Election 2015 and Humanitarian Disarmament

Canada's 2015 election campaign is the longest in over 100 years and it is shaping up to be an incredibly close race. With the election less than a month away, Mines Action Canada is please to share information on the national parties' disarmament policies. 

In June 2015, we sent the four national parties (Conservative Party, Green Party, Liberal Party and New Democratic Party) a survey covering humanitarian disarmament topics from landmines to the Arms Trade Treaty and from toxic remnants of war to nuclear weapons. As of September 21, we received responses from three of the parties. 

With assistance from international experts on each of these topics, we are pleased to provide you with a brief analysis of each response to assist you in making your decision for October 19th. MAC does not endorse any one party as each party's positions on humanitarian disarmament issues have strengths and weaknesses. Overall, we would have liked to see stronger commitments to fund disarmament work and more concrete examples of how policies would be put into practice. 

Before we get into any analysis of the parties' positions, here are the full answers as provided to Mines Action Canada in alphabetical order:

Should the Conservative Party provide answers before the election this page will be updated.

Thank you to Amelie Chayer, ICBL-CMC; Anna Macdonald, Control Arms; Daniel Hogsta, ICAN; Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch; Kimberly Brown, Save the Children; Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, Article 36; Rob Perkins, Action on Armed Violence; Wim Zwijnenburg, PAX; Doug Weir, Toxic Remnants of War Project, and Rosella Chibambo, Nobel Women’s Initiative, for their assistance analyzing the parties' responses.

While Mines Action Canada is happy to provide this resource free of charge, please consider making a donation to support our work.

 

 

Analysis of the Parties' Responses by Topic

 

Cluster Munitions

The Questions

  • Canada is a State Party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and provides the framework for clearance of cluster munition remnants and assistance to victims. If your party forms the government after the 2015 election, what steps will Canada take to promote the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions?
  • If your party forms the next government, how will Canada stigmatize the use of cluster munitions by any state - even our allies?

The Analysis


The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party

The Green Party answers highlight their work to fix the bill implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Canada and states that a Green Party government would close the loopholes in the legislation. There is a recognition of the importance of universalizing the Convention and discouraging use of cluster munitions even by states outside the treaty. The assertion that Canada must speak out publicly when cluster munitions are used “including by our allies” is welcome. 

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party answers highlight their work to fix the bill implementing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Canada and their belief that the legislation should have been more in line with the Convention. A stronger policy would have mentioned a desire to close the loopholes in the legislation to bring it in line with the letter and spirit of the Convention.  A Liberal government should fully implement Article 21’s requirement to promote the universalization of the Convention and to discourage others from using cluster munitions, by reaching out on a bilateral manner to states not party through Canada’s diplomatic network and by speaking up publicly with strong statements at international meetings on the issue.  

The NDP:

The NDP answers indicate a deep understanding of the issues surrounding the Convention on Cluster Munitions. A stronger answer would include a pledge to enact legislation to explicitly prohibit investments in cluster munition producers. To stigmatize the use of cluster munitions, an NDP government should speak up to condemn any use of the weapon by any actor, including military allies, and should fully implement Article 21’s requirement to promote the universalization of the Convention and to discourage others from using cluster munitions, by reaching out to states not party through Canada’s diplomatic network.     

 

Landmines

The Questions

  • The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has issued a completion challenge for all states to join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and for all mine clearance to be completed by 2025.  Canada as a State Party to the Ottawa Treaty, committed to work towards the goal of completion by 2025 via the Maputo Declaration 2014.  If your party forms the government after the 2015 election, what concrete steps will the government take to ensure the work of the 1997 Ottawa Treaty is completed?
  • For many years, Canada was a leading (top five) donor to mine action and victim assistance programs.  Recently, Canada has fallen out of the top ten supporters of mine action.  If your party forms the next government, what steps will you take to return Canada to its traditional position of leadership on mine action funding?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

It is good to see the Green Party answers reference the Maputo Action Plan which is the international community’s plan to eliminate the threat posed by landmines by 2025. The answer could be slightly strengthened by including a little bit more about ensuring that affected states take ownership of the problem and show the necessary political will to address it. Support of Mines Action Canada’s call for Canada to contribute $1 per Canadian annually to mine action is welcome. 

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party answer calls for a return to leadership on the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines by lobbying states outside the treaty to join. A Liberal government should match this political leadership with funding – dedicating $1 per Canadian per year to mine action programmes including clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance in affected states.This answer recognizes the pride Canadians feel in the Ottawa Treaty and the success it has had. Support for advocacy and research efforts would strengthen this response.

The NDP:

The NDP answers include strong commitments to universalize the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines and support the goals of the treaty. Support of the Young Professionals International Internship Program would benefit young Canadians seeking to gain professional experience and start careers as well as the global movement against landmines. The mention of the legal basis for the Ottawa Treaty is welcome as is the commitment of Canadian resources and expertise to the goals of the treaty. 

   

Arms Trade Treaty

The Questions

  • Canada helped negotiate, but has not subsequently joined, the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) - the world's first Treaty to regulate the global arms trade. 130 countries have now joined the ATT, including major weapons exporters such as the US and UK, and all of NATO. If your party forms the next government, would ensuring Canada joins the ATT be part of your efforts to help stop weapons getting into the hands of human rights abusers and warlords?
  • Countries with known human rights abuses to have little trouble obtaining weapons.  Notwithstanding your party’s position on the Arms Trade Treaty, what steps will your government take to ensure that Canadian weapons do not end up in the hands of those who known or suspected to abuse human rights?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party supports joining and implementing the Arms Trade Treaty as soon as possible. Inclusion of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons is a strength of the Green Party answers on the arms trade. The recognition of the need for strict export controls and the mention of transfer is positive as the legal obligations of the ATT apply to transfer not just export.  

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party answers about the Arms Trade Treaty indicate support for the treaty which is promising. We are pleased to read that a “Liberal government will ensure the treaty is implemented.” The Liberal Party should clarify that the ATT creates legal obligations on the transfer of weapons and ammunition not just international guidelines. It is important to recognize that these legal obligations apply to transfer which is much wider than export.  

The NDP:

The NDP accurately points out that Canada is in uncomfortable company with Syria, North Korea, Belarus, Russia and Iran outside the Arms Trade Treaty while our close allies including the United States have signed the treaty. It is good to read that an NDP government would sign and ratify the ATT. The discussion of transparency is very timely with concerns about Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia making the news. A NDP government should aim to strengthen Canadian guidelines and refuse to authorize export of military goods to governments with a record of human rights abuses. 

 

Nuclear Weapons

The Questions

  • At the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Austria issued the Austrian Pledge in which they call on states to “identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons”.  The Pledge has since been internationalized as The Humanitarian Pledge.  It is open for endorsement by other countries and thus far over 100 countries have endorsed the Pledge.  If your party forms the government after the 2015 election, will Canada endorse the Humanitarian Pledge?
  • In international disarmament forums, there have been a number of humanitarian statements about nuclear weapons with wide support.  Canada has not joined any of the main humanitarian statements over the past three years partially due to objections about the inclusion of the phrase under any circumstances in the sentence, “it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.”  If your party forms the government after the 2015 election, will Canada join any future humanitarian statements and state clearly that the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances is unacceptable?  If not, could you please articulate under what circumstances your party believes the use of nuclear weapons is appropriate?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party states clearly that a Green Party government would endorse the Humanitarian Pledge putting Canada in line with 117 other states (as of 21 September 2015). Support for a new legal instrument created through negotiations that are not consensus based and open to all states with participation from civil society and international organizations is welcome.

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party answers about nuclear weapons highlight previous policies on nuclear disarmament and engagement in nuclear abolition efforts internationally.  The party’s belief in the need for nuclear disarmament comes across clearly but how a Liberal government would pursue the goal of a world without nuclear weapons is not articulated. A stronger answer would have included a commitment to engage constructively with the humanitarian initiative and endorse the Humanitarian Pledge along with 117 other states (as of 21 September 2015). 

The NDP:

It is very promising to see the NDP state that a NDP government would sign the Humanitarian Pledge. This answer echoes some of the language being used by global leaders on nuclear disarmament including the idea that it is in the best interests of Canada and the world that nuclear weapons are never used again. Currently Canada objects to international statements containing similar language. The NDP belief in the need for a global ban on the use of nuclear weapons is welcome, however, a stronger position would be supporting a global ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear weapons.  

 

Autonomous Weapons Systems 

The Question

  • Canada is participating in the multilateral meetings held since 2014 on technical, legal, ethical, and operational concerns relating to “lethal autonomous weapons systems” or “killer robots” but has said little and has yet to issue national policy on the topic. Autonomous weapons systems are not armed drones, but instead they are future weapons that would be able to select and fire upon targets without human involvement.  As of May 2015, Canada does not have a position on autonomous weapons systems.  If your party forms the government after 2015, how will your government respond to the concerns raised, including the call to pre-emptively ban systems that would select and attack targets without further human intervention?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party states it will work for pre-emptive international and national bans on autonomous weapons systems echoing the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ call.

The Liberal Party: 

The focus on working with experts and civil society found in the Liberal Party answer is promising. It is good to see a desire for further study on the ethical implications of autonomous weapons systems. A stronger answer would have also referenced the need for international policies as well as national policies. 

The NDP:

The NDP recognizes that there are a variety of concerns about autonomous weapons systems including “legal, practical and ethical questions.” It is promising to read that Canada should have ethical concerns about this technology. The assertion that Canada should be engaging responsibly in international discussions about autonomous weapons systems and working with civil society is welcome.

 

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas

The Question

  • Recent research confirms that when heavy explosive weapons (weapons with wide area effects) are used in populated areas the vast majority of casualties are civilians. To enhance the protection of civilians from the effects of explosive weapons, members of civil society are calling on states to avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas. Will your party support an international political commitment to this effect, and review and strengthen domestic policies and practices on the use of explosive weapons?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party desire to review domestic policy, legislation and practice to limit civilian harm from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is positive.  The Green Party answered the question about supporting an international political commitment about explosive weapons in populated areas affirmatively.

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal answer puts explosive weapons in populated areas into the same context as landmines and cluster munitions while highlighting the importance of minimizing humanitarian costs. Unfortunately the response neither engages with the topic directly nor provides an answer to the question posed.  

The NDP:

The NDP understands the issues surrounding the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. There appears to be no issues with the topic and the humanitarian harm it causes. It is positive to see an NDP government would ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces follow international humanitarian law as that is an expectation all Canadians should have. The answer provided does not answer the question posed about political commitments. 

 

Armed Drones

The Question

  • As the use of armed drones for targeted strikes on suspected terrorists grows, so do concerns over the number of civilians who have died in these attacks. If your party forms the next government, what will be the Government of Canada’s policy in regards to the international legal framework, in particular international human rights law and international humanitarian law, on the use of armed drones in and outside armed conflict?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party has put forward a very useful policy on armed drones that would make Canada a leader on this issue if implemented.  We would like to have seen reference to human rights law as well because both international humanitarian law and international human rights law come into play when discussing the use of armed drones.

The Liberal Party: 

The first part of the Liberal Party answer provides a brief overview of Canada’s current use of drones for surveillance only. The Liberals have laid out their beliefs about international humanitarian law but this answer does not provide their policy platform regarding the use of armed drones. The Liberal position regarding international humanitarian law could lead to good policies on use of armed drones should Canada ever be involved in their use. A stronger policy would outline what these beliefs would translate to in terms of policy and reference both international humanitarian law and international human rights law. 

The NDP:

The NDP have laid out their beliefs about international humanitarian law but this answer does not provide their policy platform regarding the use of armed drones. The NDP position regarding international humanitarian law should lead to good policies on targeting and use of armed drones should Canada ever be involved in their use. A stronger policy would reference both international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

 

Depleted Uranium Weapons

The Question

  • The use of depleted uranium weapons has come under international scrutiny in recent years due to significant concerns about the long term health consequences of their use. If your party forms the next government, what will Canada’s policy be on the use of depleted uranium weapons? What will be Canada’s position on providing technical and financial assistance in order to aid decontamination of affected states and reduce the risks to civilians?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party has taken action on depleted uranium (DU) in the past and this answer builds on that work. The call to ban DU weapons is strong and it is promising to see the assertion that Canada must assist states that are contaminated.

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party clearly opposes the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons which is excellent. This response could have been strengthened by outlining how this opposition to the use of DU will be put into practice by a Liberal government. 

The NDP:

The NDP recognizes the concerns about depleted uranium (DU) weapons but focuses on veterans without mentioning civilians who are also at risk. It is promising that the NDP note that Canadian uranium exports should only be used for peaceful purposes.  It would be helpful to see Canada adopt policies on uranium export similar to Australia’s which includes a specific mention of DU weapons.  The mention of providing Canadian support and expertise to assist in clean-up is welcomed.  

 

Conflict and the Environment

The Question

  • Legal protection for the environment during and after armed conflict lags far behind that afforded to it during peacetime. Yet during conflict the potential for environmental damage, and with it serious consequences for the civilian population, is vast. If your party forms the government after the 2015 election, how will Canada work to minimise environmental damage from conflict and military activities and mitigate the humanitarian risks they pose?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party answer covers the broad scope of the environment and conflict issue with strong practical steps to minimize harm to the environment during conflict.  The answers may focus a little too heavily on weapons-related issues with a stronger answer including waste management, toxic emissions from the targeting of industrial facilities, the impact of the breakdown of environmental governance during conflict and the current absence of a formal system of post-conflict environmental assistance. 

The Liberal Party: 

This brief answer ties the environment to the humanitarian impact of conflict. The Liberal Party does not outline what a belief in minimizing the humanitarian cost of conflict would mean in terms of policies and practice. 

The NDP:

The NDP accepts the broad scope of environment and conflict work. We commend the NDP proposal to include environmental rehabilitation in planning for peacebuilding. A stronger answer would have outlined the commitments an NDP government would make to mitigate risks and damage to the environment during conflict. 

 

Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

The Question

  • The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict was launched in May 2012 by a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to combating the scourge of sexual and gender violence in conflict. This effort has been widely supported by governments including at the 2014 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.  If your party forms the next government, how would you demonstrate your support for ending the use of sexual and gender violence in conflict? What concrete steps would you take to further your goals?

The Analysis

The Conservative Party:

N/A

The Green Party: 

The Green Party's commitment to increase support for organizations working on the ground is very welcome. Sustained support for local women’s organizations is key to preventing sexual violence and supporting survivors. This answer contains promising statements about support to civil society but more specifics on how the Green Party could support civil society would strengthen the response. Some suggested actions can be found in suggestions made by Canadian civil society's testimony to the Senate's Human Rights Committee in March 2014.

The Liberal Party: 

The Liberal Party's answer focus on support to survivors is welcome but it would be useful to see a call for the inclusion of survivors in peace processes and negotiations. It would be helpful to have more specifics on what this support would mean in terms of policies and practice. A commitment to existing international standards such as the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women would help a Liberal government take action on this issue. 

The NDP:

Commitment to conform to UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security in the NDP response is welcome as there is an urgent need to provide equal space for women at peace and policy tables. A stronger answer would more clearly acknowledge that the role of women in peace/policy discussions is key to preventing and ending sexual violence in conflict. The discussion of support to survivors is also promising. It would be helpful to learn how an NDP government would support survivors on the ground; for example, a commitment to support women activists in Iraq and Syria in response to Da'esh (ISIS) atrocities.

 

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*MAC notes that while there are explosive remnants from the Second World War, there are no minefields in Belgium that require clearance under the Ottawa Treaty.

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