Erin Hunt

Disarming humanitarian, banning landmines, cluster bombs, killer robots & nukes, working @MinesActionCan and loving the fights I lose.

Erin Hunt's latest activity
published Civilians must be protected in Ukraine in What's New 2022-02-24 15:19:59 -0500

Civilians must be protected in Ukraine

Mines Action Canada is deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. The reported use of explosive weapons in towns and cities, and of cluster munitions pose a high risk of harm to civilians now and in the future. We call on all parties to avoid using indiscriminate weapons such as landmines and cluster munitions. Russia should immediately accede to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and all parties should join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We urge all parties to respect international law and protect civilians.

Mines Action Canada stands in solidarity with the civilians who are already suffering due to this conflict.

Please also see statements from the International Network on Explosive Weapons and the Cluster Munition Coalition


Les civils doivent être protégés en Ukraine

Mines Action Canada est profondément préoccupé par les conséquences humanitaires du conflit en Ukraine. L'utilisation signalée d'armes explosives dans les villes et d'armes à sous-munitions pose un risque élevé de blessures pour les civils, maintenant et à l'avenir. Nous appelons toutes les parties à éviter d'utiliser des armes d’emploi aveugle telles que les mines terrestres et les armes à sous-munitions. La Russie devrait immédiatement adhérer au Traité d'Ottawa interdisant les mines terrestres et toutes les parties devraient rejoindre la Convention sur les armes à sous-munitions. Nous demandons à toutes les parties de respecter le droit international et de protéger les civils.

Mines Action Canada est solidaire avec les civils qui ont déjà souffert au cours de ce conflit.

Advice for Canada on the Situation in Afghanistan

Canada's House of Commons has convened a Special Committee on Afghanistan to examine the national response to the situation in Afghanistan including the evacuation, special immigration programs and humanitarian response.

Mines Action Canada collaborated with campaign colleagues in Afghanistan to provide written testimony to the Committee to aid in their work.

You can read the written testimony in English and French.

More information about the Committee can be found on the parliamentary website

Time to seize the opportunity to be better

The Convention on Conventional Weapons Protocol III on incendiary weapons was discussed today at the 6th Review Conference. 

On behalf of a group of 8 organizations, Mines Action Canada delivered a statement urging states to close the loopholes in the protocol. The statement notes that Protocol III was inspired by the suffering caused by incendiary weapons like napalm but calls on delegates to the Review Conference to be inspired by the resilience of survivors like Kim Phuc who survived a napalm attack as a child and now believes that "[e]very single day, we have the
opportunity to be better people." Closing the loopholes in Protocol III is a way to be better. 

You can read the full statement here

You can learn more about incendiary weapons here.

published Still Lost in the Diplomatic Woods in What's New 2021-12-14 09:55:53 -0500

Still Lost in the Diplomatic Woods

The Convention on Conventional Weapons is meeting this week for its 6th Review Conference at the United Nations in Geneva. 

This meeting happens every five years and offers states the opportunity to assess progress made under this treaty and to set plans for the next five years. 

Today, MAC's Military Advisor delivered our general statement at the Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons commenting on autonomous weapons, incendiary weapons and the protocols on landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Building on our 2019 statement, MAC asked states if they will take a direct route towards peace and disarmament or will they continue to aimlessly wander through the diplomatic woods?

Read the full statement here.

Diplomatic Surprise Still Saving Lives 25 Years Later

A Canadian initiative has been saving lives every day for the past 25 years but most Canadians have no idea.

After many years of failed efforts at the international level to adequately address the global landmine crisis, Canada agreed to host a conference in October 1996 to try to make progress on reducing the harm caused by these indiscriminate weapons. The year before formal talks in Geneva failed frustrating many countries, the ICRC, UN agencies and the three-year old International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

Usually at such international gatherings much is agreed before the meeting takes place, but at the Ottawa Conference then Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy shocked the world by ending the meeting with a challenge to come back to Ottawa in a year to sign a treaty banning the indiscriminate weapons.

Though most in attendance were greatly surprised, the meeting resulted in renewed energy with efforts around the world. On December 3, 1997 over half the world came to Ottawa to sign a newly negotiated treaty banning landmines.

Now 164 countries belong to the Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty which prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines and requires states to clear landmine affected areas and assist victims.

To say the Ottawa Treaty saves lives every day is an understatement.

The past two decades have shown that when the treaty is implemented with ambition and support amazing things can happen. Before the treaty, there were an estimated 20,000 landmine casualties a year; in 2020, the Landmine Monitor reported 7,073. Annual casualties are still far too high but clearly the treaty is working.

Thirty-three countries have cleared all the landmines from their territories ensuring everyone can walk and play safely. In 1997 Mozambique estimated that it would take 100 years to clear all of the landmines in the country, today Mozambique is a global success story, free from the threat of landmines.

More than 55 million landmines have been destroyed from stockpiles with millions more cleared from contaminated land.

A global problem we can solve

There are still too many casualties, too much land needs to be cleared of landmines and far too many survivors, who were victimized by the weapon, need support to rebuild their lives, restore their livelihoods and reaffirm their rights.  

For those still living in affected communities the Ottawa Treaty means hope for sustainable development and for a safer future. We know what needs to be done.

  • Stop the use and production of mines.
  • Destroy stockpiled mines so they can never be used.
  • Clear mine areas.
  • Assist the victims so they can rebuild productive lives in their communities.

All the international community needs is political will and reliable, multi-year funding. Increasing Canada’s funding to these areas of work known as “mine action” to a dollar per Canadian per year would have a huge impact on countries around the world. Investing in mine action will benefit Canadians and the affected communities.

Mines Action Canada was at that 1996 conference and we helped celebrate the treaty signing in 1997 in Ottawa. Today we commemorate that day in December 1997 and recommit ourselves to finish the job.

Mine Ban Treaty Meeting Concludes with Youth Statement

The 19th Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty took place this week virtually due to rising COVID-19 cases in the host country, The Netherlands. Although we were not able to meet in person, the ICBL and the Mine Action Fellows were able speak up and be heard. 

You can read the ICBL statements to the Meeting here. The 2021 Landmine Monitor was also released providing in depth information on the impact of landmines around the world and the progress made towards a mine free world. You can access the Landmine Monitor here.

Throughout the week Mines Action Canada hosted a Mine Action Fellows Forum online to promote youth engagement and leadership in the Mine Ban Treaty and disarmament more broadly. In addition to trainings on specific topics related to the Ottawa Treaty, the Mine Action Fellows also wrote and delivered a video statement at the closing of the Meeting. Watch the statement below.

MAC Congratulates 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner!

Mines Action Canada congratulates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov on being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for "their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” We are very pleased to see the Nobel Committee recognize the importance of journalism and free expression to peace. Journalists are key to disarmament because they expose the humanitarian impact of weapons and tell the stories of those affected by conflict and violence.

published CCW Must Make a Decision in What's New 2021-09-27 12:52:57 -0400

The CCW Must Make a Decision

Military Advisor, Lode Dewaegheneire, addressed the Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts meeting on Lethal and Autonomous Weapons Systems. 

Here is his statement: 

Thank you Chair. Mines Action Canada is pleased to take the floor as a member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and as MAC’s military advisor, I would like to share a few comments on this topic.

A few months ago, I did a television interview in which I was asked “why are you, as an ex-military person, advocating for a ban on Killer Robots?” Indeed, many of you might be surprised to see an ex-military officer who served for more than 30 years including quite a few years here at CCW and in other disarmament forums in this seat.

“Ex-military” means to me a human being trained and formed under military ethical and moral standards with a genuine respect for International Humanitarian Law and civilian lives. Military personnel who have experienced combat situations understand and appreciate the need for human judgement and values in conflict. With that perspective, abrogating life and death decisions to a machine is morally, militarily ethically and legally unacceptable.

Mines Action Canada and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are currently reaching out to veterans and finding strong support for an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous weapons because quote: “the decision to kill (by a robot) would not be the result of the skills, knowledge, intelligence, training, experience, humanity, morality, situational awareness and understanding the laws of war and international humanitarian law that men and women in uniform use to make such decision in battle” unquote. This support echoes the public opinion polls which have shown the public wants action here to ban autonomous weapons systems with high levels of support among veterans and military families.

As MAC has said before, these discussions about autonomous weapons systems seem to underestimate the skills, knowledge, intelligence, training, experience, morality, and humanity that men and women in uniform combine with situational awareness and IHL to make decisions during conflict. The Campaign works closely with roboticists, engineers, and technical experts and despite their expertise and the high quality of their work, we do not believe an algorithm could replicate this complex human decision-making process.

We know that technology can help save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering but there is a line that should never not be crossed. We must begin negotiations to prohibit autonomous weapons systems that cannot be used with meaningful human control.

The Chemical Weapons Convention is a clear example of the international community’s ability to prohibit indiscriminate and inhumane weapons while promoting scientific advancement for peaceful use of new technologies.

In just a couple months, this body will have to make decisions on the future of autonomous weapons systems. One option is to adopt a mandate to begin negotiations on a legal instrument on autonomy in weapons systems; the other option is to continue discussing this issue as the technology advances and our window for action continues to rapidly close. Those who would build this technology, those who would use this technology and those who would have this technology used on them are all calling for a prohibition on autonomous weapons systems. This year the Review Conference must choose to listen to them by adopting a negotiating mandate.

Thank you.

published Youth Address Cluster Munition Convention in What's New 2021-09-21 08:27:56 -0400

Youth Address Cluster Munition Convention

Today, the Mine Action Fellows addressed the 2nd Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions via a video statement.

The full text of the statement can be found here. Thank you to the Swiss Presidency for working with the Mine Action Fellows over the past two years and to all our donors for supporting youth engagement in disarmament. 

published Policies in About Us 2021-09-18 14:02:07 -0400

Humanitarian Disarmament and the 2021 Election

As we have in previous elections, Mines Action Canada submitted surveys on humanitarian disarmament policy to the major political parties - the Bloc Québécois, Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the People's Party of Canada.

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 September 20th. 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:

Bloc Québécois (the Bloc)

Conservative Party of Canada (the Conservative Party)

Green Party of Canada (the Green Party)

Liberal Party of Canada (the Liberal Party)

New Democratic Party of Canada (the NDP)

People's Party of Canada

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 2021 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?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc's answers on cluster munitions highlight the need for Canada to speak out strongly against the use of these banned weapons. We are pleased to see strong support for active condemnation of use of cluster munitions in the response. Canada should be condemning all use of cluster munitions.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada


  • 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 2014.  If your party forms the government after the 2021 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. Recently, Canada has fallen out of the top ten supporters of mine action.  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?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc highlights the importance of finishing universalizing the Ottawa Treaty. Canada had been a leader in universalizing the Treaty when it was first negotiated and the Bloc's response indicates a desire to resume that role with allies and others. We appreciate the openness to reinstating the Ambassador for Mine Action role.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

Arms Trade Treaty

  • Canada acceded to the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty in 2019 - 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 to 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?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc is very strong on their opposition to the sale of arms to countries of concern. Their opposition to the Saudi arms deal is strong and reflected well in their answer. They are well aware of and speaking out against other arms sales that have been problematic which is very encouraging. 

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform. The platform only discusses domestic firearm issues.


People's Party of Canada

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. The Treaty entered into force in January 2021 but Canada remains outside the Treaty despite polling data that indicates over 70% of Canadians support joining it. If your party forms the government after the 2021 election, will Canada undertake a study of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
  • The first annual Meeting of the States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will be held in March 2022 in Vienna, Austria. If your party forms the government after the 2021 election, will Canada attend this important meeting as an Observer?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc highlights their past advocacy in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We appreciate the focus on Canadian action in the face of recent proliferation and modernization and the call for Canada to attend the First Meeting of States Parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We look forward to seeing all Bloc MPs in the new parliament sign the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

Autonomous Weapons Systems

  • 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 human involvement. In 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ mandate letter instructed them to “Advance international efforts to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems.” Polling data continues to show strong support from Canadians for a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons systems. If your party forms the government after this election, how will your government work to advance international efforts to ban autonomous weapons systems?
  • A Canadian robotics company was the first commercial business in the world to support the call for a ban on autonomous weapons. Since then hundreds of other company leaders & founders have joined them. Canadian scientists, roboticists and artificial intelligence experts were among the first (the first?) in the world to call for a ban. If your party forms the next government what leadership roles do you see Canada taking on this issue?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc's answer is clear and strong supporting a ban on autonomous weapons and Canadian leadership on the topic.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

  • Research confirms that when heavy explosive weapons (weapons with wide area effects) are used in populated areas the vast majority of casualties are civilians. To enhance the protection of civilians from the effects of explosive weapons, the Secretary General put forward a proposal to develop a political declaration to prevent harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The Government of Ireland is currently leading a process to negotiate such a political declaration. Will your party support a strong text of the declaration, as well as, review and strengthen domestic policies and practices on the use of explosive weapons?

Bloc Québécois

We are pleased to see such a strong answer from the Bloc on this topic. The view that the use of explosive weapons in urban areas without appropriate precautions is a war crime will be an important voice in the next parliament. 

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

Armed Drones

  • Recent reports indicate Canada is considering purchasing armed drones for the Canadian Armed Forces. Does your party support such purchases? If yes, what policies and doctrines will govern the potential use of armed drones by Canadian armed forces under your government? As the use of armed drones for targeted strikes on suspected terrorists grows, so do concerns over the number of civilians who have died in these attacks. 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?

Bloc Québécois

MAC is pleased to see the Bloc share our concerns about use of armed drones in urban areas and civilian harm but we would have liked to see less support for Canadian acquisition and use.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

Depleted Uranium

  • The use of depleted uranium weapons has 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 on providing technical and financial assistance in order to aid decontamination of affected states and reduce the risks to civilians?

Bloc Québécois

We appreciate the Bloc's mention of remediation of depleted uranium weapons in their answer that also outlined their opposition to the use of depleted uranium. 

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. This topic is not addressed in their platform.


People's Party of Canada

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 prioritization and inadequate systems of response. As a response to this damage, states are encouraged to adopt the draft legal principles developed by the UN’s International Law Commission (ILC) on the Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts. If your party forms the government after the 2021 election, what contribution will Canada make towards international efforts to address the environmental dimensions of armed conflicts?
  • In June 2021, NATO made a commitment to significantly reduce military greenhouse gases emissions. If your party forms the next government, how will Canada set clear goals to reduce military greenhouse gases emissions, what will these targets be, what greenhouse gas reporting will be required of the military and how will these align with national commitments?

Bloc Québécois

The Bloc highlights the links between the impact of armed conflict on the environment and international development. We appreciate the desire to hold the Department of National Defence to the Bloc's environmental standards.

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party asked us to refer to their platform. The platform pledges to create a NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security in Canada. This is a welcome development if the Centre focuses on how militaries can reduce their environmental impact, help identify emergent environmental risks and contribute to the humanitarian operations needed to respond to natural disasters. Any such Centre should recognize there are no hard security solutions to climate change.


People's Party of Canada

Women Peace and Security

  • 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 but the Action Plan expires in 2022. If your party forms the next government, how will Canada strengthen the links between humanitarian disarmament and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in a new National Action Plan?

Bloc Québécois

We appreciate the Bloc highlighting the link between arms sales and the Women, Peace and Security agenda but would have liked to see more focus on the agency of women in their answer rather than focusing on women in the context of a family. 

The Conservative Party

The Green Party

The Liberal Party

The Liberal Party did not answer the question but referred us to their platform. The platform did not include explicit discussion of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security but pledged to support women leaders and feminist groups who are leading efforts to promote peace and protect the rights of women and vulnerable groups and included a number of actions under the heading Ending Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct, and Gender-based Violence in the Military.


People's Party of Canada

published Hope for the Earth in What's New 2021-08-09 15:22:50 -0400

Hope for the Earth

On August 6th, Program Manager, Erin Hunt, was the keynote speaker at the Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition's online event to mark the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You can read her remarks here or watch the event below.


published Gender in Learn 2021-08-04 16:28:44 -0400


A major cross-cutting theme of Mines Action Canada’s work is gender and how it relates to disarmament. This has resulted from 25 years of experience witnessing the different effects weapons and conflict have on boys and girls as well as women and men. We cannot end the problems nor adequately assist those injured or harmed if we do not take into account the different gendered impacts and experiences.

For far too long, disarmament at the grassroots, national and international levels was considered “men’s work.” This mistaken assumption has resulted in a well below average involvement of women in disarmament policy and practice with very serious consequences. 

Gender doesn’t mean biological sex or just talking about women. It means the socially constructed ideas of how we are supposed to act as women and men or non-binary identities. The different roles men, women, girls and boys play in a society, their gender roles, can influence how they are impacted by weapons.  If collecting firewood is women’s work, only women may know about landmines in the forest. If, for example, mine action surveys do not speak with women, it will be easy to overlook contaminated areas that only affect women. Without hearing from women and girls, the priorities for clearance might miss out on some of the highest risk areas.

One of Mines Action Canada’s priorities is to increase the number of women, especially young women, working in disarmament and to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making about disarmament. When disarmament is inclusive, programs are more effective and we will reach our goals faster. 

Mines Action Canada works with our partners to promote inclusive decision-making and treaty implementation. The Mine Action Fellows youth program is explicitly designed to increase the number of young women who can meaningfully participate in national and international decision-making about humanitarian disarmament. The program has a majority of women and participants of all genders receive training on gender mainstreaming. The goal is to ensure that all youth campaigners can advocate for gender equity in disarmament.

There are significant links between work on gender and disarmament and the work on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Following the ground-breaking United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the international community has recognized that women and girls are affected by armed conflict in different ways and they have the right to participate in peace talks and post-conflict decision making. As is the case with disarmament programs, research has shown that peace agreements are more successful when women are involved. There are now eight Women, Peace and Security resolutions calling on states to ensure the rights and participation of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. MAC continues to work to strengthen the links between humanitarian disarmament and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Canada and internationally. We believe disarmament is an area where the Women, Peace and Security agenda can not only make much needed progress but call also have a major impact internationally on both peace and disarmament.

You can read all our news about Gender and Disarmament here. The civil society Gender and Diversity in Mine Action Working Group and Reaching Critical Will are also key resources on this topic.  

published Board in About Us 2021-08-04 16:17:14 -0400


Join our Board of Directors!

Mines Action Canada (MAC) is looking for qualified applications to join the Board of Directors! We need ordinary people who want to have an extraordinary impact to apply. 

Learn More about Mines Action Canada, the Board of Directors, and submit your application here.

Deadline for applications is August 9, 2021



published Nuclear Weapons in Learn 2021-08-04 15:57:30 -0400

Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons are described today as the most destructive, inhuman and indiscriminate weapons ever created. First tested in July 1945 by the United States, these weapons have only ever been used twice in warfare. Both times were by the United States on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War 2. The bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people both from immediate blast-related injuries, as well as radiation-related illnesses.

Since 1945, 2,056 nuclear tests have been carried out by at least eight nations in 60 sites around the world leaving behind a legacy of human and environmental harm. Today, nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to civilization as we know it. The small number of nuclear armed states are expanding or modernizing their nuclear programs despite the known harmful consequences and international obligations to work for disarmament. Disconcertingly, most of today’s nuclear weapons being produced are many times more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nine countries, the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea possess all of the nuclear weapons stockpile. Another 26 countries around the globe are under a nuclear umbrella meaning they also endorse the use of nuclear weapons. Canada is one of these nuclear umbrella states that allows the potential use of nuclear weapons on our behalf as part of NATO.

While most countries do not possess nuclear weapons and are committed to nuclear disarmament, the mere existence of any such weapons is extremely problematic and worrisome due to their potential catastrophic harm.

Nuclear explosions release large amounts of energy in the form of blast, heat and radiation and cause a large and powerful shockwave reaching speeds of hundreds of kilometers an hour leveling buildings for kilometers. The heat resulting from the explosions is so intense that almost everything close to the point of detonation is vaporized. Fires spontaneously erupt and coalesce into a fireball. Those who survive the initial destruction and fires face slow and painful deaths from radiation poisoning.

The use of nuclear weapons also comes with long-term negative effects on communities. Nuclear weapons produce ionizing radiation, which can kill or sicken people who are exposed to it by causing cancer, birth defects or other genetic damage. Nuclear weapons also cause environmental damage. Areas in Australia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, the United States, the South Pacific, and Russia continue to see high levels of contamination with radiation after nuclear weapons tests. It is estimated that using less than one percent of the nuclear weapons available in the world could greatly disrupt the global climate, while the thousands of weapons that are possessed by the U.S. and Russia could cause a nuclear winter. If used again, intentionally or accidently, nuclear weapons could induce a worldwide famine, straining all existing disaster relief resources in the world, and create a refugee crisis larger than ever experienced.

Nuclear weapon testing, also, causes humanitarian harm. Physicians predict that some 2.4 million people worldwide will eventually die of cancers due to atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980. Included among those impacted by nuclear weapon testing are an estimated 700 former Canadian military personnel who participated in up to 29 American and British nuclear weapon tests to simulate nuclear wars between 1946 and 1963. As a result, many endured direct radiation exposure and developed reproductive problems and cancers. The atomic veterans of Canada only recently received recognition and compensation for the harm caused by their dangerous assignments.

Due to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, a coalition of several hundred non-governmental organizations formed the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, (ICAN). ICAN is working towards the goal of prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons. The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on 7 July 2017 took a large step towards accomplishing this goal. The Treaty entered into force on 22 January 2021 and made nuclear weapons illegal in all respects under international law. Those states who join the Treaty agree to never develop, test, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The Treaty also requires countries to provide appropriate assistance to all victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as take measures for the remediation of contaminated areas. Currently, there are 86 signatories and 54 state parties of the treaty. The TPNW aims to advance the process of the elimination of nuclear weapons by helping to delegitimize the need for nuclear weapons during warfare and the need for states to possess such dangerous weapons.

Like climate change, nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity. In 2014, Mines Action Canada hosted an event on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons where speakers outlined the links potential impacts of nuclear weapons on the climate. Since then states have negotiated the Paris Accord and the TPWN. If we can end the existential threat from nuclear weapons, more resources can be made available for addressing the climate crisis.

Canada remains outside the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons but you can help fix that. See how you can Act today.

Read all our news about nuclear weapons here and learn more about nuclear weapons, the TPNW, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons here.

published Killer Robots in Learn 2021-08-04 13:23:09 -0400

Killer Robots

Killer robots or fully autonomous weapons sounds like something from a Hollywood movie but these machines are actually dangerously close to becoming a reality. Due to the increased unregulated development of new technologies, countries are now closer than ever before to manufacturing fully autonomous weapons. The risks that these weapons pose to civilization as we know it are not well understood but looming nonetheless.

We are still able to prevent fully autonomous weapons ever being used if ordinary people take action.

Unlike other existing weapons, killer robots would not depend on human control or intervention, rather, these weapons would actually choose and fire at targets on their own based on sensors, algorithms (computer programming) and artificial intelligence. Without meaningful human control, autonomous weapons bring many new dangers that non-autonomous weapons do not pose.

Robots do not possess human judgement, the ability to understand context, or a sense of compassion, without these characteristics their capacity to make moral and ethical decisions is non-existent. Military personnel on the other hand use their training, education, situational awareness, morals and ethical code to make decisions on the battlefield in line with international humanitarian law.

Legal and technical experts believe it is simply impossible for these machines to follow international humanitarian law.  While a human may be able to distinguish between a civilian and solider, issues with sensor failure, programming bias and technological mistakes mean that autonomous weapons cannot be trusted to make this distinction. This puts civilians further at risk of harm.

Additionally, the creation of killer robots could make the decision to go to war easier for countries, as they would not need large masses of the population to fight and would not be risking as many lives. A lower barrier to conflict would increase the likelihood of war occurring in even minor situations and would further shift the burden of armed conflict onto civilians.

The creation of these autonomous weapons also creates a question of accountability as to who is held responsible for the weapon’s mistakes. The autonomous weapon itself cannot be held accountable under international law. Would it be the person who deployed the system who is held accountable or is the person who created or programmed the autonomous weapon at fault?

Fully autonomous weapons have not yet been used in conflict; however, technology is advancing much faster than the law. In 2012, in order to counter the threat of autonomous weapons, Mines Action Canada co-founded the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots with six other organizations. The campaign is a coalition of non-governmental organizations all working towards the same goal of banning fully autonomous weapons and ensuring meaningful human control over the use of force. The coalition includes 180 international, regional and national NGOs in 65 countries. Mine Action Canada is also one of eleven members of the steering committee.

We are calling on states to launch negotiations on the creation of an international treaty to retain human control over targeting and attack decisions through the prohibition of the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons. In addition, the campaign hopes to persuade all tech companies and organizations working to develop artificial intelligence and robotics to pledge never to contribute to the development of fully autonomous weapons.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots hopes to make productive progress towards the banning of autonomous weapons before they become a reality. If even one state deploys fully autonomous weapons, it is feared that others may feel obligated to develop similar weaponry on their own, thus leading to a possible robotics arms race between countries.

Join #TeamHuman to help ensure fully autonomous weapons are never fielded and humanity remains in control of the use of force.

To learn more about autonomous weapons, the problems they cause, and the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, click here!

Pour en savoir plus sur les robots tueurs en français, veuillez cliquer ici!



published Opportunities in About Us 2021-07-27 16:21:00 -0400



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donated via 2021-06-25 16:56:43 -0400

Board Statement on the Terrorist Attack in Northern Afghanistan

On June 14, 2021, the Mines Action Canada Board of Directors issued the following statement:

Landmines have killed or injured some 35,000 women, children, and men in Afghanistan, and vastly more around the world. Their presence in any country or region endangers economic and social progress, and can prevent the long term, meaningful development of a peaceful society.

Fortunately, an international effort is underway to eliminate these mines with a key role being played by deminers employed by the HALO Trust, a charitable organization working globally to end the terror of landmines.

Tragically, and senselessly, one of the HALO Trust teams was attacked by armed terrorists in Northern Afghanistan on June 8, 2021, resulting in 10 deaths and 16 injured. 

On behalf of the Mines Action Canada Board of Directors, I would like to offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to these victims, their families, friends, and their dedicated HALO Trust colleagues. 

Mines Action Canada stands in solidarity with the HALO Trust in our dedication to ridding the world of landmines, unexploded ordnances, and other weapons that indiscriminately victimize our fellow citizens. We know that this criminal act in Afghanistan will only reinforce the resolve of the HALO Trust and our other partners striving for a better world for all.

Stephan Telka

Chair, Mines Action Canada

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas: A Student Perspective

In Canada, we are fortunate to be able to live relatively safe lives, the risk associated with leaving our households to do simple daily tasks is relatively low. Unfortunately, not all countries around the world share this same experience. In some countries, even running errands can be considered a dangerous affair due to frequent attacks on civilians. Every year, the detonation of explosive weapons such as grenades, missiles and bombs, kill and injure thousands of civilians indiscriminately with their blast and fragmentation. However, despite this worrisome trend, many students remain uninformed on the issue of explosive weapons. While not occurring on our home territory, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a prominent issue that needs international efforts to be resolved. Here are five of the many reasons why students should expand their knowledge of disarmament issues, specifically the use of explosive weapons in cities and towns and what is being done politically to reduce their impact on civilians

  1. Effect on Civilians: First, the impact of explosive weapons in populated areas felt disproportionally by civilians, rather than military targets. In 2020, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 18,747 deaths and injuries as a result of explosive weapons; of those, civilians accounted for 11,056 or 59% of the deaths. When used in populated areas, the percentage of civilians affected was even higher; in 2020, 89% of those harmed by explosive weapons in populated areas were reportedly civilians. In addition to the immediate civilian casualties caused by explosive weapons, casualties can also occur as a result of a disruption of essential services such as damage to essential healthcare infrastructure. The indiscriminate and disproportionate harm these weapons cause to civilians is one reason that students should pay attention to the issue.
  2. Urbanization and Increasing Threat: Second, with the tactics of war changing and urbanization trends increasing, civilians are more greatly at risk of being affected by explosive weapons than ever before. While wars were traditionally fought strictly between soldiers on open fields, in today’s world, it is not uncommon for wars to take place in city centres and for civilians to experience harm as a result. Civilians now face the burden of war more than ever before with higher risks of experiencing death, injury or displacement. This trend will be exacerbated by the rapid urbanization occurring in developing nations. By 2030, two-thirds of the global population is predicted to be living in cities; 96% of this urban growth is expected to take place in developing countries in cities that are already at a higher risk of experiencing fragility. Together, the trends of wars increasingly being fought in urban areas, and more individuals re-locating to urban areas will cause more civilians to be at risk of experiencing the traumatic effects of explosive weapons in populated areas. Many students may have friends or family who live in the areas that are most affected by explosive weapons; these worrisome trends may put loved ones at risk of being targeted by such attacks.
  3. Environmental Impact: Third, explosive weapons have negative implications on the environment. Currently, our world is facing a climate crisis that continues to worsen and accelerate. It is well-known that we are quickly approaching a point of no return for global warming, which could have devastating effects on our planet in the future. Unknown to many, explosive weapons can have devastating effects on the environment in numerous ways. One example of such is how explosive weapons leave behind unexploded ordnance, which results in long-term harm and can cause contamination of water, soil and air for years. In Syria, it is believed it will take more than 30 years to clear the contamination. This contamination can as a result hinder agricultural efforts, kill livestock and cause harmful human health effects. In addition, the destruction caused by the crumble of infrastructure can release other hazardous materials into the air and the ground, such as toxic smoke. With explosive weapons having such negative environmental effects on our planet, it is essential students educate themselves on these weapons, so student climate activists can take these negative consequences into account when advocating for climate action and building their climate platforms.
  4. The Power of Education: Another reason for students to inform themselves on the issue is the power of education and the positive effect it can have. By educating themselves on explosive weapons and the political efforts being put forth to help reduce the consequences they have on civilians, students can help to create change on the issue by raising public awareness, as well as, empowering more individuals and future generations to explore the subject. Education is believed to be crucially important in keeping peace and reducing future risks of violence and is recognized by many NGOs as critical to creating positive change in the world. Another political declaration, the Safe Schools Declaration, focuses on the impact of armed conflict on education and the military use of schools and universities. It has commitments designed to strengthen the protection of education and ensure it continues during armed conflict and those commitments are having an impact on behaviour in conflict. A political declaration on explosive weapons used in populated areas could build on this success further.
  5. Immigration / Past Experiences: Lastly, while explosive weapons may not be a large threat within Canada, the country’s large immigration numbers mean that it is likely that most students have a relative or a friend who has in some way been impacted by the use of explosive weapons. In Canada, immigrants make up around 9 percent of the total population, meaning that Canada is compiled of individuals from all different walks of life with different experiences. In 2019 alone, Canada welcomed 10,121 new permanent residents from Syria, that same year,  7,268 civilian casualties were recorded in Syria as a result of explosive weapons, the most of any country. This is one current example of Canada welcoming individuals who have possibly experienced first-hand the negative consequences of explosive weapons. For other individuals, the connection to explosive weapons may date back further to their grandparents or great-grandparents fleeing bombings from World War II or other conflicts since then. Regardless, most students likely have at least one connection to someone who has in some been negatively impacted by the use of explosive weapons, whether they be a friend, family member, neighbour, or simply an acquaintance. By educating themselves on the topic of disarmament of explosive weapons, students can show empathy and compassion for their fellow Canadians who may have been exposed to explosive weapons in their family histories.

It is essential for students to remain invested in the progress being made in the disarmament of explosive weapons. It is through the expansion of knowledge on this subject that progress can be made, so that future generations can live in a world without the dangers associated with explosive weapons that many individuals around the world know and fear today.

Danika Brown is an Undergraduate Student at the University of Ottawa and completed an extracurricular volunteer placement as a Research Assistant at Mines Action Canada.

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