7 January 1994
Dear Mr. Chretien,
I write to express an urgent concern of the Toronto Chapter of Science for Peace and request immediate attention. In mid January the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) — on which Canada has a seat — will meet. Organizations backing the World Court Project (WCP), about which we wrote to you on 23 Nov. 1993, are worried that the major nuclear powers, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, will seek then to convince the Board not to proceed at the International Court of Justice with its legal case concerning nuclear weapons. That case, which was set in motion by a resolution passed at the 46^th^ World Health Assembly last May, seeks an advisory opinion on a vital question: “In view of the health and environmental effects, would the use of nuclear weapons by a State in war or other armed conflict be a breach of its obligations under international law including the WHO constitution?”
We ask you now to instruct Canada’s delegate to the WHO Executive Board to resist any attempts to force the withdrawal or postponement of this legal action. Canada has an honourable history of refusal to have nuclear weapons, which is solidly based on Canadians’ realistic appraisal of the horrors of nuclear war as well as humanitarian moral revulsion. We look to your government to give voice to this stance.
Canada’s support for the WHO WCP case is needed. Pressure from the U.S., the U.K., resulted, in November, in the deferral and then withdrawal by the Non-aligned Movement nations of their WCP motion at the United Nations General Assembly. It would be tragic if this ill-conceived, destructive pressure were to cut short the WHO initiative. We reiterate the claim we made in our November letter to you: Canadian citizens expect their government to make every effort to move the great powers in the only direction that will lead to enhanced world security. Canada belongs with the nations committed to take all possible steps towards nuclear disarmament.
You yourself expressed some support for the WCP before the election. Canada could usefully present a brief to the ICJ in support of the position that nuclear weapons should be considered illegal under international law. SfP further urges you to set the process in motion to develop such a brief.
Chair, Science for Peace,