Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand to speak to Canada's role in peace and security and restoring our reputation on the world stage. I thank my New Democrat colleagues who initiated this debate and everyone who is participating in it today.
Where we must start is that human rights are not optional. If the government wants to show that Canada is a leader in human rights, then it needs to ensure that we are indeed walking the talk.
Canada was once a leader on nuclear disarmament issues. I honour the shoulders we stand on. When I was a young woman in Toronto, I was especially inspired by the work of Dr. Rosalie Bertell and Ursula Franklin, women with amazing minds who worked very hard to push Canada to take the important action we needed to on the world stage. However, the international community is now negotiating a nuclear weapons ban convention, and Canada is boycotting the process. It is a shameful position. With this, Canada has effectively removed itself from nuclear disarmament diplomacy.
We do not understand how Canada can “be back”, in the words of the Prime Minister, on the international scene when we are turning our backs on the most important international negotiations in years. Arguably, with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pledged to increase the nuclear arsenal in the U.S., and the troubling actions taken by North Korea, the threat of nuclear war is so present on the international stage right now that it is even more important that the international community work together at this time.
The world is watching Canada. This motion today gives the government an opportunity to reaffirm Parliament's support for nuclear disarmament. We certainly hope cabinet will follow, in line with the motion, to re-support Parliament in that initiative.
On the waterfront of Nanaimo, one of the communities I represent, there is an annual honouring of the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing on August 6. Members of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, a long-standing activist organization across the country, with particularly strong roots in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, were talking about the UN vote that was coming up at that time on nuclear disarmament. They shared my optimism that given the campaign commitments the Liberal Party had made on peace, security, and restoring Canada's international reputation on the world stage, our Prime Minister was going to direct Canada to vote in favour of negotiations to end the nuclear weapons trade. We were all stunned when Canada voted against negotiations for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. It was seriously a shock to all of us.
These negotiations have been called for by former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Sixty-eight countries voted in favour of the motion, so Canada was completely outside the international consensus. The vote was called the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in two decades by one of the UN member countries, and Canada was not on board.
That vote by the Canadian Liberal government also flew in the face of a 2010 resolution of this House encouraging the Canadian government to join those negotiations. I will talk more about that in a few minutes. I want to say what a sad point it was that government did not follow through. Now that is has the power, why would it not carry through with that commitment? It would have made us all proud on the international stage.
We want to move forward in a more positive way, and there is even more United Nations consensus that Canada could move on theoretically.
Canada's responsibility in this area is particularly strong. At a session that two of my New Democrat colleagues hosted yesterday on the Hill, I was reminded of Canada's special responsibility with respect to nuclear weapons. The bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were made from uranium that was mined in Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories. It was refined in Port Hope. As well, Canada has sold CANDU reactors around the world, which have a unique design capability that makes them particularly susceptible to nuclear weapons uses. They are of course not designed for that. It is a design flaw and an unintended consequence. This is how Pakistan and India got the bomb. It was by using Canadian power-producing technology.
Our responsibility is deep. We are reminded by the CCNR, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, in the summary of a book written in the eighties, that:
Through its dealings with other countries, Canada has played a major role in fostering the proliferation of nuclear weapons [around] the world. This brief history concerns itself with Canada's involvement as a supplier of nuclear reactors and uranium, leading to both “vertical proliferation”—the ever-accelerating competition for bigger, better, faster and smarter bombs among existing nuclear powers—and “horizontal proliferation”: a more insidious process whereby dozens of national and subnational groups are slowly but surely acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
CCNR has been raising the alarm on this for decades, and the danger is greater for us right now.
It is powerful to be reminded of the human toll when a nuclear bomb falls on a community. Yesterday we heard the testimony of Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian citizen but a Japanese schoolgirl, age 13, when the bomb fell at Hiroshima. She said that there were mostly children, women, and elderly people who were vaporized, incinerated, contaminated, and crushed in the wake of the bomb at Hiroshima, again, that Canada was complicit in.
She described her four-year-old nephew transformed into blackened, melted flesh. She said the family was relieved when he died. It is an appalling image she has carried her whole life. She said they made a vow to their loved ones at that time that his death would not be in vain, that all the deaths in her community would not be in vain.
Now, as a Canadian citizen, she says she is deeply disturbed by the absence of the Canadian government at the negotiations. She said she felt betrayed by Japan, of course, but also by her adopted country of Canada.
We have a responsibility to honour Canada's complicity in this and also the opportunity we have to enter the negotiations and make ourselves proud again on the international stage.
As New Democrats, we have been asking the new Canadian government to participate fully in the nuclear weapons ban multiple times since September. It has consistently hidden behind the excuse that it is working on the fissile material cut-off treaty, which is important and related but is not a nuclear weapons ban. That is what we are holding out for, and this is what we have the opportunity for on the world stage right now.
We had a unanimous vote of the House in 2010 committing Parliament to take this action. We had a very powerful vote by the Liberal Party at its last convention just a short time ago. It campaigned on this issue also.
The Liberal government has made multiple promises that are not being upheld. At a time when Canada is proclaiming its commitment to peace and security, its commitment to the United Nations, we see, on this side of the House, that Canada is not honouring its commitments to the United Nations. It is not too late, though. I urge the Liberal side to vote in favour of this motion to move forward in good faith, to have the country move forward, and for us to do the right thing collectively.
Please let us make Canada proud on the world stage again.