Conflict and instability are fuelled in large part by the availability of arms. Canada believes that governments can and should work together to do more to address the possession and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons.
Canada has long pursued non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament measures aimed at promoting security and reducing the threats faced by Canadians and the international community. To this end, Canada supports closer cooperation between stakeholders in the creation and implementation of non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament regimes, and cooperates with UN disarmament bodies.
The challenges of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament are best addressed through intergovernmental agreements, with the support of a community of experts and organizations outside government. Canada pursues non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament through a number of multilateral frameworks, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the North American Aerospace Defence Command, the International Atomic Association, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the G8. Within the UN system, issues related to non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament are primarily handled through the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and Canada’s representatives at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Canada seeks to prevent weapons from becoming a threat to its citizens and the broader international community. Non-proliferation—preventing the dissemination of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional weapons—is an integral component of protecting populations from arms.
Canada strongly supports the indefinite extension and effective implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by all signatories, and encourages those states that have not yet signed the treaty to do so. The Treaty prohibits non-nuclear weapons states from possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons and commits the five declared nuclear weapons states who are signatories to progressively disarming and ultimately eliminating their nuclear stockpiles.
Canada continues to call for the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, which forbids all nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and calls on states to refrain from causing, encouraging or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear explosion. Developed on the initiative of the Conference on Disarmament and the UN General Assembly, the Test-Ban Treaty was opened for signature in September 1996. Canada was one of the first signatories. Canada is firmly committed to pursuing the goal set out in the Test-Ban Treaty: reducing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons. The Treaty will enter into force once the 44 states listed in its Annex II ratify the Treaty.
Canada is equally concerned that there be no relaxation in the international prohibition of chemical and biological weapons, and in support for treaties dealing with them. In December 2006, the eleventh Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention reaffirmed a collective commitment to complete destruction on time and to begin to turn attention to its non-proliferation mandate post-destruction. Canada has worked with other countries leading up to and during the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Toxin Weapons Convention to strengthening its effectiveness and authority, and to further universalization (i.e. signature and ratification by all states).
As well as being party to international conventions, Canada is proactive in its non-proliferation efforts. Through the Proliferation Security Initiative, Canada works cooperatively with other countries to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials. The Proliferation Security Initiative supports UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the first ever Security Council Resolution on non-proliferation issues.
Canada believes the international community must not neglect the threats to security arising from excessive and destabilizing accumulations of conventional weapons, which include landmines, small arms and light weapons, and even armoured vehicles and naval ships. Canada played a leading role in the development of the 1997 Ottawa mine ban treaty (formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction) which is deposited at the United Nations and is upheld by annual General Assembly Resolutions. Canada is also a signatory to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which seeks to prohibit or restrict the use of conventional weapons such as mines, booby traps, or incendiary weapons.
Finally, Canada supports, in principle, the negotiation of a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty under UN auspices. Such a treaty would set out agreed minimum standards for international transfers of conventional weapons, and a workable operative mechanism for the application of these standards.
Arms control strives to limit to the use of existing conventional and non-conventional weapons by states as well as non-state actors such as terrorists or members of criminal organizations. Canada works through the UN system to ensure that use of these weapons is effectively controlled.
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons has had a devastating impact on people throughout the world. There are currently in excess of 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation. Small arms and light weapons alone are instrumental in the deaths of more than 350,000 people a year. The proliferation and misuse of small arms pose a serious threat to human security.
Combating the illicit trade in small arms effectively requires a comprehensive approach which focuses primarily on the humanitarian impact of the proliferation and misuse of small arms in terms of conflict prevention and the protection of civilians, while recognizing the existing and legitimate interests of firearms owners, producers, brokers, and retailers.
Canada supports full implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and remains active at the international, regional and sub-regional levels to tackle the problems stemming from the proliferation, excessive accumulation and misuse of small arms.
Non-proliferation and arms control are inseparable from the goal of disarmament. Negotiation of multilateral non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament instruments takes place through the Conference on Disarmament, which meets in Geneva. Canada is represented at the Conference on Disarmament by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva.
The Mission attends meetings associated with the principal non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament treaties, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and the Ottawa Convention on Landmines. Canada’s priority in the Conference on Disarmament is the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, which would prohibit the production of nuclear material that could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. The issue of chemical weapons is dealt with by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The Mission has dedicated resources to ensure that Canada plays its full part.
The Conference on Disarmament has a special relationship with the UN. Although it is both funded by, and reports to, the UN General Assembly, and has a close relationship with the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs, it operates on the basis of consensus and does not count all UN member states as members.
Canada also supports the work of the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs through its representation in New York. In 2005, Canada was a member of the UN Advisory Board on Disarmament, which, inter alia, advises the UN Secretary-General on matters within the area of arms limitation and disarmament. In 2006, Canada chaired the Panel of Government Experts on Verification in all its Aspects.
Finally, Canada continues to play a leading role in the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and has committed up to $1 billion over 10 years to this initiative. While the Global Partnership is a G8 initiative, its principles were welcomed and endorsed in October 2002 by the General Assembly (Resolution 57/68). Through the Global Partnership, Canada is working with the Russian Federation and former Soviet Union states to secure and destroy weapons and materials of mass destruction to prevent terrorist groups and countries of proliferation concern from obtaining them. Programs work towards the destruction of chemical weapons, dismantling nuclear submarines, improving the security of nuclear and other radiological materials, redirecting former weapons scientists, and improving biosecurity and biosafety.
To learn more about the Canadian policy on non-proliferation and disarmament, visit the website of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.