COMMENT: Cluster Munitions and Bill S-10

by Alex Atamanenko     http://boundarysentinel.com

COMMENT: Cluster Munitions and Bill S-10

The federal government has tabled legislation, Bill S-10, An Act to Implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  My party opposes this Bill because it does not signify an attempt to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions but in fact, proposes to make an exception to it.

Cluster munitions can release hundreds of explosives over a large area in a very short period of time and have a devastating impact on civilians that can last many years after a conflict has ended. Canada participated actively in what was known as the Oslo Process to produce a convention to ban the use of cluster munitions. The Oslo process came on the heels of the successes of the Treaty to Ban Landmines. The US, China and Russia did not participate in the process and continue to have stockpiles of cluster munitions.

Despite strong  opposition from the majority of participating States and non-governmental organizations, Canada succeeded in negotiating into the final text of the Convention an article that explicitly allows for continued military ‘interoperability’ with non-party States (article 21).

Since 2008, significant debate between the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Department of National Defense (DND) has resulted in DND promoting a position that is widely seen as influenced by the US. Bill S-10  effectively invalidates the Convention. It explicitly circumvents the interoperability clause by allowing Canada to aid, abet, counsel, and conspire to use cluster munitions. Further, it allows for their transit through Canadian territory and by Canadian military assets. The Canadian government negotiated the Convention in good faith and proposed a limitation on the humanitarian goals, with significant international opposition, only to shirk our international responsibilities and bend to US pressure. Canada’s legislation and criminal punishments will be the weakest of all countries to have ratified the Convention.

According to Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada, “Canada should have the best domestic legislation in the world. We need to make it clear that no Canadian will ever be involved with this weapon again but, unfortunately this legislation falls well short of those standards.”

Former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser stated that, “It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.”

Canada, along with 110 other countries, signed the Convention on December 3, 2008 and this was tabled in the House of Commons on December 15, 2012.  Tragically, the US has lobbied Canada and other countries to water down the provisions.  Some facts:

·       98% of all recorded cluster munitions casualties have been civilians.

·       One cluster bomb contains hundreds of bomblets (or submunitions) and typically scatters them across an area the size of 2-4 football fields

·       37 countries and territories are known to be affected by cluster munitions from use in armed conflict including Afghanistan

·       The global stockpile of cluster bomb submunitions totals approximately 4 billion, with a quarter of these in U.S. hands

The fact that Canada is undermining the convention also undermines Canadian leadership on the world stage as well as our commitment to ban this terrible weapon.  How can the Conservative Government call this a ratification of the Convention when it is actually undermining it?

In my opinion, this is just another example of this federal government stepping away from its global responsibilities.  Canada used to be a strong voice for peace in the world.  How can we in good conscience turn our backs on a convention which is attempting to ban a weapon where 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians?  More than half of the victims of cluster bombs are children who are particularly attracted to the unexploded bomblets that are left behind.

Canada needs to speak out with a strong voice to push for a complete ban instead of bowing to US pressure to weaken the Convention.

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