With a yield varying between 300 tons and 300 kilotons, even in its "micro-nuke" setting, such an underground burst would create massive radioactive fallout. Despite the new Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was supposed to end all nuclear testing in all environments for all time, the US plans to conduct underground "subcritical" tests to learn how to design more reliable and survivable nuclear weapons.

* The UK missile program threatens limited nuclear strikes to defend vital interests, defined in the 1995 Defence White Paper as British trade, the sea routes used for it, raw materials from abroad, and overseas UK investments. Each UK Trident submarine has a killing capacity equivalent to 640 Hiroshima bombs.

* France, through its recent round of nuclear tests, continues to develop selective nuclear capability directed against specific military forces or sensitive installations. Two new nuclear weapons programs are going ahead: the M-5 submarine-based strategic nuclear missile, and a more powerful version of the Air-Sol Moyenne Portee (ASMP) air-launched nuclear missile.

Though NATO operates in great secrecy, it is clear that the Alliance has no intention of renouncing nuclear weapons, is determined to maintain a nuclear war-fighting capability, and is prepared to use low-yield nuclear warheads first.

NATO's continued massive deployment of nuclear weapons along with a refusal to enter into comprehensive negotiations, is in direct violation of the pledge made by nuclear weapons states at the time of the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995: to pursue with determination "systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons." A number of non-nuclear nations are charging the nuclear weapons states with bad faith and threatening the unravelling of the NPT.

Letter from the Mayor of Nagasaki

As you may know, fifty-two years ago an atomic bomb exploded over Nagasaki, reducing the city to rubble. Instantly about 74,000 people were killed and 75,000 people were injured. Even now, many atomic bomb survivors continue to suffer from the after-effects of radiation.

Based on our experience, the people of Nagasaki have been appealing to the world that nuclear weapons are lethal, that they could annihilate the human race, and that genuine world peace cannot be attained as long as nuclear weapons exist on this planet. We should realize world peace cannot be maintained by relying on nuclear weapons.

Countries of the world should try to disprove the theory of nuclear deterrence. Negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons should be initiated not from the viewpoint of preserving security for one's own country but the viewpoint from maintaining world peace.

I firmly believe that your upcoming statement at the Committee will help stir up public opinion in Canada and the world in urging the abolition of nuclear weapons. I hope your enthusiasm and effort will be amply rewarded and that the realization of a nuclear free world will be achieved.

Icco Itoh, Mayor of Nagasaki

A new course for Canada

The conflict between the World Court and NATO came into the open at the United Nations General Assembly in December 1996. A resolution was presented by Malaysia with 45 co-sponsors which followed up on the World Court's decision. It called for negotiations to begin in 1997 leading to the early conclusion of a Nuclear Weapons Convention which would prohibit the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons. The resolution (which is non-binding) was adopted by a vote of 115 in favour, 22 against and 32 abstentions.

The three NATO NWS countries vigorously opposed the resolution and exercised influence on their NATO colleagues to vote against it. Three NATO countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, despite this pressure, abstained: Canada, revealing the tension it feels between the World Court and NATO, called for a separate vote and voted yes on the paragraph to uphold the World Court; but Canada then voted no on the paragraph to start negotiations and voted no on the resolution as a whole.

Such a Canadian split vote might suffice as a transitional strategy but cannot endure with any credibility. The Government Statement in 1995, Canada in the World, solemnly affirmed:

The rule of law is the essence of civilized behaviour both within and among nations. ... Canada will remain in the forefront of those countries working to expand the rule of law internationally.

It is not longer tolerable for Canada to uphold international law, on the one hand, and oppose UN resolutions to start negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons, on the other. The World Court has changed the dynamics of Canada's participation in a nuclear-armed Alliance and must be responded to.

Canada has long followed a "step-by-step" approach to disarmament. "Step-by-step" is insufficient because it allows the NWS to perpetuate their nuclear arsenals under the guise of disarmament. There were 40,000 nuclear weapons in existence as of 1995 (97 percent controlled by the US and Russia), more than were in existence when the NPT came into effect in 1970. Even with the full implementation of START II, which has still to be ratified by the Russian Duma, there still could be as many as 23,000 nuclear weapons in 2003.

The central objective must now be, as called for by the World Court, the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the statement by the International Former Generals and Admirals, an unequivocal commitment from the NWS to eliminate their nuclear weapons and to start a program now to lead to that goal. The centrepiece of such a commitment is a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would anchor a program for elimination. A comprehensive approach, represented by a Convention, does not preclude incremental steps to nuclear disarmament; indeed it would foster them. This was the rationale for the plan submitted to the Conference on Disarmament August 8, 1996 by a group of 28 nations calling for a three-phase Program of Action for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020.

Canada, staying in NATO, must work with like-minded countries to convince the NWS that the time has come to start a comprehensive program of mutual, verifiable nuclear disarmament under strict international control. Just because it could take many years to achieve nuclear abolition, the goal is not thereby invalidated. What counts is a realistic commitment now to reach that goal.

Canada should publicly call, at the forthcoming NATO Summit, for a full review of NATO's nuclear weapons policies. Canada should contribute actively to presenting the case for the rule of international law to supersede NATO's outmoded reliance on nuclear weapons.

We respectfully urge the Committee to press upon the Government of Canada this great responsibility and to serve notice that if NATO fails to respond affirmatively to the World Court -- and growing world opinion -- it will be necessary for Canada to review its continued membership in a nuclear-weapons Alliance. The Cold War is over.

Public urges nuclear disarmament

The Canadian public remains strongly in favour of nuclear disarmament, according to Bill Graham, the Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Mr. Graham vigorously rejected the statement in our brief that "there is today little public opinion clamouring for the Canadian Government to foster and promote a comprehensive program for nuclear weapons elimination":

As I said at the opening of these hearings, this committee has never received as much correspondence on any single issue as we have on this one. I think the members would agree with me on that. We have seen a great deal of interest from the Canadian public, and we certainly intend to pay attention to it and to listen to it. I would like to congratulate your organization for having taken the time to do a lot of the groundwork to pull that public opinion together. It has been very helpful.

In its first, and so far only, day of public hearings, the committee heard testimony from Doug Roche and Project Ploughshares, Physicians for Global Survival, Lawyers for Social Responsibility, and le Centre de ressources sur la non-violence. The calling of the federal election ended the committee's review, and it will now be up to the new committee that will be constituted when parliament returns to decide whether or not to resume it. (Current committee chair Bill Graham believes it likely that the new committee will agree to continue it.)

Evidence of strong public interest could have a major effect on how seriously the new committee looks at the nuclear issue, so Ploughshares and other groups intend to bombard the new committee with appeals to resume the review as soon as parliament returns (probably in September).

Get ready to keep those cards and letters coming!

Canadian public opinion

When the NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995, a grassroots movement called Abolition 2000 began. The goal is to secure the political will and commitment of the world's governments to complete negotiations by the year 2000 on an international convention that will set a firm timetable for the elimination of all nuclear weapons. To date, some 700 organizations around the world have endorsed the Abolition 2000 Statement. The Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (CNANW), comprising 11 organizations in Canada, was formed as the Canadian component of Abolition 2000.

Project Ploughshares, as a founding member of CNANW, recognized that a "window of opportunity" has been opened by the World Court and other recent developments to obtain that which during the Cold War years seemed impossible -- the abolition of nuclear weapons. Thus, Project Ploughshares, working with local organizing groups, conducted a series of consultations across Canada to advance knowledge of the nuclear weapons issue.

These consultations took the form of Roundtables in 18 cities in all 10 provinces throughout September 1996. Attending the Roundtables were a total of 404 persons in a range of occupations, including: Members of Parliament, Members of Provincial Legislatures, mayors, city councilors, bishops, clergy, university professors, teachers, physicians, lawyers, judges, journalists and editors, First Nations leaders, labour leaders, directors of foundations, peace activists, school board trustees and administrators, students. Some businessmen attended but not as many as were invited (or hoped for). Several military officers were invited but none attended. By engaging a range of community leaders and activists, including persons and constituencies not usually associated with disarmament advocacy, the Roundtables were intended to make the point that all levels of communities (from the international to the local) have an opportunity and responsibility to face the reality of the nuclear threat and to demand concrete action.

Douglas Roche, OC, Canada's former Ambassador for Disarmament, served as resource person. A 22-minute video, "Eliminating Nuclear Weapons," produced by the Center for Defense Information, Washington, DC, was shown at the beginning of each meeting, which lasted two-and-a-half hours. Each meeting had a rapporteur. All 18 reports were synthesized into a national report, which was presented to the Government. We are tabling this report with the committee today.

It happened that, just as the Roundtables were beginning, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy posted on the Department's Home Page on the Internet three questions, soliciting the Canadian public's views on how Canada should respond to the World Court Advisory Opinion. Mr. Axworthy's questions became an added incentive for participants at the Roundtables to express their views. The comments made at the Roundtables, incorporated into this report, constitute a significant response to Mr. Axworthy.

There was a sense of amazement, widely expressed at the Roundtables, of how little the general public seems to know about the important events over the past year, which have restored nuclear weapons to a central issue on the international agenda. Thus there is today little public opinion clamouring for the Canadian Government to foster and promote a comprehensive program for nuclear weapons elimination. On the other hand, there is certainly no public opinion for the retention of nuclear weapons. But when the situation is laid out -- the World Court's call for the conclusion of nuclear disarmament negotiations and the untenability of the continued possession of nuclear weapons by the five permanent members of the Security Council while the rest of the world is proscribed from obtaining nuclear weapons -- a sense of urgency for action emerged among the participants. This led to discussions of more education programs and efforts to get the media to pay more attention to an issue that is central to the post-Cold War global security agenda. Many participants said the lack of active public opinion should not be used by the Government as an excuse not to take a strong stand on implementing the World Court's opinion that nuclear weapons abolition is essential.

The Roundtables demonstrated that Canadian values are firmly rooted in the pursuit of peace. Significant cross-sections of Canadian society would welcome and rally behind a clear commitment by the Government that it will work immediately -- not in the distant future -- to secure a nuclear weapons abolition program.

"The ultimate evil"

We hope the Committee will examine the moral and strategic arguments against nuclear weapons: the uselessness of nuclear weapons, the risk of disastrous war that they pose (through accident, miscalculation, madness, desperation, or deliberate terrorist act), the immorality of potential participation in mass murder, the repercussions of the continuing disparity among nuclear haves and have-nots. These arguments, which are compelling in their own right, are now reinforced by the International Court of Justice's confirmation of the applicability of humanitarian law to nuclear weapons. The legal, moral, and strategic arguments against nuclear weapons intertwine: since nuclear weapons can destroy all life on the planet, they imperil all that humanity ever stood for, and humanity itself. This is why the then President of the World Court, Mohammed Bedjaoui of Algeria, called nuclear weapons "the ultimate evil." In fact, he added, the existence of nuclear weapons challenges "the very existence of humanitarian law." During the acrimonious years of the Cold War, with the emphasis on the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence as a constant justification for the nuclear arms buildup, the public seemed blinded to the horror what nuclear weapons were all about. But now, in the post-Cold War era, there is no excuse for shielding ourselves from the assault on life itself that nuclear weapons represent.
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Author:Robinson, Bill
Publication:Ploughshares Monitor
Date:Mar 1, 1997
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