By Scott Costen
FEDERAL politicians from three different parties participated in an online event last week protesting Canada’s failure to sign the United Nations nuclear ban treaty.
NDP MP Heather McPherson, Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe and Green Party MP Elizabeth May spoke to hundreds of virtual attendees during a November 19 webinar hosted by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI).
Organizers told Redaction Politics seven members of the Conservative caucus were invited to attend, but none accepted.
Meanwhile, Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who was expected to represent the country’s governing party, cancelled on short notice.
“A sudden scheduling conflict resulted in her last-minute withdrawal from tonight’s event,” CFPI executive director Bianca Mugyenyi told participants. “This is genuinely disappointing, but in some ways does further underscore the importance of this event.”
Adopted and opened for signature in 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force January 22, 2021.
Its stated aim is the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons from the planet.
The treaty has more than 80 signatories, including Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, Austria, Nigeria, South Africa and New Zealand. No full member of NATO, of which Canada is a founding member, has signed the TPNW.
“I am utterly appalled that the Liberal party did not choose to send a representative to this event.” McPherson said. “I think it speaks volumes that they’re unwilling to defend their position publicly.”
The Alberta New Democrat, who described nuclear weapons as “an existential threat for humanity,” said most Canadians want their country to re-establish itself as an agent of peace and disarmament around the world.
“We have lost that moral high ground in recent decades,” she said.
Brunelle-Duceppe told attendees the Bloc Québécois caucus is in favour of “completely getting rid of nuclear weapons for good.”
“A nuclear war would be the most catastrophic event in human history and a self-inflicted one,” he said. “But there is hope – hope for a world without nuclear weapons, a world where no president or dictator can destroy a country by pushing a button.”
Brunelle-Duceppe said non-NATO nuclear powers must be pressured to destroy their weapons so that NATO members can be persuaded to join and comply with the TPNW.
Former Green leader May told the audience she grew up “under the threat of the mushroom cloud.” Nuclear disarmament and environmentalism are linked, she said, and both threaten “the annihilation of our human civilization.”
May condemned government inaction on TPNW and reminded participants that 2020 is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Let us not be silent, let us not be complacent, and let us realize that now is the time to finally get around to banning the bomb,” she said.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told Redaction Politics in an email that the federal government’s commitment to nuclear peace is enshrined in a separate UN treaty that took effect in 1970.
“Canada’s nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy is anchored in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime,” Grantly Franklin wrote. “Since its entry into force, Canada’s commitment to the NPT has been unwavering.”
“We acknowledge the widespread frustration with the pace of global efforts toward nuclear disarmament, which clearly motivated the negotiation of the TPNW,” Franklin continued.
“Canada has long been an important player in global nuclear disarmament and remains committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”
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