Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to thank my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie for raising the issue of nuclear disarmament in the House. Though the topic may not make the front pages, it is essential given its seriousness and potential consequences.
On August 6, 1945, and on August 8, 1945, humanity realized that it was capable of destroying itself with its own creations, with the weapons that it was able to manufacture. In my opinion, that was a turning point in the history of warfare because, until then, we were able to exterminate, to massacre, to make war, but not to the point of destroying all of humanity. Unfortunately, since 1945, we have had that collective ability, and things have not improved since.
There is no government in the world whose greatest responsibility is not to the safety of its citizens. They carry out this responsibility in many ways, through military and police forces, so we can live in the safety of our communities, with the least amount of violence possible, and where peoples' physical safety is not threatened.
However, if that is all we do and if international tensions mount to the point of all-out nuclear war, domestic security will be of little importance; we will have forgotten one part of the equation, international relations, the ability of states to make war and the types of weapons that can exist or be used.
At the risk of sounding old, I admit that I was born in 1973. My childhood and early teen years were spent in an era that no longer exists and that younger people can only imagine, the Cold War. There was the eastern bloc, a wall and the U.S.S.R., that was always looking for babies to eat and was threatening the world order.
I come from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where there was a military base with hundreds, even thousands of soldiers, which was quite impressive. There was also an arms factory that made armoured vehicles near the town, making it a potential target. The military base had sirens that could sound the alarm in the event of an attack. I still remember, as a child, being terrorized by the sound of those sirens, which could be set off during exercises in the evening and even at night. The threat was more tangible at the time; watching the news, we could begin to make sense of the international context in which we were living.
Then came the collapse of the Soviet bloc, something no one saw coming. We believe that we have since enjoyed greater international security, but I believe it was a false sense of security. The dangers of nuclear proliferation are real. We would not want more countries to have this terrible weapon that can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people, even entire regions, not to mention the known medium- and long-term effects of radioactivity.
We also do not want to go back to the time of the balance of terror, as it was called. There is a theory in political science that any power that has enough weapons to completely destroy another several times over would never dare to launch an attack, fearing mutually assured destruction. To date, that theory has proven to be true. The problem is that, if it should one day cease to hold, there will be no more political scientists left to figure out what went wrong.
I have always found the term “balance of terror” to be problematic because it implies that our lives and our societies are hanging by a thread and that, on the day the thread breaks, there goes all hope of any future political theory.
On a bit of a lighter note, I remember that, in the 1980s, peace activists had a bumper sticker that said, “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day”. It does not take many bombs to ruin a day.
I think it is important that we fully participate in the worldwide effort to come up with an international convention that focuses specifically on nuclear disarmament. That is everyone's responsibility, especially Canada's, because we used to be a leader in that regard. I think that the current Prime Minister could learn from some of the prime ministers of the past, one of whom he must know quite well, to find the inspiration needed to make the right decisions about Canada's role in these talks.
After spending decades playing a leadership role in nuclear disarmament, the fight against nuclear proliferation, and the fight against other types weapons, such as landmines, Canada should be ashamed of coming off as the lapdog of the American government and the Trump administration.
Negotiations are taking place at the United Nations for a new nuclear disarmament treaty and Canada is not at the table. Canada is boycotting the talks. That is absolutely incomprehensible and I would like to hear my Liberal colleagues explain to us the strategy behind not taking part in such important discussions involving dozens of countries. Not only are we not taking part in the discussions, but we also voted last year against a United Nations resolution on nuclear disarmament. That is a complete contradiction of Canada’s traditional position—one it should keep, in my opinion.
There is neither precedent nor explanation for such a position. My Liberal colleague spoke of context earlier. The context is precisely that there are 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world, that nine countries have nuclear weapons, officially or otherwise, and that the current U.S. President wants to renew, modernize and reinvest in America's nuclear arsenal. That could launch a new arms race with other countries. To make matters worse, North Korea has officially lost control and is threatening its entire region, Asia. It has, or is trying to obtain, nuclear weapons and the ability to launch them over fairly long distances.
The urgency of the current context should compel us to get through these talks and negotiations as fast as possible and to work toward a plan to ban nuclear weapons. It has been a year since the NDP and my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie asked the government to take part in these discussions. I think that today is an important day to tell all Canadians what the Liberal government’s position really is and to demonstrate its inaction, which is isolating us from the majority of countries around the world.
It does not make sense given our goal of having a safe and secure planet free from nuclear weapons. Moreover, from a policy standpoint, the Liberal government is looking to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council. We agree, but choosing to sulk in a corner instead of taking part and being content to simply follow the new American administration is not the way to get us the votes we need to obtain that seat, which we sadly lost in the past.
I would like to read an excerpt of a letter that was recently sent to the Prime Minister of the Liberal government. It is in English, so I will quickly read a few passages.
In their famous 1955 manifesto, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell called on us to “remember our humanity and forget the rest”, so in that humanitarian spirit, we call on your government to...
Respect and support multilateral efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons by ending Canada's boycott of the current UN General Assembly negotiations of a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons and by joining the next session of talks....
That letter was signed by no fewer than 100 recipients of the Order of Canada, who feature among the most illustrious of our fellow Canadians. These people, who have received awards from the federal government, are now making a formal appeal to the government.
I hope that the government will heed the call and change its position, that it will contribute in a positive way to meeting one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.