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Canada proclaims its dedication to abolishing nuclear arms – so why hasn’t Canada signed the UN Ban

November 2020

Open letter to:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

On January 22, 2021 the historic United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force for ratifying states. The treaty, negotiated and adopted by 122 non-nuclear nations, is an extraordinary achievement which points to a world free from the existential threat of nuclear war.

Despite Canada’s claim to the UN General Assembly on October 14th that it “advocates tirelessly for policies and practices to eliminate nuclear weapons,” our country boycotted the negotiation of the UN treaty, disparaged it as “sort of useless,” and on November 3rd voted against a UN resolution welcoming its entry into force.

Even more problematic, in the October statement, Canada declared that it “supports and understands the need for nuclear deterrence.”

Mr. Prime Minister, what is the world to believe? Does Canada wed itself to nuclear weapons or regard them as an existential threat to human civilization? We cannot have it both ways.

Canada professes a commitment to a feminist foreign policy, conflict prevention, stabilization, and peace building. But official support for nuclear deterrence, which entails maintaining the capacity to destroy cities, annihilate millions of people and threaten the eco-system, is a suicidal strategy that brazenly belies Canada’s stated goals and aspirations.

Nuclear disarmament requires a transition from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction to a commitment to mutual security. This transition can be achieved through the promotion of sustainable common security rooted in UN Charter principles, global interdependence, the rule of law, and recognition of the futility of military force in responding to political conflict. Canada could be a leader in this transition, but must first renounce its support for nuclear weapons.

To join the TPNW, Canada would need to abandon nuclear weapons as a tool of its security and remove itself from NATO’s Nuclear Planning Group. Canada could continue its good work on non-proliferation, verification and fissile material restriction, and encourage risk reduction measures, such as taking nuclear forces off high alert status, adopting no first-use policies and ensuring adequate security of existing nuclear weapons. But none of these replace the necessity to support the categorical prohibition of nuclear weapons in the TPNW.

With Canada’s authority behind the treaty, other states would be encouraged to denounce deterrence. A new dialogue would be stimulated on ridding our world of these deadly weapons.

Let Canada be counted among the countries envisioning a new tomorrow liberated from the peril of nuclear destruction. Please have the vision and courage to help make this a reality.


Science for Peace

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