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Opinion

It’s time for Canadian action to rid the world of nuclear weapons

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Dear Prime Minister,

The risk of nuclear catastrophe is growing and urgent action is required to prevent it.

Recent developments include:

  • marked deterioration in East/West relations;
  • U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran;
  • imminent U.S. and Russian withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty;
  • poor prospects for renewal of New START in 2021;
  • heightened military tension between India and Pakistan;
  • resurgence of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program;
  • the development of ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ and hypersonic missile systems;
  • increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks; and
  • the real possibility that non-state actors will acquire and use nuclear weapons or fissile material.

All of this is occurring within the context of a new nuclear arms race, precipitated in part, by the U.S. allocation of $1.5-trillion to “modernize” its nuclear arsenal over the next 30 years.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since the height of the Cold War. Humanity, literally, faces the prospect that at any moment, human folly, miscalculation, or nuclear accident could end life on Earth as we know it.

Canada can help to prevent this.

As you know, in the early 1980s, your late father personally conducted an international campaign aimed at “suffocating” the nuclear arms race; and in recent years, Parliamentarians of all political stripes have signalled support for Canadian action to this end.

In 2010, a motion was adopted unanimously by Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators that “encourages the government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons Convention … and to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”

On June 18, 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence issued the following (all-party) recommendation: “That the government of Canada take a leadership role within NATO in beginning the work necessary for achieving the NATO goal of creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons …”

Yet, Canada continues to work on the margins of the issue and, in 2017, boycotted negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a historic breakthrough supported by 122 UN Member States.

As a member of the G7, G20, NATO, and as a traditionally strong supporter of the United Nations, Canada could do so much more.

The world desperately needs a nuclear disarmament champion—a national leader who is well placed to work closely with the UN Secretary General—to forcefully press nuclear-armed states to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

We believe this could be you, Prime Minster.

Please, take up the cause of nuclear disarmament, as you did climate change in 2015—the other existential threat facing our world.

Time is of the essence and the stakes could not be higher.

Earl Turcotte

Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Co-signed by past chairs and 10 member organizations of the CNANW

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