Axworthy: Trudeau’s rejection of UN Nuclear Ban “must be corrected”
Former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy says Parliament should consult Canadians on nuclear weapons policy
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy says Canada should get on board with the United Nations Nuclear Ban Treaty, officially known as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposes the treaty citing Canada’s NATO membership, which relies on nuclear weapons as part of its military strategy. But Axworthy says that position is inconsistent with Canada’s long history of opposing nuclear weapons, and “must be corrected.”
He made the remarks during a webcast sponsored by the Ottawa-based Pearson Centre on Wednesday. Host Andrew Cardozo asked Axworthy to comment on a recent joint statement he had signed in favour of Canada joining the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The letter was also signed by other Liberal heavyweights, including former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, former Prime Minister John Turner (who signed it just days before he died), and several former defence and foreign affairs ministers over the last two decades.
Having served in the cabinets of two prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, Axworthy pointed to Canada’s long track record of opposing nuclear weapons.
“In 1996 we led the charge to eliminate the number one goal of NATO alliance, which was the use of nuclear weapons as a first-strike force. We said that makes no sense,” Axworthy recounted. “So, to use [NATO membership] as a rationale to not participate – not even being in the discussion – and not joining the ban, to me, I think this is something that needs to be corrected.”
Axworthy added that in this period of reflection and policy re-evaluation, Canada needs to revisit its nuclear policy in the face of so many imminent threats.
“There’s a perfect storm of COVID, climate, and conflict. We have to add to that the nuclear risk,” he said.
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Canada’s choice of not developing nuclear weapons, despite having all of the necessary elements, gives it the moral high-ground. “You now have Americans, Chinese, Russians renewing their arsenals and developing new weaponry. We’ve got the nuclear ‘want-to-bes:’ the North Koreans, the Iranians, and others wanting to get into the game. We are in real danger of heading over a precipice, and I think that Canada is a voice that must be heard,” he said.
When asked about Canadians’ sanguine nature about the nuclear threat, Axworthy suggested that Parliament should play a role in educating Canadians and consulting them about the country’s nuclear policy.
Over 1300 PeaceQuest supporters have sent a message to the Prime Minister urging Canada to join the UN Nuclear Ban Treaty.