T160. Enter, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons!

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 160
Panelists: Earl Turcotte
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired: 12 January 2021
Date Transcribed: 14 February 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer, how would you like to get rid of nuclear weapons? How would you like to abolish the damn things forever from the face of the planet? Well, I would too. And we have somebody with us today who is working on that. And in fact, I’m working on a little bit, but he is big time working. This is Earl Turcotte, who is chairing the Canadian network to abolish nuclear weapons, and probably a half a dozen other good organizations, because he’s a retired diplomat from the Canadian government and from the United Nations. Good morning Earl.

Earl Turcotte

Good morning. Better, very happy to be with you.

Metta Spencer

Yeah, well, I’m delighted to have you with me too, because you’re going to help me get straightened out. I’m going to tell people that there is such a thing as colloquially called the ban treaty, or the TPNW, which stands for the Treaty on the prohibition, or for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Earl Turcotte

The Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Metta Spencer

Right? That’s great. Okay, and that’s what we are celebrating, because in a few days, it’s going to come into force. After you negotiate a treaty, you have to get a bunch of countries to sign it, when you get 50 of them to sign it, at least, then you wait a while, and it comes into force, it becomes international law. And that’s going to happen. So we are in Canada, and around the world, people who are activists, and who are concerned about nuclear weapons are acting together in various kinds of campaigns, to not only celebrate this event, and call attention to it, but also to get our countries to endorse it, or sign it and ratify it. I should have said after 50 have ratified it, which is different from just signing it. After they’ve signed and ratified, then we, we have this treaty, but we want to get our countries to ratify or sign it and ratified rather. And here we have a lot going on in Canada and Earl is on top of it, and I’m not. So Earl, there are at least three or four different projects going on, which you know about and I get emails flying around my inbox every day so that I’m totally overwhelmed with it. How are you? And what’s your role in this whole thing? And let’s get a first an overview of what your your position and and the organizations that I’m sort of involved with, on this matter. And then I want to ask you a bunch of specific questions about particular things that are planned events that are in the works. So pretend I never met you, who is your ochre cod and why should I like you?

Earl Turcotte

Well, maybe you shouldn’t like me, but I would like it if you did.

Metta Spencer

I like it. So explain why I like you so much.

Earl Turcotte

Well, I am the current chair of the Canadian network to abolish nuclear weapons. And this is a network of currently 17 soon to be 18 nongovernmental organizations that have various remits various mandates, but one thing in common and that is that they are all absolutely committed to the to the abolition of nuclear weapons. I’ll just name a few of our member organizations of the Canadian Coalition for nuclear responsibility. Canadian Pugwash group the group of 78 project plowshares religions for peace, the Rideau Institute, and, and so on. So you just get a flavor of the of the diverse organizations that are part of our network. We also work outside the network very cooperatively and recently in particular extremely well with with different NGOs, and and Coalition’s, such as the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, and also here in Canada, organizations that follow him signed the form network itself. So we all have the commitment to nuclear evolution in common and we were all absolutely delighted when in 2017 124 countries came together and negotiated the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons the TPNW. Now out of the 124 it was absolutely astounding that at the end 122 actually endorsed the text following. T he only two that didn’t were the Netherlands, which, as you know, is a NATO state. And they were the only NATO state that participated in the negotiations. And Singapore, I believe, abstained in the end. So other than that, we got pretty much two thirds of the world states having endorsed the text. Since that time — legally, the way it happens is up to the point of the entry into force, that is to say, when a treaty becomes legally binding, there’s a two stage process — 1. states first sign, which is an indication of intent, really. 2. one of the obligations is for them to put in place domestic legislation that will reflect all of the legally binding obligations and prohibitions that are required under the treaty, to make sure that their domestic laws are consistent and will uphold the treaty. It takes time to do that. And as you can imagine, bills have to be passed through Parliaments or through government and and signed into law. At that point, then a state can ratify, and submit its instruments of ratification to the depository. In this case, it is the Secretary General of the United Nations. And in the case of the TPNW, the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, a threshold of 50 states was set as the minimum number of states that had to ratify to trigger the entry into force 90 days later.

Metta Spencer

Oh, me but I that’s interesting, too, because you just told me something I didn’t know. I didn’t realize that. It varied I assumed it was 50 for all treaties, that’s just part of the world. But no, if each treaty sets its own threshold,

Earl Turcotte

Yes, yes, it does. And that’s caused all kinds of repercussions. In different treaties, sometimes the threshold has been set extremely high to trigger the entry into force. And indeed, some treaties have not entered into force yet. So this one, the threshold was was healthy: 50 states. But it was met fairly quickly in in diplomatic terms very quickly, indeed. And the 50th state ratified on the 25th of October of last year; hence, the act triggered the 90 day period for entry into force. And on January 22, it will formally enter into force. Now, what that means, first and foremost is that that treaty then becomes legally binding on all states that have become a party to it. Very important, it is not legally binding on states that have chosen not to become party to it. That said, It establishes a new international norm. And this is the first time that that nuclear weapons will have been deemed completely illegal in international law. For the parties that have been referred to, states that have become a party to this tree.

Metta Spencer

I don’t want to deflect you bit. But you know, I’m sure that everybody is listening who listens with a skeptical ear is going to say, Well, so what if the countries that own the nuclear weapons are not bound by it? So what else do you got? that’s worthwhile? Why is this importance?

Earl Turcotte

Okay, well, it’s a number. It’s important for a whole number of reasons. One is it establishes a new norm in effect, these weapons have been stigmatized. And this has affected the behavior of states in the past with other treaties, whether or not they are party to the treaty. Think of anti personnel landmines. Think of cluster munitions. Think of chemical and biological. Well, you know, the United States, for example, has refused to become party to either the mine ban treaty or the Convention on cluster munitions. But they have not used anti-personnel landmines for many, many years, in large part because of the stigmatization that is now associated with them.

Metta Spencer

So it helps establish the norm. As devil’s advocate, let me let me imagine that somebody would certainly say, well, nor have they exploded a nuclear weapon in many, many years. So what else is new?

Earl Turcotte

That is true. Okay. Well, what else is new is that this treaty contains a provision that requires all states party to make best efforts to universalize the treaty. So they have this this imposes a legal obligation on countries that become party to this treaty to make their best efforts to persuade states not party to join the treaty. This will affect their international relations, not only in multilateral disarmament forum, but also if diplomats are doing their jobs in their bilateral relationships, this should become a talking point in any other major interactions from one state, a state party to non-state party, urging them so in effect, what you’re doing is you are establishing a lobbying effort, an official lobbying effort among states that reflects the kind of lobbying that civil society has been doing for years. And in this case, it is required. Oh, it will, it will have an effect.

Metta Spencer

Okay, now, now, let’s say this, that sounds begins to sound like teeth, that the thing may have. So if I were a military leader, loving my nuclear weapons and, and possessing a few, I imagine that what I would do is either try to ignore this thing and pretend it didn’t exist, which I assume, explains the fact that there’s no publicity in one of the nuclear countries, certainly the US as I can tell, or I would fight it and and try to get people to not sign it, or what else would I do?

Earl Turcotte

Well, actually, both usually. The greatest insult that can be leveled at a process like this is for it to be ignored. And in the beginning, before the treaty was negotiated, indeed, nuclear armed states did ignore the process. They did not take it seriously. When the negotiations commenced, they took it very, very seriously. And tried to discourage participation. And indeed, the United States made a concerted effort to discourage all of its allies to boycott the negotiations. And all NATO states except one, the Netherlands, did. And it became clear later on that the Netherlands participated, not because they were negotiating in good faith, but they were they were doing their level best (it appeared) to to reduce the effectiveness of any instrument that might emerge from the negotiations. And in the end, they voted against it. So they played the typical spoiler role. So the United — so NATO — has not ignored and very interestingly, on the 20th of October, or 23rd, sometime that week, NATO made a point of coming out on the occasion of the 50th state ratifying again, denouncing the treaty, and the United States wrote a letter to all states that had signed for ratified, essentially informed them in no uncertain terms, that in their view, they had made a strategic mistake, and strongly urge them to withdraw from the treaty. So that I think can be taken as a compliment. They are taking this treaty very seriously. They know it has teeth, they know it will have impact, it cannot be ignored. And remember, 122 states endorsed the text of the treaty. So it’s only a matter of time, as far as we’re concerned, before at least that number of states join the treaty. And when you have two thirds of the world that in a fairly short period of time is going to consider nuclear weapons to be illegal, as well as immoral, that will bring to bear tremendous pressure on the nine nuclear armed states and their enabling states, their allies, including, unfortunately, our own.

Metta Spencer

Okay, well, now, you’ve mentioned that the NATO states are certainly foremost among those opposing it. But is there much variation among states that own nuclear weapons in their attitude toward this treaty? Have they expressed different points of view — say, China, Russia, India, etc, all of these different countries that own nuclear weapons? Are they as adamant about the matter as the US has been in getting NATO to oppose it?

Earl Turcotte

I don’t have a lot of detailed information on that, Metta, I can tell you that they are quite uniform, all nine nuclear armed states have uniformly denounced this treaty. To my knowledge. I don’t have the details on specific statements. I’ve been following the US very closely. And of course, the UK and France. The other two NATO states that are have nuclear weapons are standing firmly with the United States on this. And indeed, non-nuclear armed NATO allies are as well. So this is something we have to work against. But no there is not one of the nine nuclear armed states that has spoken highly about this treaty. However, there are some nuclear armed states that have indicated that they’re very open to dialogue and and and discussion on where they might go from here to pursue nuclear disarmament. And I should, in fairness to the United States and whatnot, and to their allies, make it very clear that NATO itself has said it is completely and sincerely committed to the ultimate goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons. Yes, they are. What is that issue is when and how. And they believe that this is not the way to go. In part, and it’s a kind of a circuitous argument, they say, well, this treaty does not involve any nuclear-armed states, therefore, it will not ultimately result in the destruction of any nuclear arms. Well, it begs the question, if they were to join the treaty, then indeed, it would have that impact. But aside from that, there is a tremendous value in this treaty from a non-proliferation perspective. And what’s kind of ironic is, on one hand, nuclear-armed states are advocating for non-proliferation, that is to say, although we want to retain our nuclear weapons, we don’t want anyone else to have them. Heaven forbid that Iran and North Korea should have nuclear weapons, because then it poses a global threat, whereas ours, of course, are a guarantee of international security. The hypocrisy in the double standards is palpable. But they they are all nonetheless, at least in theory, committed to nuclear disarmament. The question is, what are they going to do? Now, where this plays out in reality is interesting. A case in point: the New Start tree that is going to expire next month. As it’s a bilateral treaty between the US and Russia, that has imposed tremendous limitations on strategic weapons, Russia has said that it is prepared to extend the New Start treaty for five years without any preconditions. And this can be done simply on the basis of a signature. To date, the Trump administration has absolutely refused to do that. And we’re very hopeful that Mr. Biden when he takes over and he has indicated that a renewal of New Start is going to be near the top of the list of priorities, we hope that he follows through on that, and I suspect that will perhaps get things off on on a better footing in terms of getting back to dialogue between the US and Russia, which between the two of them possess more than 90% of all the nuclear arms in the world. So any bilateral agreement they have, and any new agreements that can be negotiated, can have tremendous impact. And ultimately, as happened during the Reagan-Gorbachev years, if they can come to agreement on making major reductions in the number of nuclear arms in their respective arsenals, this can have tremendous ripple effect and multiplier effect among other nuclear-armed states. Because the reality is that right now, and for about the past four years, they’ve embarked on a new nuclear arms race, under the banner of modernization, but they’re also developing new missile technologies and lower-yield US nuclear weapons that, in fact, can be more dangerous, because they’re more easily deployable. And the threshold for use is lower. All of these things: this is a very, very scary time. And as you will know, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set the doomsday clock at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been in history, closer than during the Cold War during the Cuban Missile Crisis,

Metta Spencer

The average person certainly in all of the nuclear-armed states, and probably many others, including Canada, \is really unaware of this danger and thinks that in a way, the nuclear weapons issue is something that we worried about 30 or 40 years ago, and we don’t need to worry about any more. And I think that what, you know, here we have this extremely interesting conjunction of both opportunity with a ban treaty and increasing risk that people are simply not aware of. And really, we need to bring these two things together and make people realize how urgent. The situation is and how accessible the answer is, you know.

Earl Turcotte

And let me make a couple of points here. One is that the position our network has taken as this is that if nuclear-armed states have an issue with the way the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which we think is wonderful — and it is actually a much more robust and comprehensive instrument than most people give it credit for, I mean, I’ve gone through it in detail and, and it, it has a lot of positive or all all the basic prohibitions, but also positive obligations on it for remediation of territory that has been affected by testing. And, of course, the hibakusha victim assistance for victim assistance for the hibakusha, the Japanese who were affected for Japanese victims of the bombing in Vienna, in 1945. It’s a very robust treaty. But if for whatever reason nuclear armed states refuse to support it or become party to it, then what we are advocating is for them, then to commence negotiations on a calm, complimentary, legally binding instrument of their own making, as long as achieves the same ultimate goal. And that is essentially the complete and total elimination of nuclear weapons, and placing all existing weapons-grade fissile material under effective international control, until such time as it can be depleted to more safe levels and contained. And to put in place a means of verification to ensure compliance. And that is the only way we’re going to put this genie back in the bottle. We’re not suggesting that NATO unilaterally disarm, that could be destabilizing, and it’s not going to happen. What we want is for NATO to take the lead in engaging all nuclear-armed states, in discussions that will lead to negotiations of a comprehensive, multilateral treaty (if this is not the one for them) that will have the same result, to go hand in hand and just get rid of these weapons in a very, very systematic, careful way, while putting in place measures for common sustainable security for all to see us through that period, that some might consider to be very destabilizing. In fact, we believe it would make it much more stable. Because one of the greatest threats to stability internationally today is the existence of nuclear weapons. Get rid of those and what the world will feel like and be a much more secure place. And we want Canada to play a leadership role in pushing NATO. To do that. We have a few minutes, maybe we can talk now about some of the initiatives we’re trying to do that.

Metta Spencer

Right. Well, we we don’t have to finish it at one o’clock if, you know, we get wound up. Going to cut us off. Nothing happens as it would if we were really on TV. So yeah, let me ask one more question. Maybe it’s sort of a diversion. But it’s of interest to me. That is you almost said something that related to a dispute. I don’t know whether you’d call it a dispute or a question that has arisen in some of the meetings. And that is we there’s always been for many years an effort to promote something that’s called a convention on nuclear weapons. And that’s went on way, before we begin the initiative to create the TPNW. But what I heard you say once in a meeting was– look, this ban treaty is so good, that it’s enough by itself, if people would use it, it’s got all the ingredients in it, that would be necessary in a convention. And therefore, we don’t really need a convention. But now you’ve you’ve suggested that, well, if nuclear weapons states don’t like what we’ve done, this TPNW, then of course, go get a convention. Am I right in interpreting what you said and and, and tell me if you know, if there’s a qualification that way.

Earl Turcotte

Yeah, the two are not mutually exclusive. No, there are elements in this convention. And I have to say the way the negotiators negotiated, it was extremely deft, it was very, very well done. They did not upfront decide on one of the thorniest mechanisms is going to be the means to ensure, to verify that states are doing what they say they will do and to ensure compliance. So you’ve got to have a competent international authority that can monitor the action the behavior of states, the actions of states and and ensure compliance, to be able to submit reports to ensure that people are doing what they say they’re going to do. Now, in this treaty, it does not expressly lay out how that is going to be done. What it does do is it says that, once the treaty is in force, that within one year, there will be a meeting of states party. And at that meeting of states party, they will identify a competent international authority that will help them establish the technical means to monitor to verify and to ensure compliance with all the provisions of the treaty. Now, there have been a number of ideas, because that in itself is a negotiation. There are a number of ways this can be done, we have the International Atomic Energy Agency agreements that are in place, we have the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the CTBTO, that has a tremendous technical capacity and knowledge. To do this, you could establish a new body and bring in all the relevant expertise that you need to do this. There are a number of ways it could be done, but the negotiators knew they did not have the time during that negotiation. And that also, this is something that could be negotiated later. And this is not unusual. You can consider this in many ways, as a framework treaty with certain technical elements that need to be fleshed out. But the obligations and the commitments are there. So for NATO, to to criticize the TPNW by saying, well, it doesn’t include measures for verification and compliance — well, the response to that is not yet but it will shortly. So they’d like to point to the weakness of it. I think, as they said, I stand by the fact that this is a robust treaty, a very high quality document. And other countries could simply adopt it and take it forward. Politically, I don’t think that will happen, if for no other reason, than to save national face, countries that denounced this process from the beginning, because they weren’t leading it… and didn’t want to be dragged along, kicking and screaming, will, for that reason alone, probably never want to simply say, okay, we’ve changed our minds will become a party to the TPNW. They might want to negotiate their own treaty. And again, I think that’s fine… it’s not the the instrument, it is the impact that is ultimately important. So they can do that. But right now, they’ve demonstrated no political will to do that.

Metta Spencer

Do they claim or do any of them claim that the reason they don’t do it is that it’s not really possible or feasible to realistically establish a verification regime? Do they say… we cannot establish mechanisms for detection of any lack of compliance? Therefore, we can’t really create such a treaty? They don’t claim this?

Earl Turcotte

No, that’s not really the issue, because it’s done in the case of chemical and biological weapons and other weapon systems… it’s not a technical constraint. What is missing is the political will to give up nuclear weapons. That’s what’s missing. And… our view is that we have to increase the pressure among other states of the world that believe these things have to be gone. Because let’s face it, this is an existential threat for the whole planet, we have not only the right but indeed the responsibility for no other reason than self defense and defense of the planet, to do everything we can to bring pressure to bear on nuclear armed states. And civil society plays a very, very important role in pressing states as well to do that. And I think now that we’ve got a core here, of states with a legal obligation, and that is going to increase over time, as they begin to universalize. And as others get their instruments of ratification submitted and everything else, the numbers will become greater and greater. And we’ve got to circle,encircle nuclear armed states (metaphorically speaking) and turn up the heat. Big time. I’m of the view that any country that retains nuclear weapons… or will threaten to use nuclear weapons is in fact a rogue state and should be regarded as such. And we should bring all manner of diplomatic, economic and social pressure to bear against such countries until they give them up.

Metta Spencer

Well, you know, turning up the heat sounds good to me, and I’ve got my (book) torch right here. Let’s go for it. And I’m not the only one because obviously with my inbox full of mail about things that are going to happen in the next few days to try to turn up the heat under the Canadian government to sign and ratify the treaty. And, by the way, let’s take a second and talk about the danger that is alleged, or the constraint that is alleged, before we talk about the particulars of our various campaigns. People say, well, can’t Canada couldn’t sign it? Because we’re part of NATO. And I think we ought to talk about that a second. What’s the issue? What Why can’t Canada sign as a member of NATO? And or ratify? And is it really true? Is there a way around it?

Earl Turcotte

I think …it’s a misconception that Canada cannot both remain a member of NATO in good standing and ratify the TPNW, what Canada would have to do, would be to disassociate itself from the Nuclear Security doctrine within NATO. Now, NATO does not require that all states move in lockstep and have identical security doctrines by which they abide. Case in point, we have a ban on anti-personnel mines, and cluster munitions; the United States does not. You know, we’re both NATO states, we have worked out a modus vivendi with other nations within NATO. So different security doctrines. The nuclear security doctrine is just another issue where states can have diverse approaches, all they would have to do to be eligible to join TPNW would be to denounce nuclear weapons, to commit to their verifiable elimination over time within a certain timetable that would be established under treaty. And they can remain members of NATO if they so choose, under those circumstances. And in fact, in my view, that would be the ideal situation, it I think that we would have a much more powerful voice in influencing NATO, as a member of NATO — than we would if we were to withdraw from NATO, where we then become another distant voice, perhaps considered to be a former disgruntled member of NATO. I would like Canada to remain a member of NATO, but try to reform NATO security doctrine, not just in the area by the way of nuclear weapons, but in many other areas where I and others have taken great exception to some of the behavior of NATO. That said, we take great exception to the behavior of many other states as well, outside of NATO. And, and I for one, I’m glad that we have a bulwark, you know, to to contain that, as well.

Metta Spencer

Well, everything you said, makes me happy. And makes me optimistic that everything could be done if we just get our act together and push a little bit. So this pushing is about to, you know, take on momentum in the next few days. As we approach the time when the treaty comes into effect. Tell me and help me get clear about all of these different campaigns and meetings and events that are planned?

Earl Turcotte

Well, there are a number of things going on. And I would if you want to know what’s going on around the world, I would refer you to the ICANW website, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. They have a long list of things that are going on around the world. I’ll mention a couple of things that are happening here in Canada. … On November 19. a webinar was held that was sponsored by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute and moderated by them that involved three members of parliament. Elizabeth May of the Green Party, Heather MacPherson, of the NDP and Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe of the BQ. This was on the occasion of the 50th state ratifying, to celebrate if you like, the imminent entry into force of the TPNW. Excuse me.

Metta Spencer

Now, you mentioned three parties. You did not mention the Liberals or the Conservatives. … comment on that.

Earl Turcotte

Our colleagues on one of our member organizations, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Coalition took the lead on putting this in place with the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute… Dr. Anton Wagner, I think was spearheading it and so they worked very closely together. They did invite Dr. Hedi Fry of the Liberal Party who is also a member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and has been for decades. So she personally is a very, very strong advocate for nuclear arms control. And she was scheduled to participate.

Metta Spencer

I’m sorry, Dr. Hedi Fry… You mentioned an NDP person.

Earl Turcotte

Yes… Heather MacPherson, of the NDP. Yes. And Dr. Hedi Fry, the Liberal. I know she was scheduled to participate, had committed to it and ran into some scheduling issues that prevented her from participating. Full stop. And to my knowledge, the Conservatives were invited, but declined to participate.

Metta Spencer

Now… our government is a Liberal government. And would that have meant that she was in any way compromised by the fact that she’s part of… the Liberal government, and would maybe not be free to say something that would be in opposition to the party’s position?

Earl Turcotte

Well, let’s look at some of the speculation. And of course, we don’t we don’t know for certain, but I do know that she has been… one of the longest standing Liberal MPs in Parliament, and if not the, and has been a very, very outspoken proponent of nuclear arms control, both in Canada and internationally. So I give her full benefit of the doubt as to why she did not participate in that event. Now, what happened is during that webinar, the MPs themselves came up with a suggestion that a press conference might be held to mark the entry into force of the TPNW. And indeed, that has now been scheduled for the 21st of this month, the day before entry into force, because entry into force happens to fall on a Friday. And holding a press conference on a Friday is not considered the best day. And also because Parliament is going to reconvene the following Monday. There are a lot of things going on, on Friday in caucus and whatnot. So there will be a press conference at 10 o’clock am Eastern time. And Heather MacPherson herself, will physically be at the press theater. Or in actually it’s the Sir John A Macdonald room. Or in the Sir John A Macdonald building rather, here on the hill. And also participating will be Elizabeth May, for the greens, Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe for the BQ, and as a representative of civil society, nominated by our network, the Canadian network to abolish nuclear weapons, the Honorable Douglas Roche, recipient of the Order of Canada, and actually the founding Chair of the CNANW and a longtime passionate advocate for nuclear disarmament. So we’re delighted that we have them already… Dr. Fry has been invited to participate in this and she is considering it as well. And we have sent an invitation to Erin O’Toole for a Conservative to to participate as well. So we would be delighted if we have all-party representation in this nonpartisan event to mark the entry into force of the TPNW. That’s one thing that’s happening. Another thing you should be aware of is that Dr. Wagner and and his colleagues in the in the Hiroshima-Nagasaki day coalition, again took the lead on pulling together broad support for an ad that is going to be placed in the Hill Times, which is read by parliamentarians and the diplomatic corps, and a lot of people in the know across Canada. It’s a wonderful publication. And but this is going to be a paid ad that is going to run at least two and probably three pages long. Because it’s going to be endorsed by quite a few organizations and individuals and the names will all be spelled out there. What it is asking, in fact, it’s a call upon the Government of Canada to allow a debate in Parliament on the TPNW. And a secondary request is to hold public hearings in the Standing Committee on International Affairs… pardon me, Foreign Affairs and International Development on Canada’s role in advancing nuclear disarmament more generally. So we are hopeful that the MPs participating in this press conference might support this request by civil society for a parliamentary debate and committee hearings. Because what we want to do is to finally get the government to respond to multiple requests that we have made for Canada to step up and to start to play a leadership role in nuclear disarmament, as our current Prime Minister’s father did back in the 80s. He made it a personal mission… of his to engage world leaders on nuclear disarmament to suffocate the nuclear arms race. And, you know… Canada took the lead in the anti-personnel mine ban treaty. We demonstrated that kind of international leadership in arms control and disarmament in the past, but we have certainly not done it in nuclear disarmament, we’ve pursued things that are important, the fissile material cutoff treaty and whatnot. But we’ve got nowhere in part, because we limit ourselves to trying to make headway through traditional multilateral fora, one in particular, the Conference on Disarmament, that operates on the basis of consensus… which is a recipe for paralysis and has done nothing for almost 25 years. So we want Canada to start to demonstrate real leadership, take this to the UN, as this treaty was taken through the UN, and operate under the rules of the General Assembly, where votes can be held. And no single country or small group of countries can hold the world ransom as they can in the CD or in the in the Security Council for that matter.

Metta Spencer

Well, that is exactly the kind of ambition that I want to encourage, certainly, I am myself felt discouraged over the over the years, with the failure of the government to respond to whatever prodding we do. And certainly, there was an initiative some years ago… for the members of the Order of Canada, to put an initiative to Parliament, maybe you can mention what happened there, and how the whole thing just, you know, fizzled out or never went anywhere.

Earl Turcotte

Well… a sister organization, Canadians for Nuclear Weapons Convention [under Pugwash]… its members are limited to recipients of the Order of Canada, and they have over 1000 representatives of the Order of Canada, who are supportive. This organization is chaired by our colleague and mutual friend Ernie Regehr. And it does tremendous work. Now I know they have written them, I’ve seen the letters that they have written wonderful, thoughtful, knowledgeable letters to the government. We’ve done a few of our own, our own through the network, and whatnot. And we have received no responses to our letters. And to my knowledge… I don’t think CNWC has either.

Metta Spencer

You know, the fact that this initiative was addressed in Parliament and accepted by both houses,

Earl Turcotte

I’m sorry, but what you’re referring to, I believe, is in 2010… in 2010, there was a motion adopted in Parliament. And the Senate [gave] actually unanimous support for a motion that Canada begin to play a leadership role and to… undertake a major international diplomatic initiative to pursue nuclear disarmament. And more recently, in 2018, the Standing Committee on National Defense made an all-party recommendation to the government in 2018, that Canada take a leadership role in NATO, in pursuing nuclear disarmament through NATO. So it seems we have in Parliament, a lot of parliamentarians who are supportive of doing this. And I’ll tell you what’s been missing, I think, is a sense of urgency, that this is unlike climate change, that the dangers are not imminent? Well, I’ll tell you, right events of late are changing that perception. Look at what happened this past week, when you had the Speaker of the House in the US having to speak to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ensure that the incumbent president doesn’t do something stupid like launch nuclear weapons. I mean, this is just one instance of what could possibly happen with the wrong person with access to nuclear weaponry. We know that terrorist organizations, several terrorist organizations around the world are trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability and fissile material. So whether that’ll be for a traditional nuclear bomb, or… a dirty Bomb, the danger exists and you can be sure that if they acquire that capability, they will use it. It is simply a matter of time before something happens unless we get rid of these weapons, and we rein in all the fissile material that is floating around out there and put it under effective control. We’ve got to put this genie back in the bottle and people what you are doing a lot to help do that. And we’re very grateful.

Metta Spencer

Well, this is exactly, you know, what haunted me that all these years ago, Parliament said, do something and nothing was done. That’s what bugs me, you know, we need to get on to it. And this is what happened this week is exactly an exemplification of the kind of threat that’s been there all along. I mean, you know, Trump is the same madman, he’s always been… the danger has existed and in fact, gets worse all the time. So it is an enormous risk. And, and it is something that we absolutely have to get a high priority to. So I just take my hat off to you are up for being a ringleader in this enterprise. And, and for the ringmaster let’s say I think of you in the in the circus

Earl Turcotte

It really is a team effort.

Metta Spencer

Let’s encourage the listeners if there’s anybody out there and there will be a few, at any rate, to take it on… what should a person do if if we have managed to ignite their anxieties?

Earl Turcotte

Well, a number of things. One is there is an electronic petition that was initiated by our colleague, Dr. Nessie Covington, that is being sponsored by Elizabeth May, an electronic petition that is going to go to Parliament, I think February 6 is the last day for for people to sign that can be found online. Actually, look under the CNANW website, I believe, I believe we have it posted there. If not, I’ll make sure it is later today.

Metta Spencer

If you’ll send me make sure it’s correct so that I don’t put up the wrong thing. But whatever links you want put at the end of this show, of course, now we’re doing this live, but it will go on our YouTube site and other places for people to look at indefinitely. And at the end, I’ll put a sign showing all the links that we want to refer to. So make sure I have everything that I need. Right. And I’ll put it up today.

Earl Turcotte

And better, there is there is another very important development and that is the CNANW is is updating a call to action to the Government of Canada. We’re going to have this released just before the press conference on the 21st, I expect, and it sets out 15 specific recommendations and several sub recommendations to the Government of Canada, we would like Canada to undertake in order to play this leadership role nationally and internationally on nuclear disarmament. So what we will be asking is we’ll be sending it directly to the government to the Prime Minister and relevant ministers under our signatures alone at this stage, but we will then be circulating it broadly asking organizations and individuals to to endorse it. And then when they endorse it to send it to forwarded to the Prime Minister’s office and to the relevant ministers indicating that they support this so that we in effect, have it like each one becomes an individual petition if you like. And we would like to blanket ,electronically blanket our political leaders, and let them know that Canadians care, because what is missing right now is the voice of Canadians across the country. We have a voice but it’s not strong enough. And we need a bigger course. And we need more leaders as well, and especially young people. So

Metta Spencer

Let’s talk beyond Canada. Because although not many people today are probably watching us outside of Canada. This is going to be on YouTube and Facebook and places that go around the world. And we are publicizing it and I will be published everything and even more. So there’ll be people in other countries watching this too. And I want to suggest that that you tell people what they can do, what other countries are making the kind of effort so far as you know, that Canadians are making to try to draw attention to this on the 22nd of January. And what what can people do if they don’t happen to live in Canada, but they want to show their enthusiasm for this new ban treaty.

Earl Turcotte

Well First of all, I know that almost every country that participated in the negotiations of TPNW has activities ongoing. So, you know… people can use the internet to find out what their own nation is doing. But also on the internet, the the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, ICANN has a website in which they give you they give you and I have it right here, the status of the treaty, who is party to it, who has ratified, who has signed, who has not, and things that they can do. And they also have posted events and whatnot. And if anyone would like to know how they can help, I would urge them to contact if they’re not in Canada, urge them to contact ICANN directly, and and seek guidance. And as other ideas come into my head…

Metta Spencer

Now this, this show will be available long after January 2, people will be seeing it a year from him, because we put it on a loop on our YouTube channel where it goes a day and night with a bunch of other shows. And eventually it’ll pop up and people will check. Check it out and see it. So we need to give some advice to people who are agitated about this issue. And watching it later about what they can do after the treaty has come into force to try to promote it. And who what what do we need to do? If If what do viewers who are watching a year or two from now? And we’re now in January 2021. What should they be doing that will help promote this.

Earl Turcotte

I would urge them first and foremost to contact their political leaders, their national leaders — write a letter and ask them what they are doing. Find out what your country’s position is on this treaty and on nuclear disarmament more generally, make the inquiry directly. Then I would urge them to identify NGOs, non government organizations, civil society organizations in their own country that are active actively engaged in promoting the treaty and promoting nuclear disarmament more generally, and join forces with them. find out who’s already in the lead and and see where you might be instrumental but there’s there is no substitute for direct communication with your national leaders in democratic countries, especially to bring pressure to bear. They have to know that the average citizen cares is interested and is watching is and, and speak out often. To… engage them in this because they do respond. But in a democracy generally they eventually respond if the pressure is high enough and enough voices are out there.

Metta Spencer

All right, we’ve covered the waterfront and and that’s just what we needed to do today. I think and I’m really grateful to you and I’m glad because it was also fun and enjoyable. So greetings to everybody out there who have become a peace worker and an anti nuclear weapons advocate just because our friend Earl for caught here so onwards.

Earl Turcotte

Thanks so much. Thanks all for watching.

Metta Spencer

Yeah, thank you