• Blog
  • August 26th, 2016

Canada spurns UN nuclear disarmament plan

Craters from previous underground nuclear test semiplasticik (2)

In an article which first appeared in Wednesday’s Hill Times, former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Doug Roche delivered a stinging rebuke to the Liberal government for its recent actions in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament. See Canada Turns Back on UN Nuclear Disarmament Plan (Douglas Roche, 24 August 2016).

The focus of his concern was the vote by Canada in the Geneva Open-ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament against nuclear disarmament negotiations. Writes former Ambassador Roche:

The government turned its back on an important nuclear disarmament initiative and sided with the nuclear weapons states that want to keep and modernize their nuclear arsenals for the rest of the 21st century.

Canadian Tariq Rauf, one of the world’s leading experts on nuclear disarmament and head of the Disarmament, Arms Control, and Non-proliferation Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, went even further, saying Trudeau “seems disengaged on nuclear arms control” and that the present government has “undermined” the nuclear disarmament work so valiantly championed by Pierre Trudeau.

This astounding action by Canada comes just as nuclear disarmament experts are gearing up for a conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, which will take place on 28-29 August.

In the words of  Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who will open the conference:

We hope to capitalize on the leadership Kazakhstan has been taking for a nuclear-weapon-free world. On August 29, 1991, I officially closed the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (also known as “The Polygon”), which had been the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons.

This conference will bring together parliamentarians and mayors from around the world, along with a selection of religious leaders, government officials, disarmament experts, policy analysts, civil society campaigners, and representatives of international and regional organisations (UN, OSCE, ICRC, etc.) to build political will and traction for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

Among those in attendance will be Rideau Institute President and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Peggy Mason, who will make a presentation in Panel Session I: Security without nuclear weapons or war: “Manifesto of the World for the 21st Century”.


For those who have not yet signed it, please click here to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop undermining negotiations and, instead, begin to lead internationally on nuclear disarmament.

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  • Blog
  • August 25th, 2016

Conference on Arms Trade Treaty meets in Geneva


The World Trade Organisation is hosting the second conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which came into force in 2014, laying out new rules governing the international arms market.

Arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen have largely dominated the conference, with the Control Arms coalition urging major weapons exporters to cut sales to Saudi Arabia over its actions in Yemen.

Since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign last March, France has authorized $18bn in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia last year, the United States approved arms deals with Riyadh worth $5.9bn in 2015, while for Britain the figure was $4bn. (ATT Monitor 2016 Report)

A recent article in the Economist points out that the Saudi coalition has a worse record for civilian casualties in Yemen than the oft-criticized Russian air campaign in Syria:

Air strikes were responsible for more than half the thousands of civilian deaths in the 16-month campaign, Amnesty International reported in May. It found evidence that British cluster bombs had been used. Together with other watchdogs, including the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam, it has documented the use of Western weaponry to hit scores of Yemeni markets, medical centres, warehouses, factories and mosques. One analyst alleges that the use of its weapons amounts to Western complicity in war crimes.

According to Oxfam, the UK government has switched from being an enthusiastic backer of the international Arms Trade Treaty to one of the most significant violators. See UK in ‘denial and disarray’ over Saudi arms sales being used in Yemen: Oxfam (Middle East Eye, 23 August 2016):

How can the [UK] government insist that others abide by a treaty it helped set up if it flagrantly ignores it?

Control Arms also accuses major exporters of fueling the war in South Sudan by authorizing arms transfers despite clear UN sanctions. SeeWestern powers flouting international law by selling arms to Saudis: group (Globe and Mail, 22 August 2016).

And what about Canada?

Not only is Canada complicit in the Saudi violations of international law through its $15 billion sale of armoured vehicles, but Canadian companies have also been cited by UN experts for violating the UN arms embargo on South Sudan.

The latest update from the CBC on the South Sudan arms scandal reports that the Canadian government, after initially alleging it had no responsibility in the matter, has now referred the UN panel’s findings about the Streit Group to the RCMP. In the words of government spokesperson François Lasalle:

It is the role of the RCMP to investigate potential offences under Canadian law, while the prosecution of offences under federal jurisdiction is the responsibility of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada who will determine if Canada has jurisdiction to prosecute based on the facts of the case.

The Streit Group is also accused by the UN of breaching international law through the “illicit transfer” of armored vehicles to Libya contrary to a UN embargo on arms dealings.

For the full Control Arms report on compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty, see  The 2016 Report (Arms Treaty Monitor).

Note that Canada has said it will ratify the Arms Trade Treaty by June 2017.

Photo credit: Control Arms

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  • Blog
  • August 12th, 2016

Rideau Institute Staff on Holiday!


We have amazing staff, interns and volunteers at the Rideau Institute and we could not get along without them.  They help us in so many ways from research, to media scans, to blog drafting, to event preparation, to press conferences, to public outreach and of course to helping us with donor services.

Just one recent example. As well as doing superb research on the situation in Egypt for a panel presentation by RI President Peggy Mason at the World Social Forum in Montreal on 11 August, volunteer Ali Hassan was also Chief Navigator on the drive to and from Ottawa.

As President of the Rideau Institute, it is my great pleasure to give our staff and volunteers a well-deserved one week holiday, starting Saturday 13 August. That means no blogs and no social media posts until Monday 22 August.” Peggy Mason

To find out a bit more about these fabulous folks, click on the individual names below:


Sarah Bowles, Office Manager



Steve Staples, RI Vice-President



Claire Zhou, RI Volunteer (and former RI Progressive Public Policy Intern)



Agradip Dutta, RI Progressive Public Policy Intern (Volunteer)



Ali Hassan, RI Volunteer



Derek Mackay, RI Progressive Public Policy Intern



For those who have not yet signed it, please click here to call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lead internationally on nuclear disarmament.

And click here for the response to our petition from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

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  • Blog
  • July 28th, 2016

Canadian diplomacy urgently needed for nuclear disarmament



The destructive power of nuclear weapons cannot be contained in space or time. They have the potential to destroy all civilisation and the entire ecosystem of the planet. (International Court of Justice, 1996)

In the days before the 71st anniversary of the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic bombings , on August 6th and 9th respectively, we must reflect on how we can move away from the nuclear brink.

15,350 nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of nine states, approximately 1,800 of which are on “high alert” status and can be launched within minutes.

Worse still, the United States has committed to a massive, 1 trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization programme, with the other nuclear weapons states following suit to one degree or another. The latest to commit to a hugely costly modernization programme is the United Kingdom. For an impassioned argument on the illegality of the use of nuclear weapons, published on the eve of the UK Parliamentary vote, see: Using Trident would be illegal, so let’s phase it out, by Geoffrey Robertson (The Guardian.com, 15 July 2016).

Alarming new risks include an attempted coup in Turkey involving the very military base where American tactical nuclear weapons are stored. See: The H-Bombs in Turkey by Eric Schlosser (The New Yorker, 17 July 2016).

Warns William J. Perry, former American secretary of defence in his new book, My Journey at the Nuclear Brink, (Stanford Security Studies, 2016):

Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War … and most people are blissfully unaware of this danger.

In light of these alarming developments, which put the very future of the planet at risk, the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and 44 sponsoring civil society organizations including the Rideau Institute have issued a Call to Action to the Government of Canada to PLAY A GREATER LEADERSHIP ROLE IN THE ABOLITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

We urge vigorous diplomatic action and civil society engagement towards the negotiation of a comprehensive, legally binding convention that prohibits nuclear weapons and requires their verifiable elimination.

Click here for the full text of the Call to Action and the list of sponsoring organizations.

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  • Blog
  • July 21st, 2016

Tony Blair: “the lies, deceits, duplicities and fudges”

A soldier serving with Number 1 Company 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards, looks for possible Iraqi enemy positions, as Royal Engineer technicians prepare to cap one of the burning oil wells within the city of Basra.

Philippe Sands is professor of law at UCL and a barrister at Matrix Chambers.  His review of the Report of the Iraq Inquiry by John Chilcot appears in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. See: A Grand and Disastrous Deceit (LRB, Vol. 38 No.15, 28 July 2016).*

Professor Sands introduces the 12-volume, 6,275-page report, seven years in the writing, thusly:

It offers a long and painful account of an episode that may come to be seen as marking the moment when the UK fell off its global perch, trust in government collapsed and the country turned inward and began to disintegrate.

Professor Sands highlights the trenchant conclusions that have been singled out in most of the media commentaries on the report, namely that:

–          Peaceful options for disarmament had not been exhausted,such that military action was not a last resort;

–          The evidence did not support the judgments made about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction;

–          Despite explicit warnings the consequences of the invasion were underestimated and the post-war planning was wholly inadequate;

–          The government failed to achieve any of its stated objectives; and

–          The report does not identify even one positive outcome of the invasion.

Philippe Sands assiduously takes us through “the lies and deceits, the duplicities and the fudges, the techniques” that then British PM Tony Blair used to secure Cabinet and parliamentary support for the American invasion. And he reminds us that, despite these manifold manipulations, the Cabinet was not misled:

…the necessary information [was] available to the decision-makers if they had wanted to see it: on Iraq’s WMD capability, on the consequences of the war, on the strife and mayhem that would follow.

Quite appropriately given his painstaking account of the failure of the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to stand up to Blair’s maneuverings, Sands ends his review with an extract from the resignation letter tendered in 2003 by the Foreign Office legal adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst, whose position he notes has been “vindicated” by the inquiry:

I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force without a second Security Council resolution … I cannot in conscience go along with advice within the Office or to the public or Parliament – which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution, particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression; nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.

For the full review of the Chilcot Report, see: A Grand and Disastrous Deceit (LRB, Vol. 38 No.15, 28 July 2016).

For our earlier blog post on the Chilcot Report, see:  The Iraq Inquiry: then and now (Ceasefire.ca, 6 July 2016).


*(A subscription is not necessary to read the LRB online but registration is required.)

Photo credit: UK MOD.

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