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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 33, December 1998 - January 1999

Canadian Nuclear Report

On 10 December, the Canadian House of Commons' Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade released a major report on nuclear weapons issues, Canada and the Nuclear Challenge. The report lists 15 recommendations - reproduced in Documents and Sources - which will now be considered by the Liberal Government of Jean Chretien. Among the recommendations likely to generate opposition from NATO's three nuclear-weapon States are that all nuclear-weapon States should de-alert their weapons, that NATO consider removing nuclear warheads from delivery systems, that NATO discuss urgently and seriously changes to its nuclear doctrine, and that Canada support calls for the negotiation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention establishing a nuclear-weapon-free world. The report did not explicitly recommend that Canada advocate NATO adoption of a no-first-use policy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade issued a statement on 10 December welcoming the report and stressing the Government's commitment to pursuing a vigorous and innovative disarmament agenda: "On 26 May, 1998, [Foreign] Minister Axworthy spoke before the Committee... He emphasized that Canada's credentials as a credible participant and promoter of new channels for diplomacy and change should guide further progress on the nuclear disarmament front. ... The Department of Foreign Affairs...will have 150 days to co-ordinate a response to the recommendations of the report, in close consultation with other Government departments and agencies."

Speaking at a meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers on 8 December (see above), Axworthy drew his colleagues' attention to the report: "We need to address the evident tension between what NATO Allies say about proliferation and what we do about disarmament. Over 70% of Canadians support NATO and Canada's membership in the Alliance but 93% of Canadians expect Canada and its Allies to take the lead in working to eliminate nuclear weapons. Later this week, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs...will table recommendations on 'The Nuclear Challenge.' The Government of Canada will consider its recommendations carefully."

According to an unnamed US official, quoted in the Washington Post on 11 December as reacting both to the report and Axworthy's statement at NATO: "Minister Axworthy is pursuing a course that could lead to a growing and dangerous rift within the Alliance... This is very troublesome to us."

Reports: Address by the honourable Lloyd Axworthy to the North Atlantic Council meeting, NATO web-site http://www.nato.int/docu/speech/1998/s981208i.htm, 8 December; Canada urges NATO to trim nuclear role, Washington Post, 10 December; Canada questions NATO nuke strategy, Associated Press, 10 December; Axworthy welcomes Parliamentary Committee report on nuclear policy, Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Press Release No. 291 1998, 10 December.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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