• Blog
  • September 17th, 2018

It’s time for a Women, Peace and Security Ambassador for Canada


In the lead up to the UN International Day of Peace on 21 September, it is timely to consider a Private Member’s Motion  now before Parliament, that might just gain enough traction for the Justin Trudeau government to take note.

Introduced in February 2018 by MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the key paragraph of Motion 163 reads:

 [R]eaffirm Canada’s commitment to build on our recognized accomplishments and enhance our leadership role in advancing the cause of peace domestically and throughout the world by calling on the government to develop a plan to appoint a Women, Peace and Security Ambassador

Prior to its tabling, this motion was the subject of widespread civil society consultations and is backed by groups like the Canadian Peace Initiative and, crucially, by members of the Women, Peace and Security Network, Canada (WPSN-C). Says Coordinator Beth Woroniuk:

We have long called for a high-level champion to lead robust implementation of Canada’s National Action Plan on women, peace and securityWe have urged the Government to move ahead on this important initiative.

In the view of the WPSN-C, ideally the final mandate of this position will focus on ensuring that Canada is truly a leader on WPS with:

  • policy coherence across diplomacy, aid, trade, defence and related policy areas;
  • significant investments (including increased support for women peacemakers);
  • clear attention to results; and
  • accountability ensured
    • through direct reporting to the Minister of Foreign Affairs;
    • and through building on collaborative relationships with civil society.

The motion is expected to be debated in two different parliamentary sittings, over the next few months, so there is still time to further enhance this forward-looking proposal.

For the full text of Motion 163, click: Women, Peace and Security Ambassador.

For more detail on the WPSN-C recommendations, click here.

Photo credit: UN Women Watch

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  • Blog
  • September 10th, 2018

Senate report chooses human rights over weapons exports


On 4 September the Rideauinstitute.ca blog discussed key pieces of legislation upcoming in the Senate, including in particular Bill C-47, on Canada’s arms export policy, and highlighted the key role that civil society can and must play in strengthening it.

For this vital effort, civil society has received an enormous boost in the form of the June 18 report of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard, entitled Promoting Human Rights – Canada`s Approach to its Export Sector:

Where there is a substantial risk that exports could be misused to commit or facilitate serious violations or abuses of internationally recognized human rights, or serious violations of international humanitarian law, an export permit should be denied. Canada should not compromise human security for the benefit of commercial interests. (page 22)

And, in fact, the Liberal government has now amended Bill C-47 to introduce just such a rigorous test, albeit with some troubling limitations, as reported in earlier blog posts.

But the Senate Report goes much further than this one amendment.

In order to ensure that the Government has the information and tools to effectively apply the new human rights test, the Committee calls on Global Affairs Canada to:

  • consult stakeholders, including civil society and academics, in the development of assessment tools for use in the export permit application process;
  • regularly consult with stakeholders to provide information on the human rights situation in various countries and provide formal channels for the submission of information regarding the end-use and end-users of proposed exports; and
  • work with stakeholders including civil society to explore “contractual” mechanisms and other ways to better monitor end-use and end-users of military goods exported from Canada.

Problematic Public Sector Support for Arms Exporters

Equally welcome is a section of the report, forthrightly entitled “Problematic Public Sector Support for Exporters”. Here the Committee makes clear its profound concern over Canadian Crown Corporations — including the Export Development Corporation and the Canadian Commercial Corporation — failing to ensure that their practices comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It goes on to make a series of innovative recommendations to remedy this disturbing misuse of taxpayer monies. [See pages 32–36.]

This report could not be more timely as Canada endures reprisals from Saudi Arabia for its diplomatic activity on behalf of Saudi women’s rights advocates, while continuing to export a new generation of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, even as UN Experts release a new report condemning that country for war crimes in Yemen. — RI President Peggy Mason

For the full Senate Human Rights Committee report, click Promoting Human Rights – Canada`s Approach to its Export Sector (18 June 2018).

Photo credit: Wikimedia images (Haja, Yemen).

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  • Blog
  • September 4th, 2018

Canadian civil society gears up for crucial Senate hearings


There are three key pieces of legislation before the Canadian Senate, which resumes sitting in mid-September.  They are:

  • Bill C-47 – legislation to enable Canada to become party to the global Arms Trade Treaty
  • Bill C-71 – legislation to better regulate ownership, transport and sale of domestic firearms
  • Bill C-59 – legislation intended to remedy many of the flaws in the widely condemned Harper government legislation, Bill C-51, which became The Anti-terrorism Act, 2015.

Bill C-47 has been the subject of many Rideauinstitute.ca blog posts. Sustained pressure from civil society has resulted in one significant amendment to the draft legislation, but glaring loopholes still remain.

“The broad coalition of NGOs that has worked so hard to improve Canada’s arms export control regime will be gearing up again this fall to ensure that our Senators are made fully aware of the need for further amendments,” says RI President Peggy Mason.

The mass shooting in Toronto’s Greektown this summer, following on the heels of other gun deaths in Toronto, has highlighted the fundamental importance of strengthening Canadian domestic gun controls. This in turn has brought further much-needed attention to Bill C- 71, which received third reading in the House of Commons on June 20th, 2018.

“For the last 10 years, we’ve had a steady erosion of gun control in Canada and for four years, we’ve seen successive increases in gun homicide across the country,” said Wendy Cukierpresident of the Coalition for Gun Control and a professor at Ryerson University. “When you increase the availability of firearms, you increase the risk they will be misused.”

For the full testimony by Wendy Cukier to the Parliamentary Committee hearings into Bill C-71, click Testimony of Wendy Cukier, Coalition for Gun Control  (24 May 2018).

Given the shortcomings in Bill C-71 and the calls from Toronto Mayor John Tory for federal action, the Justin Trudeau Liberals recently announced that Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, will lead a study on totally banning handguns and assault rifles.

“You should lead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians,” Blair’s mandate letter reads.

Last but not least is Bill C-59, legislation that was supposed to remedy the terrible defects and overreach of the Harper legislation, Bill C-51, that was condemned by eminent jurists, former prime ministers and academic and non-governmental experts alike. Unfortunately, while the Liberal legislative proposals have some very positive elements, serious defects remain.

Next Steps

All of this legislation will now be the subject of Senate hearings and it will be imperative for civil society to make its views known.

We will count on your support in this vital ongoing effort to ensure that the Liberal government hears and heeds us!


Photo credit: Wikimedia (Senate of Canada)

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  • Blog
  • August 27th, 2018

Even under Trump’s (non-) leadership, NATO members continue familiar pattern of servility

President Trump and PM Justin TrudeauFor a remarkably honest and clear-eyed assessment of post-Cold war NATO, one need look no further than Tony Wood’s article in the New York Review of Books:

Rhetorical differences aside, successive US governments have always been clear that NATO is not a gathering of peers. Its function has been to bind European states into an international order dominated by the US—and to do it on Washington’s terms.

The original Alliance goals — summarized crudely as keeping the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down — clearly had to be revamped with the fall of Communism.  Indeed many believed that NATO too should have vanished along with the Soviet Union.

But that was not to be. Instead NATO became the cornerstone of a “vast strategic expansion” designed to enable the US to have a guiding hand in the post-Communist transformation of Eastern Europe.  In other words, the Cold War strategy of “containment” of the then Soviet Union was replaced by a strategy of enlargement of the world’s ‘free community of market democracies’.

Yet this expansion of NATO, in violation of promises to Gorbachev from several Western leaders, helped to increase tensions with Russia and thus generate the very threat it was allegedly designed to counter.

Here is the point that Tony Wood’s article hammers home most clearly:

That decision [to enlarge NATO]…. was founded not on a collective assessment of Europe’s likely security needs during the post-cold war peace, but on Washington’s unchallenged sense of its own priorities. An alliance that had served as the linchpin of the US-led international order since World War II was subordinated still more firmly to the US’s specific foreign policy goals.

The abject servility (there simply is no other word) of America’s NATO allies could not have been better demonstrated than at the Brussels Summit in July 2018. Trump’s foreign policy, from the revocation of the Iran nuclear deal, to the exacerbation of the Israel-Palestine conflict to the multiplying trade wars, is vigorously opposed by most of NATO’s longstanding members, including Germany*, France and even the UK. Despite this, Alliance members acquiesced to every American demand, and the final Summit Communiqué bears witness to this sweeping capitulation.

Thus, among other things, all NATO members agreed to an immediate increase in military spending and to the creation of an extraordinary new NATO rapid-reaction force by 2020. Dubbed the “Four 30s,” it will consist of thirty battalions, thirty air squadrons, and thirty warships, ready to deploy within thirty days. (See paragraph 14 of the Communiqué.)

Tony Wood summarizes the now all-too-familiar NATO dynamic in witheringly blunt terms:

Far from being anomalous or atypical, the Brussels summit neatly encapsulated the power dynamic between the US and NATO: Washington issues instructions, politely or otherwise, and its European allies fall into line.

Of course it is not just European allies who fall into line but Canada too. Nonetheless, the one thing in which we hapless citizens can take comfort is the virtual certainty that, whatever the actual text of the Summit Declaration, with the prospect of a federal election looming, we can be sure that further increases in the Canadian defence budget are decidedly not in the offing.

For the full article by Tony Wood, see: NATO and the Myth of the Liberal International Order (The New York Review of Books, 21 August 2018).

For the full text of the 2018 NATO Summit Communiqué, see: Brussels Summit Declaration (NATO, 11 July 2018).

Photo credit: TheGuardian.com (President Trump and PM Justin Trudeau)


*Germany was not a founding member of NATO but joined as West Germany in 1955.

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  • Blog
  • August 14th, 2018

Let’s make it clear to Saudi Arabia that bullying will not work


The RideauInstitute.ca  is on a short summer break, back next Friday 24 August.

However, in the meantime, why not show your support to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for standing up to the Saudi Arabian bully boy, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, by sending an email to:

For a recent commentary on the Saudi debacle see:  Saudi Arabia’s diplomacy has costs (Bruce Riedel, Al-Monitor, 12 August, 2018).


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Jeddah Seafront, Saudi Arabia).

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