The ground-breaking Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) enters into force on 22 January 2021. Canada remains outside the TPNW despite the risks nuclear weapons pose to Canadians. No country is equipped to respond to a nuclear detonation whether that detonation is intentional or accidental.
In the absence of a Parliamentary study of the TPNW, a number of myths about the TPNW have been circulating in Canada. These myths inhibit Canada’s ability to meet its stated goals as being a leader on nuclear disarmament and leave us behind as progress is being made towards a world without nuclear weapons.
These Canadian myths about the TPNW need a reality check.
The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) just reached the 50 ratifications needed for entry into force! On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, Honduras ratified the treaty bringing about a historic milestone. In 90 days the TPNW will enter into force and become binding international law!
Mines Action Canada congratulates the 50 states and the dedicated campaigners of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons on making history. Those 50 states are on the right side of history and we hope that Canada will soon join them.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has provisions to mitigate the harm caused by nuclear weapons use and testing that will start being implemented immediately making it a very useful new addition to international law. Canada should support that work in line with our commitment to the SDGs, a Feminist Foreign Policy and the rules based international order and the join the Treaty without delay.
Congratulations to all 50 states for leading the way to a world free of nuclear weapons, and to everybody who was ever involved in making this happen!
To mark the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6 2020, Mines Action Canada Program Manager, Erin Hunt, spoke at Ethics in Tech's event called "Ignominious Anniversary: Remembering Hiroshima and Imagining a World Without Autonomous Killer Robots, Nuclear Weapons and Blanket Surveillance." You can watch the whole event online at the Ethics in Tech website or on YouTube:
Read more for her full remarks.Read more
PeaceBoat, a Japan-based international NGO that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment, stopped in Halifax this week. On board were hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) who are travelling the world, sharing their experiences and calling on states to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as well as a replica of ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize.
Mines Action Canada was pleased to welcome our colleagues to Canada and our Program Manager, Erin Hunt, was on hand to meet the boat and help bring the message of peace and disarmament to Canadian decision makers. The Halifax Peace Afternoon brought three hibakusha together with representatives from civil society organizations in Halifax as well as parliamentarians.
Guests heard remarks from Akira Kawasaki of PeaceBoat, testimony from 2nd generation Hibakusha, Shinagawa Kaoru,a speech from Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Matt DeCourcey and remarks from our Erin Hunt where she called on Canada to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and highlighted what was needed to ban the bomb.
"I think it is especially poignant to be hearing from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki here in Halifax. Halifax is the only city in North America and maybe the only other city in the world who can begin to understand what it is like to have your city destroyed by a single blast.
As Halifax learned in 1917, response, recovery and rebuilding after such destruction is difficult even without the radiation damage that Hiroshima and Nagasaki faced. The people of Halifax, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have all rebuilt their cities through courage, conviction and collective action.
Those three ingredients, courage, conviction and collective action also were crucial to the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and ICAN’s Nobel Peace Prize win."
You can read Erin's full remarks here.
CTV also visited PeaceBoat and met with the Hibakusha. You can see their full coverage here.
As Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Singapore, humanitarian disarmament organizations are highlighting the importance of disarmament more broadly to a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Both nuclear weapons and anti-personnel landmines will need to be addressed by the states involved.
The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a topic of much discussion. Working behind the scenes for the last month, a group of the world’s foremost nuclear disarmament experts have mapped out the best pathway for total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, determining that the existing international treaty framework is the most appropriate solution.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to promote denuclearization through a treaty-based solution, presented the “Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Roadmap” at a press conference in Singapore ahead of the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
The plan begins by recognizing the horrific loss of life and suffering that would be caused by any use of nuclear weapons. Experts agree that even a limited nuclear engagement on the Korean Peninsula would see upwards of 30 warheads detonated causing massive loss of life and cataclysmic environmental damage in North Korea and South Korea, as well as the entire Northeast Asia region. Any solution to the crisis requires all parties to reject nuclear weapons outright on humanitarian grounds, through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
The roadmap outlines a solution to the question of how the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized where states recognize the unacceptable humanitarian risk of nuclear weapons; reject weapons by joining the TPNW; remove existing weapons with verifiable and time-bound plans; ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and rejoin the world community through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The existing treaty frameworks are the only way to make Korean denuclearization permanent,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “There has been little talk as to what an agreement could look like. This roadmap answers the question at the heart of negotiations: How do North Korea and South Korea denuclearize in a way that is verifiable, irreversible and won't unravel?”
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the central point of the plan and joining the Treaty would oblige North Korea to immediately cease any development, production, and manufacture of nuclear weapons. North Korea would also be obliged to eliminate its nuclear-weapon programme, to resume implementation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards agreement, and to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.
The plan also calls on South Korea, which has not had nuclear weapons on their soil since the early 1990s, to denuclearize. South Korea must formally reject the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence in order to guarantee nuclear weapons will not be used on their behalf. This would not change existing military treaties between the US and South Korea, and the current “nuclear umbrella” security arrangement would be transformed to a general “security umbrella.” For its part, the US would take a practical step towards denuclearization by finally following through on its commitment to ratify the CTBT. North Korea and China would join the US in this step. Ultimately, ICAN calls on the US and all states to sign and ratify the TPNW and join the 122 nations who adopted the Treaty at the UN last July in moving towards a global nuclear weapons ban.
The plan at a glance:
1 Recognize the risk of nuclear use and unacceptable humanitarian consequences of such use.
2 Reject nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
3 Remove – a verifiable and irreversible plan for disarmament
4 Ratify the CTBT and verify through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization
5 Rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the world community
The full Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Framework is available for download here: http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ICAN-Korean-Peninsula-Denuclearization-Roadmap.pdf
Beyond denuclearization, the issue of anti-personnel landmines should be on the agenda not just at the Kim-Trump summit but at other talks aimed at building peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula is one of the most heavily landmine contaminated places on the planet. The Landmine Monitor has received reports of between 500 and 3,000 landmine casualties in South Korea but has no estimate of the number of casualties in North Korea. Despite the threat to civilians living near the Demilitarized Zone, landmines have not received much attention during this process.
Should this summit start a serious peace process, the United States of America, North Korea and South Korea will all need to deal with the landmines in the Demilitarized Zone. Similar to the calls from ICAN for North Korea and South Korea to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, both North Korea and South Korea should join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines together. Acceding to the Treaty together will be a confidence and peace building measure. There is a proven track record of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines being used to build confidence between states - Greece and Turkey joined the treaty simultaneously to further political trust between the two states. After joining the Ottawa Treaty, North and South Korea will have to demine the Demilitarized Zone. Working together to clear the landmines can further build trust and peace between the former adversaries as seen by the close cooperation between Ecuador and Peru to clear their formerly contested border of landmines. By joining and implementing the Ottawa Treaty together, North Korea and South Korea can begin to work towards a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Mines Action Canada hopes that the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore will bring renewed attention to the disarmament of the Korean Peninsula. We call on both parties to join the Ottawa Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an immediate peace dividend. It is time to take the first in a number of steps towards a nuclear weapons and landmine free peaceful Korean Peninsula.
Program Coordinator Erin Hunt spoke at the PEGASUS Conference on April 28. Here are her remarks.
Thank you for having me today.
When I was preparing for this talk, I looked into the land I would be visiting as part of personal efforts towards reconciliation and I learned that the land we are on today is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. The Covenant recognized that we have to share the responsibility of ensuring the shared dish (this territory) is never empty, which includes taking care of the land and the creatures we share it with. That idea that we all eat out of one dish with only one spoon is crucial to the story I want to tell you today.
This is the story of how ordinary people combined conviction, courage and collective action to do the impossible - to ban the bomb and take humanity one step closer to world without nuclear weapons.
At the heart of ICAN’s work and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a simple conviction: due to their humanitarian impact nuclear weapons must be prohibited then eliminated and we all have a role to play in that process.
We heard a convincing case for why nuclear weapons must be prohibited and eliminated from Ira. Regardless of your knowledge of medicine, nuclear physics, arms control, international law or diplomacy, it is easy to see that an indiscriminate weapon whose impacts cannot be contained poses an existential threat to us, the land and the creatures we share it with and is therefore unacceptable. If we all eat of out of one dish with only one spoon, we should never use or possess a weapon that could contaminate the dish for centuries.
For too many decades, the global conversation about nuclear weapons was something for the experts and most of the time those experts were men with security or military backgrounds. For the majority of the past 70 years the rest of us and our opinions were something to be humoured – maybe – but nuclear disarmament and deterrence was “serious” work for “serious” people and couldn’t be tainted with humanity or emotion. Actually discussing what nuclear weapons would do to people was considered a weakness.
Talking about what nuclear weapons do to people, bringing the evidence to the table was one of the key ways ICAN and like-minded members of the international community was able to break through the diplomatic deadlock. More importantly talking about the humanitarian impact of these abhorrent weapons allowed all of us to have a say. No longer was an in-depth knowledge of warhead yields required to advocate for disarmament. The mere recognition of the global catastrophic humanitarian harm that nuclear weapons could cause is enough to justify any of us speaking out on the issue. Every person and every state has a stake in nuclear disarmament and we no longer were willing to wait around for the nuclear weapon states to disarm.
One of ICAN’s advocacy videos produced in the lead up to the negotiations reminded viewers that “It takes courage to change the world.” Having conviction means little unless you have the courage to stand up for it. Campaigners faced naysayers in almost every country around the world - even here in Canada. The nuclear armed states and their allies were angry. Diplomats supporting the ban treaty were confronted and pressured to not attend the humanitarian initiative meetings, to vote against the start of negotiations and to not attend the negotiations. Ban proponents were accused of undermining the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and of dividing the international community. One particularly memorable example was an informal statement by the United Kingdom that made allusions to the UK and the US causing problems for the NPT if states went ahead with the negotiations and condescendingly disregarded ban states’ security concerns related to the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons as not real. Long standing colonial power dynamics were resurrected and used to coerce states. Funding to civil society organizations like ICAN was cut and some former champions of nuclear disarmament, like Canada, went strangely silent.
Campaigners and states alike gathered their courage and persisted despite the pressure and difficulty. At the end of 2016, a majority of the UN General Assembly voted to start negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. In July 2017, 122 states adopted a treaty text and in September over 50 states signed the treaty. We now have 51 states who have signed and another 7 who have ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
The reason we were able to achieve a treaty relatively quickly after decades of diplomatic deadlock is collective action. ICAN worked closely with a core group of states as well as the United Nations and the Red Cross movement throughout the process. Within ICAN, partner organizations collaborated at the international and national level to bring states on board with the ban treaty and make sure they were ready for negotiations. In many countries, parliamentarians, mayors and other decision makers were included in actions. A success in one country brought energy to the whole campaign. A shared goal made the partnerships between organizations stronger and helped motivate campaigners. We recognized that we all eat out of one dish so we have to work together to protect it.
Collective action was also a key part of civil society’s plan for the negotiations. ICAN followed the model of many humanitarian disarmament campaigns and worked both regionally and thematically. Campaigners were divided up according to the regions they were from and those regional teams worked to share messages and do advocacy with the states of that region. The thematic teams worked specifically on particular parts of the treaty. I was part of the positive obligations team which focused on ensuring that assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing, environmental remediation and international cooperation were included in the treaty. Obviously the fact that Canada boycotted the negotiations was a disappointment but being part of this successful positive obligations team was an incredible experience.
Collectively campaigners wrote working papers, delivered statements, worked with government delegates on language, organized stunts outside the UN, did media interviews, strategized, analyzed texts and kept the world updated through social media. Besides the adoption of the treaty there are two images that will stick with me from the negotiation process.
- Analyzing the new preamble on a midtown sidewalk with ICAN’s director and my colleague from Harvard Law School at 10pm one night. Beatrice had just been handed a hard copy at a dinner when we ran into her on the street so of course we had to stop and read it under a streetlight.
- Crowding on a couch in the UN basement with the posobs team and using whatsapp and emails to communicate with two supportive diplomats in the closed door small group negotiation session on the positive obligations and successfully getting problematic language fixed and good language put in.
Hopefully those images should give you a sense of the negotiations. What I can’t show you as easily is the energy of the ICAN delegation which included youth and the elderly survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, physicians and lawyers, teachers and students, faith leaders and academics, advocates and indigenous peoples – in short ordinary concerned citizens from around the world. This diverse group acting collectively is the reason we see some very important and often overlooked language in the treaty.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has some of the strongest language on gender in a disarmament treaty – not only recognizing that nuclear weapons have different effects on men, women, girls and boys, but also promoting the participation of women in the treaty’s decision making processes and implementation. The recognition that nuclear weapons activities have had a disproportionate impact on indigenous peoples in the Treaty’s preamble is ground-breaking. This is the first disarmament treaty to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples due to the hard work of Australian, Pacific and American indigenous activists whose land is still contaminated from nuclear weapons tests a half century ago. The impacts of nuclear colonialism continue to be felt and these provisions give voice to marginalized populations who have been excluded by the nuclear deterrence narrative for decades. Acting collectively brought the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons into existence and ensured it was an inclusive and pragmatic step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.
On July 7 2017, we collectively held our breath as the votes to adopt the text came up one by one on the screen and collectively we applauded, cried and hugged when the votes showed an overwhelming majority of states in favour. Later in the year, we collectively celebrated the treaty being opened for signature and then the Nobel Peace Prize. With courage, conviction and collective action, this group of ordinary people had changed the world.
Previous humanitarian disarmament treaties show that getting the treaty (and even winning a Nobel Peace Prize) is actually the easy part and the hard work comes now.
So what’s next and how can Canada and Canadians play a role?
The treaty needs 50 ratifications to enter into force so the priority for the next year or two is to get states to sign and ratify the treaty. Canada should be one of those first 50 and Canadians should, of course, be encouraging our government to join the Treaty as soon as possible.
Canada may not have participated in the negotiations or signed the Treaty yet but there are ways for Canada to contribute to its implementation. Canada should participate as an observer in all treaty meetings until we join. Before Canada joins and even after we should be focusing on the positive obligations provisions in the treaty.
These provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation in the treaty mean that the moment it enters into force it will begin to have an impact on the lives of people.
It is these provisions that offer Canada and Canadians the opportunity to engage meaningfully with the treaty. We have the skills, knowledge and resources to make a real difference to affected communities.
Our feminist international assistance policy and Canada’s work toward the sustainable development goals can help support victim assistance services or environmental remediation in nuclear weapons affected communities of the South Pacific, Algeria and Kazakhstan. Not only do we have to protect the dish we share but we also have to protect and help those we share it with.
Canada says it is committed to ensuring gender equality and to pursuing reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Engaging with the treaty will help us reach these goals.
In order to make these changes, parliamentarians need to hear from Canadians that this is an important issue. In some of our allies, parliament is the main force driving reviews of the treaty and its compatibility with NATO. So get out there and tell people what you have learned today and what you want to see.
When I started I said I wanted to tell you the story of ordinary people who used conviction, courage and collective action to achieve the impossible. So far we have been more successful that we dared dream but the story is just getting started and we need you to help us write the next chapter.
Statement on the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Mines Action Canada congratulates the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on being awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize! Coming 20 years after Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won, this award
recognizes their important work to the highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.
In the words of ICAN:
"This prize is a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.
It is a tribute also to the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the hibakusha – and victims of nuclear test explosions around the world, whose searing testimonies and unstinting advocacy were instrumental in securing this landmark agreement."
Mines Action Canada is proud to have worked with ICAN to share lessons from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines during the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
We encourage the Government of Canada to constructively engage with the nuclear ban treaty to help move us all towards a world without nuclear weapons.
This award further proves that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact.
Mines Action Canada (MAC) warmly welcomes the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by UN Member States at the United Nations on July 7, 2017. Over 120 states participated in the negotiations.
The process to develop the treaty was motivated by the catastrophic humanitarian impacts that would result of any use or detonation of a nuclear weapon. This new treaty is grounded in the humanitarian approach to disarmament pioneered by the Ottawa Process banning landmines. It makes nuclear weapons illegal as well as immoral.
MAC has been working on indiscriminate and inhumane weapons for over two decades so we are very pleased to see nuclear weapons prohibited like all other weapons of mass destruction. MAC staff were involved in the negotiations of this treaty to share lessons learned from the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. These lessons were translated into the Article 6 provisions on Victim Assistance and Environmental Remediation which were significantly strengthened over the course of negotiations.
MAC is glad to see the groundbreaking recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples found in the Preamble of the Treaty. This recognition is something MAC strongly advocated for in cooperation with a number of civil society and indigenous organizations. The treaty also highlights the impact of nuclear weapons on women and girls. MAC is pleased to see the commitment to supporting and strengthening the effective participation of women in nuclear disarmament and reference to the importance of peace and disarmament education in the Treaty.
Canadian civil society and parliamentarians participated in the negotiations and contributed to the development of this treaty as a strong normative instrument. “The Government of Canada did not attend the negotiations but Canadian civil society has ensured that the Treaty reflects Canadian values such as humanity, respect for the environment, peace, justice and security,” said Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator of Mines Action Canada.
Mines Action Canada strongly encourages Canada to sign the treaty when it opens for signature in September 2017 in order to continue our strong tradition of putting humanitarian concerns at the center of disarmament policy which started with the prohibition on blinding lasers, the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
(Moment of adoption - photo by Clare Conboy, ICAN)
Mines Action Canada's Statement to the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations Delivered by Erin Hunt, Program Coordinator
Thank you madam President. We are encouraged by the draft text’s inclusion of positive obligations and by the depth of debate on this topic.
With regards to assistance to affected individuals it is important that this treaty furthers existing norms and obligations and does not undermine them. There is no reason that victims of nuclear weapons use or testing should have fewer rights or less access to services than victims of other indiscriminate weapons. For that reason, we support Switzerland’s proposal about adding guidance for the implementation of victim assistance to the article.
It is important to note that assistance to victims is seen as the responsibility of all states not just those in “a position to do so” so we support removing that qualifier from Article 6(1) as suggested by many states.
Remember this international legal agreement does not create any new victims – states have existing obligations to those citizens. It does though formalize the need and right for international assistance and experience with other treaties has shown that victim assistance provisions can help states better organize their activities to be more effective and efficient. By requiring data collection, as well as national plans and policies, victim assistance provisions facilitate requests for assistance internationally and ensure that services are provided effectively allowing states to meet their existing obligations to their citizens.
Turning now to Article 6(2). While the draft treaty text references environmental remediation, it merely establishes a right to seek and receive assistance. The language should be amended to make clear that states parties have an obligation to take necessary and appropriate measures to ensure remediation of contaminated areas under their jurisdiction or control.
To promote the effective implementation of this obligation, the treaty should also require specific remediation measures, such as assessment and identification of contaminated areas, removal or containment of contaminated materials, and risk reduction education. These proposed amendments to draft Article 6 draw heavily from precedent in past disarmament treaties.
Primary responsibility for environmental remediation, like victim assistance, should rest with affected states, which are best situated to coordinate implementation in their sovereign territory. But international assistance would be available and Article 6 could also include language strongly encouraging states that have used and tested nuclear weapons to provide remediation assistance to affected states.
A separate article requiring all states parties to provide international cooperation and assistance would help affected states parties meet their victim assistance and environmental remediation obligations and ensure they do not bear an undue burden. None of these proposed changes to the draft treaty text would preclude affected states from seeking redress through peaceful means from states that have used or tested nuclear weapons.
Through the implementation of these strong provisions on positive obligations, the convention will contribute to the sustainable development goals and the realization of a number of other international agreements and goals. Strong provisions regarding positive obligations are the duty of all of humanity not just specific states.
There is nothing in these provisions, even amended as suggested, that prevents an affected state from seeking redress, through other peaceful means, from user and tester states. I encourage states to review NGO working papers 14, 24, 32 and 33. Thank you.