Nuclear motion adopted: the Senate of Canada, 2 June 2010

Motion to Recognize the Danger Posed by the Proliferation of Nuclear Materials and Technology to Peace and Security Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Segal, seconded by the Honourable Senator Nancy Ruth,

That the Senate:

(a) recognize the danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security;

(b) endorse the statement, signed by 500 members, officers and companions of the Order of Canada, underlining the importance of addressing the challenge of more intense nuclear proliferation and the progress of and opportunity for nuclear disarmament;

(c) endorse the 2008 five point plan for nuclear disarmament of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and encourage the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General;

(d) support the recent initiatives for nuclear disarmament of President Obama of the United States of America;

(e) commend the decision of the Government of Canada to participate in the landmark Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., in April, 2010 and encourage the Government of Canada to deploy a major world-wide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament; and

That a message be sent to the House of Commons requesting that House to unite with the Senate for the above purpose.

Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: Honourable senators, I would like to discuss the motion moved by Senator Segal to recognize the danger posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology to peace and security. I will also take this opportunity to draw your attention to a few related issues.

Honourable senators, I am encouraged by the great strides achieved over the past year in the context of the international campaign to promote nuclear disarmament. The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington and the ever-increasing co-operation between the United States and Russia seem to confirm that the nuclear problem is definitely considered a top international priority.

However, there is still a lot of scepticism about whether these measures are really leading somewhere and whether the intentions are genuine. I must admit that I understand that scepticism. Years of diplomatic efforts, although encouraging, have not always had the results we could rightfully hope for. The situation seems to have gotten worse in many respects.

Senator Segal’s timely and relevant initiative is necessary to establish Canada’s position on security and nuclear disarmament. Although Canada joined like-minded countries to help create the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1957, and to help pass the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1970, since then, Canada has been remarkably silent in recent years. Nevertheless, I think we could do a better job than simply highlighting the declarations and initiatives made by others.

I understand that it is important to show our support for the initiatives described in the motion. However, I think it is also time for us to start thinking seriously about how Canada can help the discussions on the abolition of nuclear arms move forward.

(1540)

We need to ask ourselves two questions: does Canada really believe in this? If so, how can Canada use its resources to ensure that future generations will live in a world without nuclear weapons? If we really believe in abolishing nuclear weapons — and I think we do — then we have to prove it. We need to know how Canadians can make a credible, constructive contribution to improving nuclear safety and achieving the goals of nuclear non-proliferation and, ultimately, nuclear disarmament. Our contribution must be in line with those of our allies and the international community.

Canada has extensive and unique expertise and experience that are directly relevant to preventing nuclear proliferation. Shouldn’t we make the most of that expertise and experience and put those skills to use?

[English]

I believe that one area in which Canada could make a significant and invaluable contribution is around verification. Nearly every initiative outlining the necessary steps moving forward on nuclear disarmament, including those mentioned in Senator Segal’s motion, stress the need for an effective and, therefore, meaningful system of verification. The key element of such a system will be unrestricted access by the inspectors.

An agreement on arms control and disarmament without meaningful rules for verification will no doubt give rise to grave consequences. It could lead to violations being overlooked or to unfounded accusations of non-compliance. Either way, the system will have been weakened. If it is unable to get off the ground in the first place, it will certainly not be able to maintain the commitment or adherence of its members.

Some institutions have risen to the challenge of devising a system that could work. As one example, VERTIC, the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, in London, has been carrying out research in international simulations to test new ground in arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament verification.

Despite this work, there are still aspects of the existing proposals that fail to respond to the concerns of interested countries. For instance, how can verification of a treaty be undertaken without relying on the national technical means of participating countries, without requiring countries to disclose justifiably classified information and without violating their state sovereignty? This is only one of the policy and legal challenges in verification. On technological grounds, the limits of my knowledge of the science involved prevent me from going much further into the challenges that have been raised.

However, let me assure honourable senators that although the road ahead seems long, notwithstanding the knowledge and the experience gained by the IAEA since it began implementing its first nuclear safeguard systems in 1967, there is room to advance and to achieve the aim. That there are complex legal, scientific and engineering challenges in developing a credible system of treaty verification of nuclear disarmament, is one of the loudest arguments made by those opposed to disarmament. Opponents can easily point to the fact that the existing international treaties have not prevented certain states from developing clandestine nuclear weapons programs. The IAEA’s nuclear safeguard system has been very effective insofar as the nuclear programs declared by states and those states concerned. However, undeclared clandestine programs are beyond the vigilance of the agency. Why undertake the process of disarmament if it cannot be verified? Why commit the political capital and diplomatic resources if cases of non-compliance cannot be identified?

There is undeniable scope for taking on joint research among countries and for sharing information on verification research more broadly. This is valuable not only because it improves the thinking and available machinery for verification but also because it serves to enhance confidence between countries as they cooperate in overcoming their common problems. I think we can see that that area represents a clear need for action and a great opportunity.

Where is Canada in all of this? Honourable senators might be aware that Canada has a proud history of leading the field of verification research for arms control and disarmament. By bringing together the very best experts in government, the academic community and the private sector, Canada was able to develop important technological, legal, and institutional tools of verification. We can rightly claim that these tools constituted a significant contribution to the international framework upon which the watershed arms control agreements in Europe in the 1980s were negotiated and implemented.

My point is not to dwell on the past initiatives or past accolades, though as a side note it is worth noting that the Verification Research Program operated successfully on an annual budget of only $1 million. Rather, I want to draw attention to Canada’s demonstrated ability to respond to the needs of the international community in the very practical and meaningful way, as we have done in the past.

This is the kind of thinking we need now. We need this country’s leadership. We need this country’s grey cells to take on this role. Verification is but one issue central to the disarmament objective. Achievement of this objective cannot be dismissed as a matter dependent on the political will among the great powers. Its achievement will require the dedicated effort of countries like Canada to promote transparency, act as an honest broker and put all the required multilateral processes into action. We actually initiate, create and anticipate. Moreover, efforts to strengthen tools of verification should be combined with sustained efforts to address some of the issues that lead to proliferation, including poverty, resolution of regional and global tensions, such as the Middle East and the Far East.

Our Prime Minister should be seen to be solidly supportive by regularly speaking out on nuclear proliferation and disarmament, not just when the issues are topical, such as the Washington Summit. This has to be a consistent message and be made whenever and wherever opportunity presents itself. Canada should be clearly and strongly associated with the resolution of these challenges to world peace and prosperity and be universally known as the non-nuclear weapon world advocate.

[Translation]

I would also like to draw the attention of the Senate to another issue related to this motion, which is the fact that there is no mention of the Arctic, and I am talking about the Far North.

The Arctic is opening up more and more, and neighbouring countries are fighting each other for a share of the Arctic coastline and ocean floor. We can therefore expect a certain degree of militarization. To date, the process has been mainly peaceful and co-operative. We can say that there is no place for nuclear weapons in the Arctic.

The Canadian Pugwash Group, along with a host of other international organizations, has spent the past few years looking at the problem and gathering support for an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone. As part of this campaign, the organizations are calling on Arctic nations that do not have nuclear weapons, such as Canada, to do the following: first, negotiate a nuclear-weapon-free zone to be created on their land north of the Arctic Circle;

(1550)

Second, as a preliminary measure, include in these negotiations any states possessing nuclear weapons, so that these states include their own Arctic territory in an Arctic nuclear-weapon free zone; third, in order to actively promote a step-by-step approach, first target land territories, then, through negotiations, work on air space and marine areas; fourth, urge NATO to remove all restrictions from its member states that would impede the creation of an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone, for example, a nuclear arms storage agreement during times of war.

Canada must take this issue very seriously. Creating an Arctic nuclear-weapon-free zone will be a long process. Now is the time to launch this initiative, while the Arctic is being shaped, because this opportunity will not exist for long.

Honourable senators, I urge you to support Senator Segal’s motion. It is a major effort to initiate a debate in our country and draw attention to an issue that Canada could and should be more actively involved in. Nuclear weapons, by their very nature, threaten human rights around the globe. We need to take the opportunities that are given to us and do everything in our power to ensure that this world is safer for future generations.

[English]

I would like to end with an anecdote regarding a speech I gave at a high school just south of Winnipeg. After I spoke, a grade 11 student asked me: “Why are we worried about plastic bags and dirty water, when we have the ability to completely obliterate and eliminate the whole of the environment, the whole of the surface of the Earth?” I stood back and I said that, yes, she was right. We have nuclear weapons that can actually do that.

It is rather surprising that developed countries, over the last 20 years since the end of the Cold War, have invested nearly $1 trillion in modernizing these nuclear weapons, for absolutely nothing. We have not invested $1 trillion in protecting the environment.

We should not be surprised if the youth of this country think that we send mixed messages and that we are not necessarily consistent in how we see the future and the future of humanity.

The Hon. the Speaker: Are honourable senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Segal that the — shall I dispense?

Hon. Senators: Dispense.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to.)