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  • July 31st, 2017

Pugwash 60th Anniversary Conference

In front of Thinkers' Lodge
From 23-26 July in Halifax and Pugwash, Nova Scotia, in celebration of Canada’s 150th and the 60th anniversary of the Pugwash Conference, the Canadian Pugwash Group hosted the “Canada’s Contribution to Global Security Conference“.

Key focus areas included nuclear disarmament, multilateral peace operations, Outer Space and Cyber SecurityASATs and Space Weapons, the consequences of climate change for global security, and the Government of Canada’s recent defence and international assistance policy reviews. Click here for the full conference programme.

“The faulty doctrine of nuclear deterrence must be replaced with a sincere desire to build a global security architecture without nuclear weapons. This is a struggle of titanic proportions. But so was the struggle to end slavery, colonialism and apartheid.” (Hon. Douglas Roche)

A major theme of the conference was the implications for Canadian policy of the United Nation’s recent adoption of a landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“Canada’s opposition to the nuclear weapons ban treaty has degraded its reputation on disarmament, at home and abroad.” (Cesar Jaramillo, Project Ploughshares)

Another highlight was Cape Breton University Professor Sean Howard’s brilliant and sobering rumination on the pressing need for a “joined-up thinking” in Canadian policy around the unifying theme of disarmament.

“So the question isn’t really can international and cooperative security be combined, but why they haven’t been. And the answer is war.” (Sean Howard)

“And war profiteers.” (Peggy Mason)

The conference’s working groups produced a number of important recommendations, including the key policy steps needed to enable Canada to sign and ratify the new treaty.

“Noting the historic adoption July 7, 2017 at the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which prohibits, inter alia, the development, testing, production, manufacturing and possession of nuclear weapons; using or threatening to use nuclear weapons; assisting, encouraging or inducing in any way, anyone to engage in any prohibited activity,

Noting that Canada endorses the current NATO doctrine of nuclear deterrence,

Deploring that the Government of Canada has so far taken a position opposing the new Treaty,

Calls on the Government of Canada to:

1. Sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with an accompanying statement that Canada will, through dialogue and changes to its own policies and practices, persist in its efforts to bring NATO into conformity with the Treaty, with a view to Canada ratifying the Treaty as soon as possible.”  (Excerpt from CPG Nuclear Disarmament resolution)

Another recommendation calls for a high-level government-civil society Roundtable to explore the development of a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to sustainable peace and common security.

“Such a focus by Canada would start to give real meaning to the fine words by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in her statement to Parliament on June 6th, 2017.” (Peggy Mason)

Speakers, attendees, and the organizations they represent can now take the many lessons learned from the 2017 CPG Conference and apply them to their work in furthering Canada’s contributions to global peace and security.

Photo credit: Canadian Pugwash Group

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  • Blog
  • July 24th, 2017

Canada must champion non-military responses to global challenges

Minister Freeland outlines Canada's foreign policy objectives during a speech in the House of Commons. June 6, 2017. /// La ministre Freeland décrit les objectifs du Canada en matière de politique étrangère dans son discours à la Chambre des communes. 6 juin 2017.

On June 6th, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland gave an address to the House of Commons that outlined the government’s approach to foreign policy in the era of Donald Trump.

By and large, the statement drew accolades from media commentators for championing a rules-based international order and Canada’s determination to play a key role within it, particularly as the Trump administration turns its back on the idea of international leadership.

“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course. For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.

…we will robustly support the rules-based international order, and all its institutions, and seek ways to strengthen and improve them.” (Chrystia Freeland)

As welcome as these statements are, the speech offered virtually no insights into how Canada might actually go about supporting and strengthening the United Nations, other global institutions and international law.

What Minister Freeland did make absolutely clear, however, was the importance of “hard power” and the “billions” needed to sustain it:

“Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power. Force is of course always a last resort. But the principled use of force… is part of our history and must be part of our future. To have that capacity requires a substantial investment, which this government is committed to making.”

Delivered the day before the release of the new Canadian defence policy statement, Strong, Secure, Engaged, the speech laid the groundwork for a massive increase in defence spending and renewed emphasis on “hard power” while purporting to champion Canadian leadership on such urgent issues as climate change, gender inequality, and poverty alleviation – not one of which is amenable to a military solution.

And if there is one area where the United States is not retreating from the global scene, it is in relation to military activity.

“Trump has pledged to increase the already bloated U.S. defence budget, has augmented American military forces in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and has engaged in reckless sabre rattling with North Korea and Iran.” (Peggy Mason, Rideau Institute)

Even if the USA were backing away from its international military commitments – which it is not – any increase in Canadian hard power, no matter how gargantuan from our perspective, would be a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to replacing the American military juggernaut. In 2016, the American national defence budget was roughly $611 billion. Canada spent roughly $20 billion in that same period. Put in other terms, the new Canadian defence policy’s proposed $62 billion, 20-year budget increase will account for around 10% of what the U.S. spends in one year. Canada will not be matching American hard power anytime soon.

And this is a good thing. Because what is really needed was what the speech promised but did not deliver on – at least in any tangible way – Canadian leadership in non-military responses to global challenges.

“With no direct military threat to Canadian territory, we should restore and expand emphasis on war prevention and peaceful conflict resolution and give priority to building the United Nations envisaged by its Charter. Canada can be a beacon of hope in an unsettled world by pursuing and promoting, wherever possible, conflict prevention, the peaceful resolution of disputes and sustainable peace-building. We can press for multilateral over unilateral responses. We can be a constructive, innovative problem solver, striving to bring conflicting parties closer together to resolve their differences. We can thereby stave off or hasten the repair of breaches of the peace, limit human suffering and environment degradation and minimize costly military interventions.” (Civil Society Submission to Defence Policy Review)

Photo credit: Prime Minister Trudeau website.

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  • Blog
  • July 17th, 2017

Omar Khadr settlement a victory for the rule of law

Child soldier demo UK

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr.” – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale

“I hope Canadians take away two things today…. First, our rights are not subject to the whims of the government of the day. And second, there are serious costs when the government violates the rights of its citizens.” – Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould

The terms of the settlement provide Omar Khadr with compensation for the many ways that Canadian action and inaction contributed to the serious human rights violations he experienced beginning in 2002, continuing through three months in US detention at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, 10 years of imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, and two and a half years of further detention in Canadian jails in Ontario and Alberta before he was finally released on bail in May, 2015.  For more details click here.

“Omar Khadr was a child soldier illegally interrogated by Canadian agents while detained and tortured by a foreign power. He was convicted by a kangaroo court.

The ONLY way that anyone can disagree with this assessment is to ignore international law, the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decade of rigorous reporting by professional journalists such as Michelle Shephard at the Toronto Star and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.” – Michael Byers, Facebook post of 7 July 2017.

The settlement has proven to be extremely controversial with a CBC poll finding that a majority of Canadians oppose it.

One of the most contentious issues, completely unrelated to the reasons why compensation was paid to Omar Khadr, concerns his confession and subsequent guilty plea to a charge of murder for allegedly throwing a grenade and killing an American soldier, Sgt. Christopher Speer. It is undisputed that Khadr was told he would never get out of Guantanamo Bay if he did not plead guilty. Click here for a review of the alleged evidence against Khadr – which casts grave doubt on the prosecution’s version of the case.

“Without Khadr’s confession, obtained essentially by force, there is no compelling evidence that he threw any grenade at all. No one saw him do it, and from all appearances he’d been under that rubble the entire time.” – Sandy Garossino

But the lack of evidence is not the only glaring problem with the American government’s case for murder against Omar Khadr. Here is what Audrey Macklindirector of the Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, has to say about the charge of murder:

“Mr. Khadr was treated neither as a combatant nor as an accused criminal. Instead, the United States invented a new war crime called “murder by an unlawful alien enemy combatant.” The new offence made it lawful for U.S. soldiers to kill Mr. Khadr, but made it a war crime if he killed a U.S. soldier. This ersatz war crime was invented by the United States after his capture and then applied to his actions retroactively. No system governed by the rule of law does this.”

A terrible legacy of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s gross mishandling of this case is the distortion of facts for political gain, whatever the human cost. Click here for Michael Coren’s examination of this ugly phenomenon – the antithesis of political leadership – which is now on full display once again.

We must not let this ugliness blind us to the significance of this settlement as a triumph of Canadian justice and the rule of law:

“Redress for Omar Khadr …. plays a critical role in countering the immunity for national security-related human rights violations that is by far the norm in similar cases.” – Alex Neve, Amnesty International-Canada

“An apology is not only for the benefit of the aggrieved, but for the integrity of the apologizer. Canada and Canadians deserves the atonement, the reaffirmation and restoration of our values, that is made possible by the settlement.” (Law Professor Craig Martin)

“At the same time the government must also go further and make systemic changes in order to avoid such horrendous abuses of civil liberties and human rights in the future.” – ICLMG and Rideau Institute Statement on Omar Khadr’s settlement

One issue not addressed in this blog post is the civil judgement against Omar Khadr awarded to the widow of Sgt. Speer by a Utah court. Legal experts believe Canadian courts would be reluctant to enforce this judgement given its dubious legal standing.

Photo credit: Huffington Post UK

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RI President to speak at Group of 78 conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero

On Saturday, September 23rd Ambassador (ret’d) Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute, will speak on Panel 4 of the Group of 78’s annual policy conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero.  This panel entitled, Canadian Leadership for Common Security, will advance ideas for action by CanadaKeynote speaker Tariq Rauf, an Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO, is the second panellist and the moderator will be Ernie Regehr.

Registration and conference outline can be found below.


Conference 2017

Annual Policy Conference 2017

group-of-78_2011 small


Group of 78 Annual Policy Conference
In cooperation with:

Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Physicians for Global Survival
Rideau Institute on international Affairs

Cartier Place Suite Hotel, Ottawa, September 22-23, 2017

Eventbrite - Annual Policy Conference: Getting to Nuclear Zero Building Common Security for a Post-MAD World

 Conference Registration forms:           English   French

 Conference Outline

The quest for global sustainable peace is at a critical juncture. The considerable majority of countries, through the United Nations, is actively pursuing the crafting of a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons. This action faces many challenges, notably the opposition of most nuclear weapons states and some of their allies, including Canada.

Nuclear disarmament ultimately requires a shift from the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) to a commitment – in mind, policy and practice – to mutual security, through a sustainable common security regime rooted in global interdependence, the rule of law, and a recognition of the limited utility of military force in responding to political conflict. Common security is built on UN Charter principles and on mutual security arrangements, rather than competitive military alliances, and focuses on war prevention and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

These issues will be examined and debated in the Group of 78’s 2017 policy conference. Speakers and presenters will provide analysis of the process and prospects for abolishing nuclear weapons and seeking to define the elements necessary to transition to a post-nuclear weapons world. They will provide an overview of current international initiatives, delve into the status and prospects of the negotiations at the United Nations to eliminate nuclear weapons, assess the impediments to developing a common security framework without nuclear weapons, identify the building blocks for such a security system, and outline how Canada can play a constructive leadership role in this enterprise.

The aims of the conference will be (1) to provide participants with a thorough and cogent analysis of what’s involved in complete nuclear disarmament and building common security for the global community, and (2) to articulate ideas and recommendations to the Canadian government for its participation and leadership in this process.

Among the questions that the conference will address are: How realistic is the idea of, and what are the steps involved in, achieving complete nuclear disarmament? How does one overcome the objections of those who hold nuclear weapons now? What does a post-nuclear weapons world look like? How can public opinion be mobilized toward a safer, non-nuclear planet? What positions and actions can Canada bring to the table to accelerate movement to this goal? What can civil society undertake to encourage and support the Canadian Government in this role?

Further information on the detailed program and range of speakers will be available in the near future. Possible participants can contact the Group of 78 (http://group78.org/) for information as it becomes available and to express interest in attending the conference.


Friday, September 22– Dinner

Introduction and Welcome: Roy Culpeper, Chair of the Group of 78

Keynote Address:

Tariq Rauf, Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO (Comprehensive Nuclear-test-ban Treaty Organization), and former Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme at SIPRI/Sweden

Mr. Rauf will address, in broad scope, the opportunities and challenges of nuclear disarmament and building an alternative common security system. He will identify the key questions and issues the international community faces in this quest that can be explored further by conference presenters and participants.

Saturday – September 23

Introductory Remarks – Hon. Douglas Roche

Panel 1 – Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations: Status and Prospects

This panel will take stock of the status and/or results of the (GA Res 71/258) UN-mandated negotiations that will have concluded on July 7th.


Bev Delong, co-founder, Project Ploughshares Calgary; Chair, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; Board member, International Association of Lawyers Against           Nuclear Arms


1. Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director at Project Ploughshares

2. Irish Diplomat Michael Hurley (invited, tbc)

Panel 2 – Common Security: Major Impediments

This panel will identify and analyze key impediments to greater international cooperation toward common security and how they might be addressed.

Moderator: Metta Spencer, Science for Peace


1. Marius Grinius, Former Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam, South Korea and   North Korea; Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament

2.Tom Collina, Director of Policy, Ploughshares Fund (USA); formerly, Research Director of the Arms Control Association

Panel 3 – Achieving and Sustaining Common Security: Key Elements

This panel will identify elements to be addressed in order to achieve greater common security.

Moderator:   Tamara Lonincz


1. Peter Langille, Specialist in peace and conflict studies, United Nations peace operations, conflict resolution and mediation; author of the concept of a UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) and advocate for Sustainable Common Security

2. TBD

Panel 4 – Canadian Leadership for Common Security

This panel will explore the role Canada might play in order to help achieve common security in the world and advance ideas for action by Canada.

Moderator:      Ernie Regehr


1. Tariq Rauf, Advisor at the Office of the Executive Secretary of CTBTO

2. Peggy Mason, Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament; President, Rideau Institute

Conference Conclusion and Closing RemarksRoy Culpeper


Group of 78 Annual Meeting to follow immediately.

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  • Blog
  • July 10th, 2017

New UN treaty outlaws nuclear weapons

First Phase Digital

Friday, 7 July at the UN Headquarters in New York more than 120 countries adopted a landmark treaty to ban nuclear weapons. All nine nuclear-armed states, and all NATO members except the Netherlands, had refused to participate in the negotiations.

“These states recognize that the ban treaty would represent a potent stigmatization of the nuclear weapons they still cling to and an act of political and moral protest against their retention.” (Paul Meyer)

The treaty prohibits the possession, development, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and provides for nuclear weapons states to become parties by either a “destroy and join” or “join and destroy” plan for the verifiable elimination of their nuclear weapons. It also explicitly prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of non-nuclear weapons states.

“This new prohibition lays bare the fundamental contradiction between Canada’s legal status as a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT and our active participation in NATO – a nuclear-armed military alliance.” (Peggy Mason)

The Canadian position on the treaty was, in part, influenced by a U.S. memo from last year that strongly encouraged all NATO allies to vote against negotiations. Andrew Leslie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, went so far as to call the treaty negotiations “premature and ineffective” last month in Parliament. After decades of empty platitudes and inaction on the part of the Canadian government, it’s hard to believe that any forward movement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation can be considered ‘premature’.

“The integrity of the Canadian position that it really wants to do away with nuclear weapons, but not just yet, is in tatters.” (Douglas Roche)

Despite the refusal of nuclear states and their strategic allies to participate, the treaty represents an historic step forward in the ongoing push for nuclear disarmament, marking a “new, reforming spirit in global nuclear affairs.” Some also see the treaty as a powerful sign that the international community will not be intimidated by nuclear powers.

“It represents a structural change in the power structure between states… Emerging powers believe they can push an agenda that is not only opposed to the interests of the main military powers in the world but also something that condemns them.” (Leonardo Bandarra)

In 1978 Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau told the UN that “we must impart a fresh momentum to the lagging process of disarmament.” In 2017, his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had an unparalleled opportunity to help do just that. Instead Canada was not even at the negotiating table.


To learn more about the future of nuclear disarmament, join us at the Group of 78 Policy Conference, “Getting to Nuclear Zero: Building Common Security for a Post-Mad World,” on September 22nd.

For an important discussion of what parliamentarians can do to achieve a nuclear-free world, see the “Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World: 2017-2020”.

Photo credit: UN

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