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Trudeau government votes against UN negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban

The Trudeau government voted against the adoption of a United Nations report on August 19 that recommended negotiations for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons.

The Guardian UK reports, “The report, which recommended negotiations begin in 2017 to ban nuclear weapons, was eventually passed by 68 votes to 22. …The proposal recommended a conference be held next year to negotiate ‘a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. …The next step will be for the proposal for negotiations to begin in 2017 will be tabled at the United Nations general assembly, after which it is likely formal negotiations will begin.”

The United Nations News Centre has noted, “Marking the International Day against Nuclear Tests [on August 29], senior United Nations officials called for the entry into force of a multilateral treaty that bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. …[UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a prohibition on all nuclear testing would] boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”

Their media release adds that 183 countries have now signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and 164 countries have ratified it. But Xinhua explains, “Open for signature in 1996, the legally binding CTBT is a multilateral treaty by which states agree to ban all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes. In a message to the International Day against Nuclear Tests, Ban noted since its adoption 20 years ago, the CTBT has yet to enter into force.”

The Guardian adds, “Moves towards a ban have been pursued because many saw little progress under the existing non-proliferation treaty, which obliges the five declared nuclear states to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ towards ‘cessation of the nuclear arms race … and nuclear disarmament’.”

An update from the New Democratic Party has commented, “The recent vote by the Liberals at the UN is shocking. Inexplicably, the Liberals voted against the adoption of a UN report recommending negotiations for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

In mid-March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be seeking a seat on the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term beginning in 2021. At that time, Trudeau said that Canada was prepared to play a leading role on the world stage and that he wanted to promote international peace highlighting, “this is how we build the world of tomorrow”. Voting against negotiations on a global treaty banning nuclear weapons would seem to contradict that pledge.

In 2011, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow signed a global statement that declared, “The human community should phase out, abolish and replace (nuclear) technologies with alternatives that do not threaten present and future generations. This applies to nuclear weapons as well as to nuclear power reactors.” In April 2015, the Council of Canadians also signed the Declaration of the World Uranium Symposium which calls on all nations to renounce nuclear weapons.