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The Campaign for Canadian Accession to the UN’s Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Written and translated by Pierre Jasmin, member of LES ARTISTES POUR LA PAIX, joined by two other members of, Phyllis Creighton and Tamara Lorincz.

On the eve of the entry into force at the U.N. of the crucial and historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), an independent senator, a former senator and former MP from the (Progressive) Conservative Party, and four parliamentarians from four other parties represented in the House of Commons, confronted the Trudeau government for keeping a complicit silence with NATO.

Who are these six braves? Four MPs, Elizabeth May of the Green Party, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith of the Liberal Party, Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois, Heather McPherson of the NDP plus independent Senator Marilou McPhedran and former disarmament ambassador, Douglas Roche, OC, held a one-hour press conference to welcome the entry into force of the TPNW. Thanks to Anton Wagner, a preceding Hill Times three-page ad, Towards a nuclear weapons free world, showed signatures of 400 groups and individual backing the Treaty, so these six politicians were representative of a wide Canadian political spectrum, which did not hesitate to denounce weapons of mass destruction bound to disproportionately affect civilian populations.

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe articulated in French a position more assertive than his preceding stand in English on November 19th – with the BLOC Québécois seeming more determined than ever to favour Canada’s adherence to the TPNW. Alexis generously highlighted the courage of Liberal MP Erskine-Smith, who along with Senator McPhedran, asked our PM to show the same strength as Brian Mulroney did in backing the anti-apartheid movement (contradicting Reagan and Thatcher) and as Jean Chrétien (who actually backs the TPNW) when he advanced the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines. Alexis also opened the door to denounce the lax Liberal policy on nuclear waste (also attacked by Gordon Edwards – CCNR). A firm Doug Roche finally denounced the weakness of Freeland–Garneau-Trudeau, pleading for them to honor the 75–year-old Canadian tradition of involvement in promoting UN peace initiatives.


A press release, issued on January 18th via the Parliamentary Press Gallery, was ignored by the Canadian media, demonstrating a widespread lack of interest, we call it censorship when mirrored in Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, all armed with nuclear bombs, together with the United Kingdom, France, the United States and the 26 complicit NATO “nuclear umbrella” member countries (including Canada, of course). The press note stated:

“On January 22nd, Canadians from coast to coast join people throughout the world in celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 90 days after Honduras became the 50th state to ratify this landmark Treaty.”

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres heralded the Entry Into Force of this Treaty as “the culmination of a worldwide movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It represents a meaningful commitment toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.” 

Setsuko Thurlow, now a Canadian citizen, survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at age 13 (Photo Project Ploughshares)

Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, now a Canadian citizen who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a 13-year-old, said, “When I learned that we reached our 50th ratification, I was not able to stand. I remained in my chair, put my head in my hands and cried tears of joy. I found myself speaking with the spirits of hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the success of this Treaty”.

Ms. Thurlow, who has devoted her life to nuclear abolition, is a recipient of the Order of Canada and was honoured, along with Ms. Beatrice Fihn, general director, to co-accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (

Negotiated in 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons legally prohibits under any circumstances, the development, manufacture, production, testing, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. It also obliges states party to provide assistance to victims of the use of nuclear weapons in Japan and of the more than 2,000 nuclear tests conducted in various locations throughout the world since 1945.

Although the Treaty legally binds only nations that choose to accede to it, it establishes new global norms and is widely seen as a major contribution to international humanitarian law, complementary to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) that entered into force in 1970.

The Prohibition Treaty has been endorsed on the 7th of July 2017 by 122 nations in the UN General Assembly, following its presentation by Costa Rican Ambassador Elayne Whyte-Gomez. It currently has 86 signatories and 51 ratifications. 

Regrettably, all nine nuclear armed states and their allies – including Canada – boycotted negotiation of this Treaty and continue to denounce it. 

Civil society organizations across Canada have called upon the Government of Canada to hold a debate on the Treaty in Parliament and to allow the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to hold public hearings on Canada’s role in advancing nuclear disarmament.”


1 On January 20, the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons launched a call to action on nuclear disarmament addressed to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues including 17 recommendations to make Canada effective in the global campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons (see website).

2 Petition in Support of the Treaty:  Elizabeth May sponsored a bilingual electronic petition by Dr. Nancy Covington calling on the Government of Canada to accede to the Weapons Ban Treaty. More than 1,800 signatures!

3 Les Artistes pour la Paix (APLP) created a 2-page photo retrospective of their 36–year-old struggle against the nuclear bomb.

4 The Foreign Policy Institute invited Noam Chomsky who spoke on January 22nd on The Threat of Nuclear Weapons: Why Canada Should Sign the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.

5 Échec à la guerre presented an article by Professor of International Law (UQAM) Rémi Bachand in La Presse (which unilaterally altered its title and published a photo of North Korean missiles in a puerile attempt to contradict the article’s peaceful aim).


The objective of this article is not to look backward, but to make us collectively conscious of our great achievement, FIRST by supporting along with 129 other countries the TPNW and of course the Canadian calls for a parliamentary debate. That the media chose to ignore such a simple democratic request shows how they are linked to the military–industrial complex’s financially–motivated stand, against the UN common good, which favors diplomatic over military actions. 

In conclusion, be sure to read an article co-written by Jasmin with Phyllis Creighton  and Tamara Lorincz. Its French version appeared on the 4th of February weekly electronic edition of l’Aut’Journalix. The opinion was also shared Friday February 5th with the half-thousand or more members from 17 Québec universities in le Regroupement DES UNIVERSITAIRES (DU)

[Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash]


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