Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Enters into Force
(Ottawa, 22 January 2021) Today Canadians celebrate nuclear weapons finally being prohibited under international law. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also referred to as the nuclear ban treaty, entered into force today; 90 days after Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the Treaty. The Treaty will become legally binding for the 51 countries which have so far ratified it, and represents a major step forward for nuclear disarmament.
Canada has not yet joined the nuclear ban so Canadians from coast to coast are calling on Parliament to consider joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The TPNW is the first international treaty that comprehensively prohibits nuclear weapons. It includes absolute prohibitions on developing, testing, producing, stockpiling, stationing, transferring, using, and/or threatening the use of nuclear weapons. The Treaty also addresses, for the first time, the impact nuclear weapons activities have had on indigenous communities. Inspired by the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, this Treaty also includes positive obligations such as the provision of assistance to communities affected by nuclear weapons use and testing around the world.
For the 51 countries now legally bound by the Treaty all these provisions came ‘into force’ today. As with other treaties, such as the Ottawa Treaty, more countries will become legally bound as they ratify the TPNW.
For governments which are yet to join the Treaty, like Canada, the power of the TPNW comes from the message it sends. Nuclear weapons are now prohibited. When weapons are prohibited, investment in their production declines, they become stigmatized and it becomes easier to eliminate them.
The TPNW is the result of decades of work by dedicated activists and diplomats around the world. The International Campaign Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) worked tirelessly for this treaty and was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
“Despite the global pandemic of 2020, 17 states finished their internal legal work to ratify the Treaty giving the world a shining example of what committed action for a better world, diplomacy and multilateralism can accomplish.
For years the nuclear armed states repeated endlessly that prohibiting nuclear weapons was impossible. Today proves that when we focus on the humanitarian impact of weapons and work collectively it is possible to change the world. 75 years of activism has paid off. Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal.” said Erin Hunt, Program Manager, Mines Action Canada and a member of ICAN’s negotiating team on the TPNW.
Canadians have taken a leadership role in ICAN throughout this process including Japanese Canadian hibakusha or Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow who was one of two people to accept the Nobel Prize on behalf of ICAN. A dozen Canadian municipalities have endorsed the TPNW through ICAN’s City Appeal while 27 Members of Parliament and 19 Senators have signed ICAN’s Parliamentary Pledge joining the over 1,000 Canadians who have signed a parliamentary petition in support of the TPNW. Despite the leadership of Canadians, Canada has been slow to join or launch substantial discussion in Parliament regarding the Treaty. Parliament can no longer put off the TPNW.
To celebrate the entry into force, a photo collage of residents in British Columbia and Washington State publicly stating their opposition to further transit of nuclear weapons through the Salish Sea (Juan de Fuca Strait, Georgia Strait and Puget Sound) will be published. Mines Action Canada will also be hosting an Instagram Live with youth activists from British Columbia and Washington State to discuss their nuclear disarmament work.
“Public opinion polls show the public unambiguously supportive of global nuclear disarmament. We know it can be done because Canada led on the international convention which banned antipersonnel landmines. That was one of Canada’s foreign policy initiatives which has had the most significant impact on reducing suffering caused by that weapon on every continent. Prohibition of a weapon comes before its elimination! Canada lost its opportunity to lead on banning Nuclear Weapons but the opportunity to strengthen this new international instrument is in our hands now. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons asks a question that Canada needs to answer: will Canada help end nuclear weapons or will Canada wait until nuclear weapons end us?” said Dr. Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan of Mines Action Canada.
To mark the entry into force of the TPNW, civil society organizations from across Canada have come together to call on Parliament to launch a study on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Canadians deserve a public debate about this groundbreaking treaty.
Negotiated in 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons legally prohibits, under any circumstances, the development, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. It also requires states party to the treaty to provide assistance to victims of the use and testing of nuclear weapons.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was negotiated and adopted by 122 nations in the United Nations General Assembly. It currently has 86 signatories and 51 ratifications. Canada boycotted the negotiations and remains outside the Treaty to this day. However, Canadian civil society, including Erin Hunt representing Mines Action Canada, played an important role in the negotiations.
Read our new document on myths and reality checks about the TPNW here: https://www.minesactioncanada.org/tpnwmythbusting
The photo collage of residents in British Columbia and Washington State is available at: https://www.minesactioncanada.org/salishsea_photoaction
Public opinion polling in six NATO countries shows widespread support for the TPWN: https://www.icanw.org/nato_poll_2021
A global list of Entry into Force activities can be found at: https://www.icanw.org/events.