Canada

Nuclear-weapon endorser

Has not yet joined the TPNW

Status

Canada has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

 

National position

Canada has consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”. It has described the treaty as well-intentioned” but premature”.

Responding to a parliamentary petition in 2022 urging the Canadian government “to break with NATO’s nuclear policy and immediately sign and commit to ratifying the TPNW”, the minister of foreign affairs, Mélanie Joly, wrote that “Canada recognises that the entry into force of the [TPNW] reflects well-founded concerns about the unacceptable pace of nuclear disarmament”.

However, “Canada believes that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament remains the most viable pathway to achieving meaningful and lasting progress,” she added. “While not a party to the TPNW, Canada has common ground with treaty states and shares the ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.”

In 2018, the then-minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said that the “popularity” of the TPNW “speaks to the desire of countries, activists, and communities to accelerate the work toward disarmament” and “reflects frustration and disappointment at the pace of global efforts so far”.

Canada supports the retention and potential use of nuclear weapons on its behalf, as indicated by its endorsement of various alliance statements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), of which it is a member.

 

Political developments

Seven former Canadian prime ministers, foreign ministers, and defence ministers – Lloyd Axworthy, Jean-Jacques Blais, Jean Chrétien, Bill Graham, John Mccallum, John Manley, and John Turner – signed an open letter in 2020 calling on current leaders to “show courage and boldness – and join the [TPNW]”.

Canada’s New Democratic Party and Green Party have criticised the Liberal government for its failure to sign the TPNW. The government voted against a parliamentary motion in 2017 urging it to sign the treaty.

Setsuko Thurlow, a renowned Canadian disarmament campaigner and survivor of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima, who jointly accepted the Nobel peace prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2017, has repeatedly called on the government to change its stance.

Several Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, have also urged the Canadian government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

ICAN campaigners, including Setsuko Thurlow, hold a press conference in 2017 in celebration of ICAN’s Nobel peace prize. Photo: Paula Cardenas

 

Meetings of states parties

Canada opted not to attend as an observer the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW, held in Vienna in June 2022. Canadian civil society organisations, as well as senators and members of parliament from the New Democratic Party and Green Party, criticised the government’s decision.

Four other NATO member states – Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway – attended the meeting, as did NATO applicant states Finland and Sweden.

In explaining Canada’s non-attendance, Robert Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, said: “We understand and appreciate the sentiment behind the TPNW, but I will reiterate tonight that Canada is not a state party to this treaty, as several of its provisions are incompatible with our NATO commitments.”

 

Public opinion

A public opinion poll conducted by Nanos Research in 2021 found that 74 per cent of Canadians believe that their government should join the TPNW, with just 14 per cent opposed. Furthermore, 73 per cent think that Canada should join even if, as a member of NATO, it might come under pressure from the United States not to do so.

ICAN campaigners hold a protest outside Canada’s diplomatic mission in Geneva due to its failure to support a ban on nuclear weapons. Photo: ICAN

 

TPNW negotiations

Canada did not participate in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and thus did not vote on its adoption.

In 2016, Canada voted against the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

In a document sent to NATO members ahead of the vote, the United States “strongly encourage[d]” members, including Canada, to vote against the resolution, “not to merely abstain”. In addition, it said that, if the treaty negotiations do commence, allies and partners should “refrain from joining them”.

ICAN campaigners from Canada celebrate the adoption of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York on 7 July 2017. Photo: ICAN

 

Nuclear weapons formerly in Canada

During the cold war, Canada hosted US nuclear weapons on its territory as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing agreement. All such weapons were withdrawn by 1984.

 

Further information

Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor

Nuclear-weapon endorser

Has not yet joined the TPNW

[HIGHLIGHTS]

Status

Canada has not yet signed or ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

 

National position

Canada has consistently voted against an annual UN General Assembly resolution since 2018 that welcomes the adoption of the TPNW and calls upon all states to sign, ratify, or accede to it “at the earliest possible date”. It has described the treaty as well-intentioned” but premature”.

Responding to a parliamentary petition in 2022 urging the Canadian government “to break with NATO’s nuclear policy and immediately sign and commit to ratifying the TPNW”, the minister of foreign affairs, Mélanie Joly, wrote that “Canada recognises that the entry into force of the [TPNW] reflects well-founded concerns about the unacceptable pace of nuclear disarmament”.

However, “Canada believes that a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament remains the most viable pathway to achieving meaningful and lasting progress,” she added. “While not a party to the TPNW, Canada has common ground with treaty states and shares the ultimate goal of a world free from nuclear weapons.”

In 2018, the then-minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said that the “popularity” of the TPNW “speaks to the desire of countries, activists, and communities to accelerate the work toward disarmament” and “reflects frustration and disappointment at the pace of global efforts so far”.

Canada supports the retention and potential use of nuclear weapons on its behalf, as indicated by its endorsement of various alliance statements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), of which it is a member.

 

Political developments

Seven former Canadian prime ministers, foreign ministers, and defence ministers – Lloyd Axworthy, Jean-Jacques Blais, Jean Chrétien, Bill Graham, John Mccallum, John Manley, and John Turner – signed an open letter in 2020 calling on current leaders to “show courage and boldness – and join the [TPNW]”.

Canada’s New Democratic Party and Green Party have criticised the Liberal government for its failure to sign the TPNW. The government voted against a parliamentary motion in 2017 urging it to sign the treaty.

Setsuko Thurlow, a renowned Canadian disarmament campaigner and survivor of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima, who jointly accepted the Nobel peace prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in 2017, has repeatedly called on the government to change its stance.

Several Canadian cities, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, have also urged the Canadian government to sign and ratify the TPNW.

ICAN campaigners, including Setsuko Thurlow, hold a press conference in 2017 in celebration of ICAN’s Nobel peace prize. Photo: Paula Cardenas

 

Meetings of states parties

Canada opted not to attend as an observer the first meeting of states parties to the TPNW, held in Vienna in June 2022. Canadian civil society organisations, as well as senators and members of parliament from the New Democratic Party and Green Party, criticised the government’s decision.

Four other NATO member states – Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway – attended the meeting, as did NATO applicant states Finland and Sweden.

In explaining Canada’s non-attendance, Robert Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary to the foreign minister, said: “We understand and appreciate the sentiment behind the TPNW, but I will reiterate tonight that Canada is not a state party to this treaty, as several of its provisions are incompatible with our NATO commitments.”

 

Public opinion

A public opinion poll conducted by Nanos Research in 2021 found that 74 per cent of Canadians believe that their government should join the TPNW, with just 14 per cent opposed. Furthermore, 73 per cent think that Canada should join even if, as a member of NATO, it might come under pressure from the United States not to do so.

ICAN campaigners hold a protest outside Canada’s diplomatic mission in Geneva due to its failure to support a ban on nuclear weapons. Photo: ICAN

 

TPNW negotiations

Canada did not participate in the negotiation of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York in 2017 and thus did not vote on its adoption.

In 2016, Canada voted against the UN General Assembly resolution that established the formal mandate for states to commence negotiations on “a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

In a document sent to NATO members ahead of the vote, the United States “strongly encourage[d]” members, including Canada, to vote against the resolution, “not to merely abstain”. In addition, it said that, if the treaty negotiations do commence, allies and partners should “refrain from joining them”.

ICAN campaigners from Canada celebrate the adoption of the TPNW at the United Nations in New York on 7 July 2017. Photo: ICAN

 

Nuclear weapons formerly in Canada

During the cold war, Canada hosted US nuclear weapons on its territory as part of a NATO nuclear-sharing agreement. All such weapons were withdrawn by 1984.

 

Further information

Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor

[PARTNERS]

Anglican Church of Canada

website


Canadian Pugwash Group

website


website

Canadian Quakers 

Green Party of Canada

website


Hamilton City Council

website


Peace Watch Unitarians 

Physicians for Global Survival

website


Project Ploughshares

website


Powell River City Council

website


Religious Society of Friends 

Rideau Institute / Ceasefire.ca

website


Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation 

website


Saskatchewan Medical Association

website


Science for Peace

website


Vision GRAM-International 

website


Voice of Women Nova Scotia

website


Canadian Voice of Women for Peace 

website


Nonviolence International Canada

website


Mines Action Canada 

website


Sudbury noon Rotary Club 

website


Rotarians4NuclearBan

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

website


Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada

website


Sierra Club Canada Foundation

website


Youth Nuclear Peace Summit

website


Ban the Bomb Ottawa

website


Rotary Club of Nakusp

website

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  • Anglican Church of Canada

    website

  • Canadian Pugwash Group

    website

  • website

    Canadian Quakers 
  • Green Party of Canada

    website

  • Hamilton City Council

    website

  • Peace Watch Unitarians 
  • Physicians for Global Survival

    website

  • Project Ploughshares

    website

  • Powell River City Council

    website

  • Religious Society of Friends 
  • Rideau Institute / Ceasefire.ca

    website

  • Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation 

    website

  • Saskatchewan Medical Association

    website

  • Science for Peace

    website

  • Vision GRAM-International 

    website

  • Voice of Women Nova Scotia

    website

  • Canadian Voice of Women for Peace 

    website

  • Nonviolence International Canada

    website

  • Mines Action Canada 

    website

  • Sudbury noon Rotary Club 

    website

  • Rotarians4NuclearBan
  • Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

    website

  • Soka Gakkai International Association of Canada

    website

  • Sierra Club Canada Foundation

    website

  • Youth Nuclear Peace Summit

    website

  • Ban the Bomb Ottawa

    website

  • Rotary Club of Nakusp

    website