Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.
I am pleased and proud to rise today to speak in favour of this motion calling on Canada to support the draft convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Some of the things I will say at the beginning of my remarks are well known.
There are more than 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and about 95% of those are owned by the United States and Russia, but there is good reason to believe that the U.K., China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel also possess nuclear weapons.
It is important to note the second thing that most people who are tuned into this topic are aware of, that nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not explicitly prohibited by an international treaty. That is why I am both shocked and appalled, although that phrase may sound trite, by the attitude of the government on this question.
More than 120 countries are participating in the negotiations. Yesterday I sat here during question period and I heard the Prime Minister call the negotiations “sort of useless”. His reason for calling these talks “sort of useless” was that the states that possessed nuclear weapons are not participating.
How will we make any progress on this issue if we do not apply pressure from the rest of the world on those countries that hold nuclear weapons? How will we get any of them to understand the necessity of renouncing not only the possible use but the possession of nuclear weapons?
There are really only two threats right now to the existence of humanity on this planet. One of those threats is global warming, and we have participated and the government claims leadership. Canada has participated in all of the international conventions to attack this main threat to humanity's existence.
We have not said that we will no longer participate in the Paris agreement because some leader of a country close to us does not believe that we should participate. That would be the same logic the Prime Minister used for not participating in the draft convention talks for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. It makes no sense to me. It is also a cavalier attitude that treats this issue as trivial. I would submit that this is anything but trivial, because it is the second threat to the existence of humanity on this planet.
Thinking back to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the use of nuclear weapons at that time, these were very small weapons in comparison to what exists today. We found out later that they were the only nuclear weapons in existence at that time There were no great stockpiles and, if they had not worked, there were not lots more to try to use.
Today, 15,000 nuclear weapons exist and there is no guarantee, with the proliferation that has already taken place, with the number of countries that already have access to this technology, that we are going to be able to control this. There is no guarantee that we will be able to stop these weapons from falling into the hands of groups at a sub-state level, groups that we might want to label as terrorist groups. Who knows who might get access to these weapons because of the broad distribution of the technology at this point?
It is incumbent on us to take every action we can to make sure that nuclear weapons are destroyed and no longer available for use by anyone on this planet. It is like firefighting. We train firefighters. We get them to work as hard as they can on fire prevention as well as putting out fires. Firefighters do not just go to fires and turn on the hose. They work every day to try to educate the public and to identify threats. In this case, it would be far too late if we waited until nuclear weapons were used to then say it was tragedy and we should have done something.
This is like fire prevention. This is like disease prevention. I cannot understand not just the Prime Minister but other members on the other side whom I've heard saying just recently that this is a waste of time. One of the things we are short of is time. We are short of time on climate change. We are short of time in banning nuclear weapons. We need to make the best use if whatever efforts we can to make sure these weapons are destroyed.
New Democrats have long held this position. It is not something new for us. Canada previously held this position, and Canada previously has been a leader in trying to work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Canada is part of the international treaties to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
It makes no sense to me that the government is not participating in these talks, and not just participating, but we should be leading the talks. We should be applying the pressure on those of our allies who have nuclear weapons, and we should be offering whatever support they need to make that decision. Is there some way, through this convention, that we can offer greater security to those who feel so threatened that they feel they need nuclear weapons? Let us have Canada stand up diplomatically and try to solve those problems, to provide the leadership on those problems so that countries no longer feel so threatened that they have to possess these weapons of mass destruction. Again, it is not just participating; it is being a leader. lt is putting forward the ideas through this treaty and through surrounding actions that will get us to a place where we no longer face this threat.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of standing with Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian citizen who, as a child growing up in Japan, was severely injured and lost many family members and friends as a result of that nuclear explosion. I am very proud of her and the campaign that she carries on. She received a standing ovation at the United Nations. I would challenge the Prime Minister to tell Setsuko Thurlow that her campaign is useless. I would challenge him to do that.
However, the government would not even meet with her. Liberals would not even show up when she was here to hear what she had to say. With her was Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares, which has worked tirelessly against all kinds of weapons, but in particular against nuclear weapons. I challenge the Prime Minister to tell Cesar Jaramillo that the work he does for Project Ploughshares is useless work. It is beyond belief that we have a prime minister who was so cavalier about this issue in question period yesterday. It is beyond belief after the speech that the Minister of Foreign Affairs gave in the House saying that, given the instability of the world, it was incumbent on Canada to step up and take a leadership role and that, because the United States is withdrawing from its responsibilities, it is going to be a more dangerous world. A day after that the Prime Minister stood and said here is something we are not going to lead on; we are not going to lead on trying to get rid of nuclear weapons.
A day after that we had the new defence strategy released. I am a somewhat naive member of Parliament sometimes. Having heard the Minister of Foreign Affairs say we are are going to step up to take a leadership role, I actually expected to see that in our defence strategy. Instead, the defence strategy has not one new dollar for the Canadian military in this fiscal year, but promises for increased funding that are 10 and 20 years down the road.
The crises we face of international insecurity are now, not 10 years or 20 years down the road. Do not get me wrong. I have no complaint about a government that is going to plan for our future needs and equipment and that is going to cost those out properly. The problem I have is the gap between those promises and the reality we face every day in the Canadian military. We are about to take on a NATO mission in Latvia, which I and my party fully support. It is important to send a message to both Putin and Trump that the Baltics are NATO members and an attack on one is an attack on all. That is a very important mission for us.
We have also promised to take on a peacekeeping mission in Africa, another mission that I very much look forward to hearing about even though we are about six months late. How is the Canadian military going to take a leadership role in both those missions when its budget increase this year was less than the rate of inflation? We are asking it to take on new duties, which I am very proud of, with fewer resources than it had last year.
I am a bit confused about the government's real attitude to international affairs. What does it expect Canada to accomplish if we are going to leave the obvious avenues for leadership vacant? I call on all members of the House to think very seriously about the implications of Canada continuing to be absent from these negotiations that would lead to a treaty that would make nuclear weapons illegal and that would lead to a much safer and secure world. Yes, the task is hard, but Canada did not shrink from this when it came to the Ottawa treaty to ban landmines. We did not shrink from this when we advocated for the International Criminal Court. Why are we shrinking from that responsibility to lead at this point? I have no answer to that question, and I would like the government to explain to me why it is not taking that leadership role.