Address by Minister Dion at a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the start of the Ottawa Process


On the road to disarmament

October 28, 2016 - Toronto, Ontario

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

At a time when nuclear disarmament is stalled and when Canada, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, is re-engaging in the world, I cannot thank you enough for inviting me to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the start of the “Ottawa Process,” which led to the Landmine Convention [Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction].

It is a particular honour to speak in the presence of Lloyd Axworthy, the architect of the Ottawa Process. Without Lloyd, we wouldn’t be gathered here today, celebrating the success of this initiative.

A success? Yes: it is no exaggeration to say that the Ottawa Convention is one of the most successful disarmament treaties in history.

Since its signing:

  • the number of landmine victims has decreased yearly, from 26,000 to 3,700 today;
  • countries have destroyed 49 million anti-personnel mines; and
  • of the 90 states that reported stockpiled anti-personnel mines, no less than 85 have completed their stockpile destruction.

And while the convention is not universal, 162 states—over 80 percent of the world’s nations—have willingly decided to comply with it.

The convention is a testament to what can be achieved when political leadership is combined with the dedication of our best diplomats and the talents and reach of the NGO community.

Let’s inspire ourselves to even greater heights. Let’s convince those countries who still have not signed the Ottawa Convention to do so. Let’s have Canada lead a campaign to convince the holdouts to join a convention that has already shown its benefits for humanity.

Let’s achieve the goal of a world free of anti-personnel mines by 2025, set out during the convention’s last review conference, in Maputo, Mozambique.

But let’s also take inspiration from the success of this convention to make progress in other fields of disarmament. Canada has to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). It makes no sense that we should be among the last members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to join. Canada, which should be an example as a world citizen, finds itself at the back of the class—is this acceptable?

The Government of Canada will fix that. Canada will become a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, and as a full member of the ATT we will champion strict regulation of the trade in arms and of respect for universal rights.

It is with pride that I will introduce the legislation necessary to join the ATT in the House of Commons by the end of this year.

We also need to make more progress in the elimination of cluster munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions—sometimes called the Oslo Convention or CCM—represented a major advancement of international humanitarian law and a significant development in the protection of civilians from the effects of armed conflict.

It is the instrument we use to reduce the devastating risk these weapons impose on civilians. Canada is firmly committed to the CCM’s goal of putting an end to the human suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions.

The Ottawa convention on landmines, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Oslo convention on cluster munitions were three successful steps toward a world free of deadly weapons.

But why were they successful? Because enough key players who could make a concrete impact on the issue at hand—be it landmines, conventional weapons or cluster munitions—were prepared to ban weapons that they themselves used and to control the trade in these weapons.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of nuclear weapons.

I fully understand that there is widespread and understandable frustration concerning the absence of progress on nuclear disarmament. Canada genuinely shares this frustration, and our government fully recognizes that we desperately need a step—a move, a sign, some progress—toward our ideal of a world free of nuclear weapons.

But we are concerned that this frustration is leading to an approach that is unlikely to achieve disarmament goals but likely to further divide the international community.

I am referring to the call to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

Our goal is a world free of nuclear weapons. But this cannot be achieved without getting those countries that have these weapons on board. This is why an initiative for a nuclear weapons ban treaty that would not be supported by the nuclear countries, as well intentioned as that may be, is not the best way to proceed.

And yet we really need concrete steps.

So what can be done?

Our government’s position is that the most effective approach is a step-by-step process that includes a universalized nuclear non-proliferation treaty, a fully in-force comprehensive test ban treaty, a negotiated fissile material cut-off treaty, or FMCT, and, as the ultimate step, a credible and enforceable convention or ban on nuclear weapons.

True, this approach will be incremental and slower than what one would dream for, but it will offer, at last, some tangible progress.

Our government is making efforts on all these fronts. In particular, it is taking the lead in working with the international community and key stakeholders to move forward with a fissile material cut-off treaty.

We are convinced that the best way to have a concrete effect on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is to ban the production of the fissile materials that give nuclear weapons their explosive power.

Yesterday, October 27, 2016, the United Nations passed a resolution—co-sponsored by Canada, Germany and the Netherlands—that will create a high-level preparatory group mandated to recommend elements of a fissile material cut-off treaty. Our proposal received overwhelming support—including the broad support of states that possess nuclear weapons as well as those that do not—from UN members: 177 states voted in favour. Over the next two years, this group will lay the groundwork for an FMCT negotiation by preparing the base draft for negotiation.

While this will make eventual negotiations more efficient, we are under no illusion that they will be easy.

But progress on an FMCT is now possible, and Canada will work tirelessly at each and every step along the way with responsible conviction.

Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Canada will again be a leader in disarmament, a leader that works with its international partners to pursue pragmatic but important change. And I know that you will contribute, in your own way, to this pursuit.

The Ottawa Convention showed that progress in disarmament and arms control is possible. It is not easy; it is often slow and frustrating; and sometimes we may lose our way and despair of seeing any concrete outcome. But Canadians never give up.

If we had given up 20 years ago, the world would have lost tens of thousands more victims to landmines. And if the international community had given up, we would have no ban on cluster munitions and no international agreement on responsible arms trade.

More is possible, including a ban on fissile material for nuclear weapons and the completion of the important work of the Ottawa and Oslo conventions.

Canada, as a determined peacebuilder, is committed to making the possible a reality.

Thank you.


Chantal Gagnon
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

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