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It’s Time for Canada to be Bold: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

1 March 2022


Table of Contents Introduction What is the Nuclear Ban Treaty? Canada’s and NATO’s Position Call to Action End Notes About the Author Canadian Global Affairs Institute Introduction In 2020, former minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy joined 55 allied non-nuclear weapons states’ (NNWS) leaders, calling for the courage to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In their plea for action, the leaders remarked that it is our governments’ global responsibility to speak up about a future they hoped would be without nuclear weapons. However, Canada’s current position supports the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) position and thus a nuclear-free world is seen as a great aspiration but not practical for today’s security concerns. Due to the current war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, the treaty’s value seems to fade among more prominent security concerns. Yet, this tension demonstrates more than ever why this treaty is essential to engage with; especially after Russia placed its nuclear forces on high alter on February 27, 2022. This has been a reminder that a conflict can increase global instability when these weapons become a part of the conversation. Even with the deterrence of mutually assured destruction, the threat will always remain. It matters to Canada because of our alliances with the United States, the United Kingdom and France, which make up three of the nine nuclear states. Canada is also located near several nuclear states, with the U.S. and Russia to the south and north, China and North Korea (DPRK) on the Pacific and the U.K. and France on the Atlantic. Missile launchers have varying abilities, but it is an uncomfortable location for us to be. We need to also factor in the number of nuclear silos along our southwestern border, for which accidents are a threat to our western provinces’ safety. While the TPNW may seem counterintuitive to the current tensions, it is still a treaty Canada needs to engage with further. While Canada often encourages humanitarianism and a commitment to an equitable and peaceful future, it also is strongly committed to its alliances. As a result, Canada has rejected the TPNW and has refused to engage with its suggested possibilities. In the long term, this might be a mistake. TOP OF PAGE What is the Nuclear Ban Treaty? The TPNW is built on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was adopted in 1968 and entered into force in 1970; Canada was among the original states party to the treaty upon its adoption. As of 2021, 191 states have formally approved the NPT, making it one of the most widely accepted nuclear disarmament treaties and a cornerstone of non-proliferation. The three pillars of the NPT are nuclear energy, non-proliferation and disarmament. These pillars have unintentionally led the treaty to be a building block for other nuclear-related schemes, such as those that address non-proliferation, nuclear/radiological emergencies and the monitoring of nuclear material. Hailed as a positive path forward, it is accepted by all five of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Of the nuclear states, India, Pakistan and Israel have rejected the NPT, while North Korea withdrew in 2003


security international law un canada western hemisphere global nuclear policy perspective international politics international institutions diplomacy & global governance wmds julie clark