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Trudeau urged to follow in his father’s anti-nuclear footsteps and support UN disarmament treaty

Trudeau urged to follow in his father’s anti-nuclear footsteps and support UN disarmament treaty
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OTTAWA Even as Foreign Minister Stphane Dion called a recently announced nuclear disarmament negotiation more symbolic than real Tuesday, experts were urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step up and make Canada a bigger part of the movement to ban nuclear weapons just like his fatherdid during the Cold War.

Last week, 123 countries voted in a UN committee to begin negotiations on a nuclear disarmament treaty next year. Canada was among more than 30 countries that voted against, including major nuclear powers and most members of NATO. The vote will be confirmed at the general assembly in December, where Canada could, but isnt likely to, change its vote.

The Rideau Institutes Peggy Mason, Canadas ambassador for disarmament from 1989 to 1994, said Tuesday the no vote was a shocker. Canada should have abstained and signalled an intent to participate in negotiations, she said.The way it voted is not in keeping with a country that is seeking election to the UN Security Council in 2021, she added.

Paul Meyer, another Canadian ambassador for disarmament from 2003 to 2007 and currently a fellow at Simon Fraser University, agreed an abstention would have been better than a no.

As a good international citizen, its important to recognize that when the General Assembly has established a process, that you should participate in a constructive fashion, and obviously use the process to continue to advocate for your preferred positions, Meyer said. To turn your back on the whole thing is not productive.

Still, Dion told the National Post Tuesday he doesnt think change will happen if non-nuclear states agree between themselves, though its too hypothetical for now to say whether Canada will play a role within or alongside negotiations.

Since the nuclear countries are not in the process it will be more symbolic than real, he said. Asked whether he thinks nuclear powers will ever acquiesce to a treaty, he said, not in the foreseeable future, but step by step, well go there.

Meyer rebutted theres probably no multilateral security agreement in existence that had all states participating from day one, including the UNs nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Veteran politician and diplomat Douglas Roche, who headed the UNs disarmament committee in 1988, recalled that a UN landmine convention initiatedby the Ottawa process 20 years ago was first blocked completely by the major landmine possessors. But Canada was undeterred and went ahead anyway.

Now, usage of landmines isstigmatized and even states who arent parties to the convention generally abide by it. That stigmatization is whats needed on the nuclear weapons front, he said.

In the modern background are escalating tensions between the U.S., its NATO allies and Russia. Dion said tension between the U.S. and Russia must be addressed, and in holding dialogue with Russia, Canada is now much more aligned with our allies than before.

On Oct. 17, the U.S. sent a non paper on nuclear deterrence to its NATO allies and, in an unclassified letter obtained by the National Post, asked them to vote no on negotiations and avoid introducing any doubt regarding allies commitment to deterrence and defence with nuclear weapons at their heart.

The Netherlands, which hosts a launching base for U.S. tactical nukes, was the only NATO member to abstain from the vote, after a parliamentary resolution calling for a yes. Even the abstention took courage, Mason said.

Meyer noted if the U.S. wasnt worried about the results of a negotiation it wouldnt be so energized in trying to get its allies to oppose it and its regrettable if allies capitulate only to align themselves with the States.

Even today, all nine nuclear states are engaged in modernization programs, with the U.S. dwarfing the others. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons estimates annual global spending at $120 billion.

Were on a conveyor belt hurtling backwards

The rest of the world has been taking tiny steps forward, Mason said, while were on a conveyor belt hurtling backwards, towards ever more lethal nuclear weapons.

Canada had publicly lauded a different vote last week, passed by 177 countries, to have a group recommend elements of an eventual treaty banning the production of fissile materials, which are used to make nuclear weapons. Dion said he thinks the treaty is the most reachable step towards disarmament.

But Mason said its similar to past resolutions, including one she oversaw in her fifth year as Canadas ambassador for disarmament, in 1994. Past efforts have languished, she said, and a real, first-time negotiation of a nuclear ban the subject of the first vote is a surer sign of progress.

Ray Acheson, a Canadian with the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom in New York, said Canada should lean on its history and tradition of being a leader on disarmament issues.

The treaty is a tool that will help break the logjam and the deadlock that weve seen for more than two decades now, she said. We still have an obligation as a country that believes in international peace, security and justice that we stand up when (countries) are doing things that are not in humanitys interest.

Saying rising tensions and threats only make responsible leadership more crucial, Roche remembered then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau urging Washington and Moscow to come to a resolution on nuclear weapons in the mid-80s, during the Cold War.

The elder Trudeau famously said, then: Political leaders will decide whether or not a nuclear war actually takes place, yet politicians act as if peace is too complicated for them.
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