Will Canada's election deliver Real Change on its depleted uranium weapons policy?
Canada has a new government, with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals sweeping to power after a decade of Conservative rule that has seen Canada’s historic leadership on a range of international issues, including disarmament, tarnished.
Under Harper’s government, Canada failed to join the Arms Trade Treaty and dragged its heels on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, all the while claiming leadership on disarmament issues in spite of strong evidence to the contrary. We reviewed their position in February this year. Can we expect the situation to improve under Trudeau’s leadership?
Prior to the election Mines Action Canada (MAC) undertook informal polling of all the main parties on a range of humanitarian disarmament topics, including on DU weapons. Canada has historically abstained on UN General Assembly resolutions on DU, even though it no longer has the weapons in service - an in-depth ICBUW briefing on Canada’s position on DU is available in English and French.
MAC posed the same DU question to all the main parties – Harper’s Conservatives failed to respond to any of the questions.
“The use of depleted uranium weapons has come under international scrutiny in recent years due to significant concerns about the long term health consequences of their use. If your party forms the next government, what will Canada’s policy be on the use of depleted uranium weapons? What will be Canada’s position on providing technical and financial assistance in order to aid decontamination of affected states and reduce the risks to civilians?”
The response from the Liberal Party was short and to the point:
“The Liberal Party of Canada opposes the use of depleted uranium munitions.”
“Le Parti libéral du Canada s’oppose à l’utilisation de munitions à l’uranium appauvri.”
While the Liberal’s tone was clearly welcome, it failed to elaborate on how it would fulfil this opposition if elected. Nor did their very short answer make any mention of assistance for decontamination. Nevertheless, it could be seen as a sign that Canada’s policy may change in the coming months and ICBUW urges its Canadian supporters to seek clarification on the Liberal position once the election excitement has subsided.
The first big test of the Liberal’s position will come in October 2016, when a sixth UN General Assembly resolution on DU will be tabled. A vote in favour from Canada would be a welcome development, and would help to reinforce the norms on transparency and assistance that the resolutions have been helping to build since 2007.