Humanitarian Disarmament and the 2019 Election

As we have in previous elections, Mines Action Canada submitted surveys on humanitarian disarmament policy to the major political parties - the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party. We were unable to reach the People's Party of Canada via telephone or email and thus was unable to send a copy of the survey to them.

With assistance from international experts on each of these topics, we are pleased to provide you with a brief analysis of each response to assist you in making your decision for October 21st. MAC does not endorse any one party as each party's positions on humanitarian disarmament issues have strengths and weaknesses. Overall, we would have liked to see stronger commitments to fund disarmament work and more concrete examples of how policies would be put into practice. 

Before we get into any analysis of the parties' positions, here are the full answers as provided to Mines Action Canada in alphabetical order:

While Mines Action Canada is happy to provide this resource free of charge, please consider making a donation to support our work.

 

 

Cluster Munitions

  • Canada is a State Party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and provides the framework for clearance of cluster munition remnants and assistance to victims. If your party forms the government after the 2019 election, what steps will Canada take to promote the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions?
  • If your party forms the next government, how will Canada stigmatize the use of cluster munitions by any state - even our allies?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party answers highlight their work to fix the bill implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Canada and states that a Green Party government would close the loopholes in the legislation with regards to investment. There is a recognition of the importance of universalizing the Convention and discouraging use of cluster munitions even by states outside the treaty. The assertion that use of cluster munitions in a joint operation is a deal-breaker is welcome.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP answers indicate an understanding of the issue and the need to close the loopholes in Canada's legislation. To stigmatize the use of cluster munitions, an NDP government should speak up to condemn any use of the weapon by any actor, including military allies, and should fully implement Article 21’s requirement to promote the universalization of the Convention and to discourage others from using cluster munitions, by reaching out to states not party through Canada’s diplomatic network.   

Landmines

  • The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has issued a completion challenge for all states to join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and for all mine clearance to be completed by 2025.  Canada as a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty, committed to work towards the goal of completion by 2025 via the Maputo Declaration in 2014.  If your party forms the government after the 2019 election, what concrete steps will the government take to ensure the work of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty is completed?
  • For many years, Canada was a leading (top five) donor to mine action and victim assistance programs. Canada has fallen out of the top five supporters of mine action and in some years out of the top ten supporters. If your party forms the next government, what steps will you take to return Canada to its traditional position of leadership on mine action funding? Would your government consider reinstating the position of Ambassador for Mine Action?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

It is good to see the Green Party answers reference the Maputo Action Plan which is the international community’s plan to eliminate the threat posed by landmines by 2025. The Maputo Action Plan will be expiring at the end of November and will be replaced by the Oslo Action Plan which will include all of the suggested actions by Green MPs. Support of Mines Action Canada’s call for Canada to contribute $1 per Canadian annually to mine action is welcome. 

The Liberal Party

The NDP

We welcome the strong support for the Ottawa Treaty outlined in the NDP answers on landmines. We would have appreciated some more detail on which concrete actions an NDP government will take to demonstrate that support, however, it is good to see that the NDP recognize that support to the treaty can include financial support and technical expertise. 

Arms Trade Treaty

  • Canada recently acceded to the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty - the world's first Treaty to regulate the global arms trade. In light of Canada’s accession to the Treaty, will your government re-examine some of Canada’s existing arms exports, including to Saudi Arabia or other countries of concern?
  • Countries with known human rights abuses have little trouble obtaining weapons. Notwithstanding your party’s position on the Arms Trade Treaty, what steps will your government take to ensure that Canadian weapons do not end up in the hands of those known or suspected to abuse human rights?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

It is promising to read that a Green government would end the Saudi Arms deal and reexamine concerning arms export agreements. Inclusion of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons is a strength of the Green Party answers on the arms trade. The recognition of the need for strict export controls and the mention of transfer is positive as the legal obligations of the ATT apply to transfer not just export.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP answers highlight their long support for the Arms Trade Treaty which as been very important to ensuring that Canada ratifies the Treaty. The NDP highlights the need for proper transparency and public accountability in arms transfers. A desire to follow established policy guidelines is important but many members of civil society believe that Canada's current policies are not strong enough.

Nuclear Weapons

  • In response to the unacceptable humanitarian harm caused by nuclear weapons and the risks that nuclear weapons continue to pose to humanity, 122 states negotiated the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Canada was not one of those states. If your party forms the government after the 2019 election, will Canada undertake a study of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
  • For more than six years, there have been a number of humanitarian statements about nuclear weapons with wide support at the United Nations. Canada has not joined any of the main humanitarian statements partially due to objections about the inclusion of the phrase ‘under any circumstances’ in the sentence, “it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” If your party forms the government after the 2019 election, will Canada state clearly that the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances is unacceptable? If not, could you please articulate under what circumstances your party believes the use of nuclear weapons is appropriate?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party states clearly that they will ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and highlights that there needs to be additional actions to through multilateral processes to eliminate nuclear weapons stockpiles.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP outline their long standing support for nuclear disarmament and history of pushing Canadian governments to recognize the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. We welcome the commitment to studying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and hope to see NDP Members of Parliament advocating for this study in the next parliament.

Fully Autonomous Weapons

  • Canada is participating in the multilateral meetings held since 2014 on technical, legal, ethical, and operational concerns relating to “lethal autonomous weapons systems” or “killer robots” but has said little and has yet to issue national policy on the topic. Autonomous weapons systems are not armed drones, but instead they are future weapons that would be able to select and fire upon targets without meaningful human control. As of August 2019, Canada does not have a clear position on autonomous weapons systems but leading Artificial Intelligence experts from across the country have been calling for Canadian leadership to prohibit fully autonomous weapons systems. If your party forms the government after 2019, how will your government respond to the concerns raised, including the call to pre-emptively ban systems that would select and attack targets without meaningful human control?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party states it will work for pre-emptive international and national bans on autonomous weapons systems echoing the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ call. This answer notes that the international ban could be achieved through the Convention on Conventional Weapons or through another body.

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party states on page 72 of their platform that they will "take a leadership role in ensuring the ethical use of new technology, by developing and supporting international protocols to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems."

The NDP

The New Democrats recognize that there are serious concerns about autonomous weapons systems and outlines two key concerns regarding chain of command and accountability. The NDP call for Canadian leadership by outlining a clear national position that weapons must have human control. We appreciate the statement that Canada needs to be proactive in dealing with the concerns regarding autonomous weapons but would have liked to see an explicit call for an international ban on autonomous weapons.

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

  • Recent research confirms that when heavy explosive weapons (weapons with wide area effects) are used in populated areas the vast majority of casualties are civilians. The Government of Austria is convening a conference to discuss the UN Secretary-General’s proposal to develop a political declaration to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas on October 1- 2, 2019. Will your party support the Secretary General’s proposal, and review and strengthen domestic policies and practices on the use of explosive weapons?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party's desire for a review of domestic policy, legislation and practice to limit civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is positive. The answer also notes the importance of an international commitment as a means of stigmatizing the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

We welcome the NDP's explicit support for the Secretary General's proposal and their note that in many cases heavy explosive weapons have indiscriminate effects when used in populated areas. A review of domestic policies and practices will be very useful both for strengthening Canada's actions to protect civilians and for sharing best practices with the international community so that all actors can work to limit the harm caused by explosive weapons. 

 

Armed Drones

  • The use of armed drones for extrajudicial killings of suspected terrorist by States in clandestine operations remain largely unchallenged, while these strikes keep killing and wounding civilians without accountability and transparency from those responsible. The growing proliferation of drones, being perceived as an effective cheap and risk-free tool in military operations by states and non-states actors needs to be addressed to prevent those systems ending up in the hands of the wrong actors. If your party forms the next government, what will be the Government of Canada’s policy in regards to the international legal framework, in particular international human rights law and international humanitarian law, on the use of armed drones in and outside armed conflict and how will your party bolster international efforts to improve regulations of their export?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party has put forward a very useful policy on armed drones that would make Canada a leader on this issue if implemented.  We would like to have seen reference to human rights law as well because both international humanitarian law and international human rights law come into play when discussing the use of armed drones. There are also questions about what evidence would be required to approve or deny Canadian procurement of armed drones.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP answer recognizes the importance of international humanitarian law and outlines specific principles that may be of concern when armed drones are used. The NDP position regarding international humanitarian law should lead to good policies on targeting and use of armed drones should Canada ever be involved in their use. A stronger policy would reference both international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Depleted Uranium 

  • Depleted uranium weapons have come under international scrutiny in recent years due to significant concerns about the long term health consequences of their use. If your party forms the next government, what will Canada’s policy be on the use of depleted uranium weapons? What will be Canada’s position be regarding providing technical and financial assistance in order to aid decontamination of affected states and reduce the risks to civilians?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party has taken significant action on depleted uranium (DU) in the past and this answer builds on that work. The call to ban DU weapons is strong and it is promising to see the assertion that Canada must assist states that are contaminated.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP answer on depleted uranium recognizes that concerns about these weapons has been raised by members of the Canadian Forces. The assertion that Canada should offer technical expertise and financial ability in support of decontamination efforts is welcome. 

Conflict and the Environment

  • The environmental damage caused by armed conflicts harms civilians, damages ecosystems and impedes sustainable development, problems worsened by permissive laws, low prioritisation and inadequate systems of response. If your party forms the government after the 2019 election, what contribution will Canada make towards international efforts to address the environmental dimensions of armed conflicts?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

There is a strong foundation in the Green Party's answer on conflict and the environment but room to strengthen the position as the conversation continues to develop at the international level. 

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP accepts the broad scope of environment and conflict work. We commend the NDP proposal to include environmental rehabilitation in planning for peacebuilding. Additional details on how an NDP government would incorporate the links between conflict and environmental crises into security planning would be welcome. 

Women, Peace and Security and Disarmament

  • There are a number of links between the Women, Peace and Security Agenda based on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and humanitarian disarmament. Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security highlights these links in the theory of change document. There is a lot of international evidence that when women are involved in peace processes the rate of success is greatly improved. If your party forms the next government, how will Canada strengthen the links between humanitarian disarmament and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Green Party is in favour of a well-supported Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security. The existing Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security should receive political support as well as a substantive budget to ensure that the position is effective.

The Liberal Party

The NDP

The NDP support for Canada's National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is welcome. This answer highlights the various areas of work for WPS agenda but more detail on the links to humanitarian disarmament would be helpful.

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