An open letter to Jagmeet Singh and the leadership of the NDP

Nuclear Weapons Working Group


The website of the NPD features a link to your platform, with detailed discussions of policy proposals in a number of categories, ranging from health care, economics to environment and indigenous issues. Oddly, there is no discussion anywhere on your website of Canadian foreign policy or the NDPs' position on matters of foreign and security policy. Does this suggest that the NDP fully supports the foreign policies of the Trudeau government, including its militaristic approach and rejection of diplomacy in the conflict in Ukraine, the expansion of NATO, its consistent hostility to China, its illegal role in promoting regime change and sanctions against the people of Venezuela….? Perhaps the most glaring omission is the absence of any declared position on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). It was only a few months ago that the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (all nuclear powers including China and Russia) issued a joint statement that a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought. None of them has signed on to the treaty and all are engaged in modernizing/expanding their nuclear arsenals, in clear violation of their commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work to dismantle them.

Nuclear weapons, despite the end of the Cold War three decades ago, still are the most immediate existential threat not just to Canada but to our species as well as all the other species we share the planet with. The consensus of informed scientists around the world (as expressed in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock) is that humanity has never been closer to nuclear self-destruction than it is at this moment. Despite this frightening reality, the government of Justin Trudeau has refused to sign on to the treaty or even to attend the first meeting of states parties held in Austria last month. Is this also the position of the NDP? Do you really believe that Canada, which is not a nuclear power, is made safer by the possession of these weapons by other states?

In response to the Trump administration's unilateral abrogation of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement and the Open Skies Treaty -- after the administration of George W. Bush abandoned the U.S. commitment to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty -- the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has kept its Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight since January 2020. As Angela Kane, the former UN High Representative for Disarmament and Undersecretary General starkly put it: “The arms control architecture which constituted a strong pillar of strategic stability even in the highly rivalrous Cold War environment has crumbled.”

All of this was before Russia invaded Ukraine, raising tensions between the two largest nuclear powers on the planet to unprecedented levels. With President Putin warning of “consequences the likes of which have never been seen” for any country doing what NATO is now doing -- arming Ukraine-- how long until a tactical nuclear weapon is deployed or a NATO country supplying arms is attacked, leading to a tit for tat escalation to a full nuclear exchange? We are in fact already in a nuclear war if we accept that the mere threat of nuclear attack (implicit in Putin’s warning) is use of nuclear weapons. We would note that a state’s possession of nuclear weapons is an implicit threat to use them. Neither the use, threat or possession of nuclear

weapons is in keeping with existing international humanitarian law or basic morality. International law unambiguously outlaws the targeting of civilian populations. Clearly nuclear weapons, by the scale of their destructive powers, are contrary to this prohibition, quite independently from the TPNW.

A recent poll indicates that well over 70% of Canadians support Canada's becoming a party to the TPNW and similar numbers support it even in the face of opposition from the U.S. None the less our government has refused to support it. The government of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party does not control a majority of the seats in our parliament and relies on the support of the NDP to implement their legislative agenda. It appears to be an ideal situation in which the NDP could assert itself by making its support contingent on the Trudeau government respecting the preferences of the majority of Canadians by joining the treaty. Given the poll cited above, taking this position is unlikely to affect the NDPs' electoral appeal among voters negatively. The government claim that our NATO membership precludes signing the treaty has already been debunked by an extensive study by Harvard Law School. While none of the NATO members have signed the treaty, several at least attended the first conference of states parties to the treaty as observers. As elected representatives it is your duty, as you should not need reminding, to act in the interest of the safety of our country and its citizens and to reflect the opinions of the majority of those who elected you. Both of these duties compel you to push our government to reverse its rejection of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.