Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time, if there is any left, with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.
Yesterday, I listened to Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor, speak eloquently of what it was like to have her family, her neighbourhood, and her city vaporized in an instant of mass destruction. I wish everyone in the House could have heard her very moving words.
Setsuko has devoted her life to advocating for nuclear disarmament to ensure that her experience will never be repeated. She also reminded us of Canada's role in the bomb that destroyed her city. The uranium was mined at Great Bear Lake and refined at Port Hope, Ontario.
When I was young, the names Hiroshima and Nagasaki were relatively recent reminders of the horrors of nuclear warfare. In the climate of fear in the depths of the Cold War, people worked hard for nuclear disarmament and hoped against hope that this could never happen again. Ironically, 60 years after Hiroshima, we are closer now to nuclear warfare than we were when I was growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s.
Like many kids in that era, I grew up with school air raid drills that taught us what to do if an atomic bomb was dropped on our town. Penticton, British Columbia had a population of 10,000 at that time. I am not sure why we thought we were a target, but like schools across Canada, North America, and likely much of the world, our town had an air raid siren and practised our air raid drills. There was, I admit, a U.S. air force base not too far south of us. I remember that feeling of vague dread whenever I saw a B-52 flying overhead en route to airspace over northern Canada and Alaska. There were B-52s overheard every day, every one of them laden with nuclear warheads.
Some would say that it was that threat of mutually assured destruction that kept worldwide conflict at bay through the Cold War, but the risk to the planet was, and remains,incalculable. We came so close to nuclear disaster many times, not just during the Cuban missile crisis but other events brought on by sheer accident, human error, and human folly.
Therefore, we would think that the world would have come to its senses over the past 60 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, even now, 25 years after the end of the Cold War, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world.
Canadians have long recognized the threat of nuclear proliferation and have long called for nuclear disarmament. In 2010, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion that called on the government to, among other things, address the progress of and an opportunity for nuclear disarmament; endorse the 2008 plan for nuclear disarmament of Ban Ki-moon, then Secretary General of the United Nations; and deploy a major diplomatic initiative to increase the rate of nuclear disarmament. The Liberal Party of Canada just last year adopted a resolution at its Winnipeg policy convention that urged its Liberal government to comply more fully, both with its international treaty obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and play a proactive role in achieving a nuclear weapons free world and emulate the Ottawa process, which led to the banning of landmines, by convening an international conference to commence negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention that would ban nuclear weapons. However, the government's actions in the past year go completely against that resolution.
I would like to back up and talk briefly about the Ottawa process, in which Canada truly led the world to a ban on landmines. This was Canada at its best on the world stage. It was difficult work, but it was the right thing to do. I am proud Canada did the heavy lifting. It was done without the main players on the stage. The United States was not there, yet we went ahead because it was the right thing to do. We need to do the same thing with nuclear disarmament.
The international community, involving over 130 countries, is currently carrying out negotiations on the convention on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, just as the Liberal Party resolution asked for. The problem is that not only is Canada not leading this process, but it is boycotting it completely. Canada is not back on the international scene. It is backing away from its traditional leadership role in promoting a more peaceful world and backing away under pressure from the United States and other nuclear powers.
It is ironic that we are debating this point only two days after the government proudly rolled out a shiny new foreign policy that tried to paint Canada as taking a path independent from the United States, when in this process we are meekly following the Trump administration.
The Netherlands is the only NATO country standing up for sanity and taking a strong role in the negotiations. These negotiations for nuclear disarmament are still going on at the United Nations, and Canada could join the process and take a real role in this important and essential project.
Instead, the government hides behind its actions on the fissile material cut-off treaty. If successful, this effort would stop the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the basic elements of nuclear weapons. While this is a laudable goal, it will do absolutely nothing to bring about nuclear disarmament. It is not nuclear disarmament at all.
As I said at the start, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world, and the nuclear powers have huge stockpiles of fissile materials. They do not need any more plutonium or highly enriched uranium to keep building, for years to come, more weapons that could incinerate the world several times over. The fissile material cut-off treaty will not stop that.
Canada is in a unique position to be a leader in nuclear disarmament. I want to point out that my riding has a long history of peace activism focused by the strong Doukhobor community with its dedication to peace and toil, and the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College in Castlegar.
My predecessor in this place, Alex Atamenenko, tabled a motion asking the government to create a department of peace, and I have tabled that same motion here in this Parliament. This would create a minister responsible for promoting the non-violent resolution of conflicts at home and abroad. It would speak volumes to the high priority that Canadians place on a peaceful world.
Opponents to negotiating a nuclear ban treaty say that disarmament must happen step by step and that the time is not right for these negotiations. The world is not secure enough for the treaty. We have reached the edge of this cliff step by step over the last 60 years. The world will never be fully secure. We cannot wait for better conditions. We cannot afford to wait at all.
Yes, the nuclear powers will always oppose nuclear disarmament, but we must not bow to their wishes and blindly take their viewpoint. We need to radically change the world view of the nuclear powers. It will not be easy and it will not happen overnight, but we must be bold, live up to our convictions and our moral duty, and work tirelessly for a nuclear weapons free world.