Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Cc: M.P. Gord Johns
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau:
3rd of August, 2020
Re: U.N. Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
Further to my letters to you of May 11th and June 12th re NATO and a “Just Recovery” from Covid, let me say I truly appreciate your government’s handling of the Covid crisis, and believe that Canada can be a beacon for many other nations, not only in its response to Covid-19, but by taking a progressive and pragmatic approach to world politics.
Canada has the opportunity to lead by its soft power. We are too small to be considered a major player, but we can play a significant role nonetheless. If we were to approach it from the perspective of Canadians’ expressed values – a healthy economy, active participation in addressing climate crisis instead of contributing to it, and global citizenship rather than white nationalism, what might that role look like? Polls have shown that Canadian civil society does not support the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Why then, did Canada not vote in favour of the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017? Once again it comes down to NATO and its pro-nuclear weapon strategy. In 2019, the 29 NATO states accounted for well over ½ of global military spending, a staggering $1.3 Trillion. (April, 2020 www.sipri.org ) And we consider ourselves “the good guys”. Think how that money could be better spent!
I am taking an enlightening course on “War & the Environment” from World Beyond War (www.worldbeyondwar.org) and was shocked to learn that our relative complacency re nuclear weapons is ill-informed. Although the biggest nuclear weapons states (US & Russia*) reduced their stockpiles of weapons considerably (from a staggering 70,000 to current 13,400) when the Cold War ended, the push is now on to restart testing, for “modernization”, and the promotion of “low-yield, usable” nuclear weapons. They must be abolished altogether. Current stockpiles contain bombs 100’s of times more powerful than those that devastated Hiroshima & Nagasaki. The horrific capacity of nuclear weapons is so deeply disturbing it’s no surprise we don’t want to think about it. Yet we must, as there are many documented examples of accidental near-catastrophes. We have been lulled to sleep and now it’s time to become fully awake.
Many NATO countries have US nuclear weapons stored on their (now contaminated) soil, many at Russia’s borders. Why do Canadians need to be part of this revival of the Cold War? Russia’s capacity is a tiny fraction of that of the US, yet the US is now pushing for an increase of $300-350 Billion to the “Department of Energy” budget (which includes nuclear weapons) over the next 10 years (US Congressional Budget Office). 27 companies produce nuclear weapons, 20 of them in the US. 99% of funds for the nuclear industry goes to those 20 companies (International Coalition for Abolishment of Nuclear Weapons – www.ICAN.org ).
Who is benefitting from this surge? Canadians are only at risk by our military alliances with states whose militarism creates enemies and extremism.
The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been signed by 122 states and needs only 10 more ratifications to become a legal Treaty, which would formally declare such weapons prohibited and illegal. ICAN’s coalition involves people in 95 countries, seeking to create a new norm that says nuclear weapons states are rogue states. Ratification of the Treaty would lead to negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention, involving the nuclear weapons states, setting out a timeline and the mechanics for an enforceable, verifiable elimination process.
Canada is uniquely situated to be a leader in such a process, by having the courage to think for itself instead of following an outdated paradigm, led by the US, extolling the need to “protect” Europe vs. its enemies. NATO has evolved into an arms industry marketing group. It needs to be reformed or disbanded altogether. The monies spent pursuant to our “NATO commitments” are much needed here at home – to address inequities, to combat climate crisis, to reinvigorate a post-Covid, post-fossil fuel-based economy.
You, Mr. Prime Minister, have the chance to secure your place in history, as both a visionary and pragmatic leader. Will you step up? The majority of Canadians will have your back!
*UK, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, France and North Korea are the other nuclear states. Their arsenal is a tiny fraction of that of the US.