Canada and the Nuclear Challenge :

Reducing the Political Value
of Nuclear Weapons for the
Twenty-First Century

House of Commons

Report of the Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Bill Graham, M.P., Chairman

December 10 1998


Table of Contents

Recommendation 1:
    reducing the legitimacy of nuclear weapons

Recommendation 2:
    improved consultation and coordination

Recommendation 3:
    education towards elimination of nuclear weapons

Recommendation 4:
    more public input on civilian nuclear technology

Recommendation 5:
    de-alerting of all nuclear weapons forces

Recommendation 6:
    improving trust and stability

Recommendation 7:
    reducing threats of accidental nuclear war

Recommendation 8:
    rejecting weapons plutonium as reactor fuel

Recommendation 9:
    increasing transparency and fostering dialogue

Recommendation 10:
    addressing regional security needs

Recommendation 11:
    restricting chemical, biological, and missile systems

Recommendation 12:
    strengthening the non-proliferation régime

Recommendation 13:
    annual review of Nuclear Cooperation Agreements

Recommendation 14:
    strengthening global disarmament and security

Recommendation 15:
    re-examining and updating NATO's nuclear role

Appendix A:
    letter from retired U.S. General Lee Butler


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada adopt the following fundamental principle to guide its nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament policy, within an overarching framework encompassing all aspects -- political, military, and commercial -- of Canada's international relations:
That Canada work consistently to reduce the political legitimacy and value of nuclear weapons in order to contribute to the goal of their progressive reduction and eventual elimination.


In order to implement this fundamental principle, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada issue a policy statement which explains the links between Canada's nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament policy and all other aspects of its international relations. In addition, it must also establish a process to achieve a basis for ongoing consensus by keeping the Canadian public and parliamentarians informed of developments in this area, in particular by means of:

  • Annual preparatory meetings -- held, for example, under the auspices of the Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development -- of the type held with non-governmental organizations and representatives of civil society before the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission;

  • An annual public appearance before this Committee by the Ambassador to the United Nations for Disarmament Affairs;

  • Strengthened coordination between the departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and National Defence, in the first instance by the inclusion of a representative from National Defence on Canadian delegations to multilateral nuclear non-proliferation fora.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada intensify its efforts, in cooperation with States such as its NATO allies and the members of the New Agenda Coalition, to advance the process of nuclear disarmament. To this end, it must encourage public input and inform the public on the exorbitant humanitarian, environmental and economic costs of nuclear weapons as well as their impact on international peace and security. In addition, the Government must encourage the nuclear-weapon States to demonstrate their unequivocal commitment to enter into and conclude negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Drawing on the lessons of the Ottawa Process, it should also examine innovative means to advance the process of nuclear disarmament.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada explore additional means of both providing more information to Canadians on civilian uses of nuclear technology, and receiving more public input into government policy in this area. As one means of achieving this, the Committee also recommends that the Parliament of Canada conduct a separate and in-depth study on the domestic use, and foreign export of, Canada's civilian nuclear technology.


In the interest of increased nuclear safety and stability, and as a means to advance toward the broader goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada endorse the concept of de-alerting all nuclear forces, subject to reciprocity and verification -- including the arsenals of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the three nuclear-weapons-capable States -- and encourage their governments to pursue this option.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada take all possible action to encourage the United States and Russia to continue the START process. In particular, Canada should encourage Russia to ratify START II, should provide concrete support towards achieving this objective, and should encourage like-minded states to work with Russia to ensure increased political and economic stability in that country. Beyond this, Canada should urge both parties to pursue progressive and reciprocal reforms to their respective nuclear postures.


Given its potential contribution to nuclear safety and stability, and the need to act promptly to address the possible implications of the millennium bug, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada explore further with the United States and Russia the feasibility of establishing a NORAD "hotline" to supplement and strengthen Russia's missile early warning system. Canada should also strongly support the idea of broadening such a mechanism to include other nuclear-weapons-capable States.


The Committee recommends that the Government reject the idea of burning MOX fuel in Canada because this option is totally unfeasible, but that it continue to work with other governments to address the problem of surplus fissile material.


In view of their responsibilities as nuclear-weapon States under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and as Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada encourage the United Kingdom, France and China to:

  • increase transparency about their nuclear stockpiles, fissile material and doctrine;

  • support the call of Canada and other States for the substantive discussion of nuclear disarmament issues at the Conference on Disarmament; and

  • explore with the United States and Russia means of preparing to enter nuclear disarmament reductions at the earliest possible moment.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to support all international efforts to address the underlying regional security issues in South Asia and the Middle East. Working with like-minded States, it should take a more proactive role in stressing the regional and global security benefits of immediately increasing communication and co-operation between States in those regions as a means of building trust. In both regions -- but particularly in South Asia given the recent nuclear tests -- Canada should also stress the advantages of:

  • the freezing of nuclear weapons programs;

  • adhering to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty;

  • participating in the negotiation of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty; and

  • joining the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work to strengthen international efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons and missile systems and to ensure adequate funding for verification purposes. In addition to strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention through the negotiation of a Verification Protocol and continuing to support the operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Government should also examine methods of increasing the effectiveness of the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, as well as cooperation in intelligence and law enforcement to prevent terrorist acquisition of such weapons.


The Committee recommends that the Government, having strengthened the international safeguards regime by signing its new Model Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency, use all means at its disposal to convince other States to do likewise. Before entering into a future Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with any other State, the Government should, at a minimum, require that State to adopt the new Model Protocol.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada meet annually with the other parties to all Nuclear Cooperation Agreements to review the application of such Agreements, and table a report on the results of such meetings in Parliament.


The Committee recommends that the Canadian Government intensify its efforts, in cooperation with like-minded States, such as our NATO allies, to advance the global disarmament and security agenda:

  • Canada should reaffirm its support for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the centrepiece of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and should reject any attempt to revise the Treaty to acknowledge India and Pakistan as "nuclear-weapon States" under it. It should also continue to strive to ensure that the nuclear-weapon States honour their commitments to a strengthened review process for the NPT, which will lead to an updated statement of Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament at the 2000 Review Conference.

  • Canada should complete the process of ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty as quickly as possible and urge all other States to do likewise. Should India and Pakistan refuse to accept the Treaty unconditionally, Canada should nevertheless encourage the international community to ensure the Treaty's legal entry into force.

  • Canada should play a strong role at the Conference on Disarmament in the forthcoming negotiations for a broad Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty which will serve both non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

  • Canada should support the establishment of a nuclear arms register to cover both weapons and fissile material as proposed by Germany in 1993.

  • Canada should support the call for the conclusion of a nuclear weapons disarmament convention.


The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada argue forcefully within NATO that the present re-examination and update as necessary of the Alliance Strategic Concept should include its nuclear component.


Letter from retired U.S. Air Force General Lee Butler:

July 1998

Dear Mr. Graham:

Thank you for your letter and invitation to comment on the question of Canada's Nuclear Non-proliferation, Arms control and Disarmament policy. I regret not being able to speak personally to the Committee and value the opportunity to make the following observations.

First, I salute you for your initiative. This is in my view the dominant security issue of the post-Cold War era. It will shape the foundation of international conflict resolution for decades to come. More importantly, it will govern the pace and the prospect for nudging higher the norms of civilized behaviour among nations and peoples.

Second, I would like for your group to understand that my recent public statements calling for a renewed commitment by the nuclear weapons states to their obligation to eliminate their nuclear weapon arsenals was not the consequence of some sudden blinding insight. My doubts, concerns and dismay regarding the policies and practices governing the role of nuclear weapons grew over many years. They are the products of an insider's view, someone who had unique exposure and responsibilities in matters ranging from the conceptual to the operational. What I came to understand was that we, in the United States, had created a universe of organizations, networks and processes so complex that over time we simply lost the capacity to govern its activities. The price was enormous, in resources, in risk and in lost opportunity to recast US-Soviet relations. Fortunately, some combination of skill, luck and divine intervention allowed us to escape our half-century of confrontation without a nuclear holocaust.

Third, it is truly a sad commentary on the human condition that we are incapable of letting go the most bizarre and terrifying security construct ever conceived by the mind of man. I am sure you have heard from the current practitioners of nuclear deterrence during your work. I know them all, and have had extended discussions with most of them on the role of nuclear weapons in national security, whether in the US or elsewhere around the globe. Their arguments are painfully familiar; I know them by heart. They are serious and well reasoned. They are also egregiously wrong-headed, not just in terms of a profoundly altered security environment but also in terms of the underlying moral questions.

Indeed, the most difficult truth I had to confront in my own reassessment of nuclear weapons was that for most of my career I had failed to grasp the moral context of these hideously destructive devices. It came crashing home the day I assumed responsibility for the US nuclear war plan and confronted the consequences of targeting over 10,000 weapons on the Soviet Union. That is when I came to fully appreciate the brutal honesty of Joseph Stalin's comment on the modern age: "The death of a single individual is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic."

As you examine the vital question of how Canada, this extraordinary nation of diverse peoples and great friend of the United States, should align itself on the continuing role of nuclear weapons I encourage you ponder deeply the opportunity and the stakes at hand. My country is badly in need of a new moral compass on this issue. We have committed the fatal sin in public policy making of becoming cynical and arrogant with respect to decisions affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of people. We have trivialized the likelihood that deterrence might fail, thus providing easy moral cover for ignoring the consequences. We have learned to live with a weapon that numbs our conscience and diminishes our humanity. We need to hear voices of reason, urging us to a higher standard of rectitude and global leadership. We await your call.

With every best wish, I am

Sincerely yours,

Lee Butler
General, USAF, Ret.



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