Science for Peace met with the Biological and Chemical Defence Review Committee (BCDRC) 31 May 1993, to share with them our concerns. BCDRC is currently the only civilian review committee in any nation to review all aspects of biological and chemical defence research, development, and training programs within the nation’s defence establishment. One of the mandates of the BCDRC is to provide assurance to the Canadian public that only defensive activities which pose no threat to public safety are undertaken by the military. In view of this, the lengthy period between the completion of a report and its availability to the public of over two years leads to additional worry about the issues. We are told that nothing short of political pressure on External Affairs (which has the last say in its publication) could speed up the committee’s annual reports.
Secrecy of documents pertaining to chemical and biological warfare continues to be a concern. Again, we are told that this is a problem with External Affairs and not the Department of Defence. Here is an area where pressure in the House of Commons during a question period might bring some results.
Walter Dorn brought up the problem that the BCDRC was charged with ascertaining that only defensive and not offensive research is done and yet no clear guidelines concerning how to differentiate these have been spelled out. The committee agreed that clear criteria would be desirable but very difficult if not impossible to define in practice. Clearly, we hope the BCDRC gives this area more thought.
Finally, the question of developing technologies to verify compliance with international treaties banning biological and chemical warfare was discussed. We were surprised to learn that the mandate for verification was given to the Department of External Affairs and not the Department of Defence (DOD). Thus considerable research expertise in this area is being lost as the DOD is retrenching for lack of funds and External Affairs is not spending money on research.