Letter to federal MPs urging support for a legal ban on nuclear weapons at the Vienna Conference

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November 1, 2014

Dear <MP’s name>,

Thank you for your continued good work on behalf of our great nation.

A significant development is beginning to energize the lethargic nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Nearly seventy years after nuclear bombs obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an international process to address the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of these weapons is underway. On December 8-9, 2014 the Government of Austria will host the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna. This conference follows quickly on the heels of those held in Oslo, Norway (March 2013) and Nayarit, Mexico (February 2014).

At these conferences grim first-hand testimonies and disturbing scientific findings give a clear message: Effects of the use of nuclear weapons on the environment, the global economy and life on the planet would be catastrophic; effective emergency relief, impossible.

Leading up to the Vienna Conference, 155 states have issued a joint statement delivered by New Zealand at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security on October 20, 2014, recognizing the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and calling for their total elimination. Unfortunately, Canada would not sign this statement even though a motion passed unanimously by the House and the Senate (2010) urged the government “to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General” and “to deploy a major worldwide Canadian diplomatic initiative in support of preventing nuclear proliferation and increasing the rate of nuclear disarmament.”

As well, civil society organizations, former diplomats, and government officials, and more than 800 recipients of the Order of Canada are urging the Canadian government to support UN resolutions calling for formal negotiations toward a nuclear weapons convention. Polls indicate that more than 88 per cent of Canadians support a legal agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons.

The policies and actions of the nuclear weapons states are far from consistent with the goal of nuclear disarmament. They continue to ignore Article VI of the NPT, they did not attend the 2013 United Nations Open Ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament, they have boycotted the previous two conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, the doctrine of deterrence remains central to their security arrangements, and they continue to spend billions of dollars modernizing their nuclear arsenals. It is time to end this hypocrisy before the unthinkable occurs.

Underlying the revived interest in the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is frustration with the anomalies, contradictions, and fundamental injustices underpinning the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime that delay progress to disarmament. Many countries, in looking for ways forward, have determined that the most logical, achievable, and meaningful step in the current context is remarkably straightforward: a global legal ban on the development, possession, testing, and use of nuclear weapons by any state. There is no clearer path to rid the world of the most destructive weapons ever made. And, it must begin now.

Canada’s support for a legal ban on nuclear weapons would be welcome and consequential. The government would gain considerable ‘political capital’ with the world of nation states and its own citizenry. The prompt pursuit of concerted diplomatic efforts to achieve the complete and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons is in the best interests of every nation and the process to establish a legal ban constitutes a necessary step forward. It will be rooted in the widespread rejection of the continued existence of nuclear weapons and a full recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their use. From this perspective, the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and the goal of their complete elimination is not negotiable.

Every indication is that the process will move full steam ahead, with or without the nuclear weapon states—and with or without Canada. We urge you to place Canada on the right side of history and give the full support of our nation at the upcoming conference in Vienna. Thank you for your consideration. If you require more information please contact us.

Sincerely,

Rob Acheson
Science for Peace delegate, Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Metta Spencer
Vice-President Science for Peace,
Chair, Working Group on Nuclear Weapons

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