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Ottawa Roundtable: MPI writes policy paper for new Canadian government
By Dr. Urs Cipolat, MPI Program Director
Ottawa, Canada
Saturday, February 28, 2004

From Thursday, February 26, to Friday, February 27, the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) and the Canadian Pugwash Group (CPG) co-hosted a Roundtable for 30 invited experts in Ottawa, Canada. The Roundtable focused on Canada's nuclear weapons policies and discussed core issues relating to the upcoming 2005 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Several high-level Canadian policy-makers participated in the event, which was supported by the Canadian government. Based on the insights gained during the Ottawa Roundtable, MPI and CPG have written a Policy Paper for the new Canadian government under Prime Minister Paul Martin (see link below). The Policy Paper makes a number of recommendations to the Canadian Government regarding how to better respond to current security challenges resulting from the continued possession and production of nuclear weapons.

View the Policy Paper: "Building Bridges: The Non-Proliferation Treaty and Canada's Nuclear Weapons Policies"

In his keynote address at the opening of the Roundtable on Thursday evening, Hon. Maurice Strong, P.C., Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Martin and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to the Korean Peninsula, expressed cautious optimism that a diplomatic solution to the nuclear proliferation crisis in North Korea could be in reach.

The discussions on Friday took place in four consecutive sessions. Session I, chaired by Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute, focused on current challenges to the NPT and how they could best be addressed. Presentations were given by Ambassador Sergio de Queiroz Duarte from Brazil, who is expected to chair the 2005 NPT Review Conference, and by Dr.Tariq Rauf, Head of the Verification and Security Policy Office of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. Participants widely agreed that the NPT, which calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to eliminate their arsenals while prohibiting the non-nuclear-weapon States to acquire nuclear devices, remains humanity's best hope for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. It was pointed out that NPT cheating could be more effectively discovered and prevented if the IAEA's inspection budget, currently amounting to a meager $100 million per year, would be substantially increased. Several reactions underscored the importance of transparent, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament in the struggle against further nuclear proliferation.

Session II, chaired by Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford, former President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, dealt with the topic, "NATO and the New Agenda Coalition: Building a Bridge." In her presentation, Professor Erika Simpson of the University of Western Ontario underscored the profound contradiction between NATO's continuous reliance on nuclear weapons and the legal commitment of its members under the NPT, and encouraged individuals, NGOs, and States to work in concert and eliminate this dangerous contradiction [link to Erika's paper]. Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, pointed out that Canada's support for the New Agenda Coalition has helped strengthen the center of the nuclear weapons debate at a crucial period in time. He went on identifying a number of subject areas in which Canada could help build additional political bridges in an effort to secure a positive outcome of the 2005 NPT Review Conference. These areas include, inter alia, the promotion of an NPT emergency mechanism, a program of work for the 2005 NPT Conference, and NPT related transparency measures. [link to Alyn's paper]

The topic of Session III was "Implications of Ballistic Missile Defense on the Nuclear Disarmament Agenda." In his introductory remarks as chair of the session, Dr. Bruce Blair, President of the Center for Defense Information, highlighted that the US missile defense plans represent a profound challenge to the survival of the NPT and the broader non-proliferation regime, and that they inevitably lead to the weaponization of space. Paul Chapin, Director General of the International Security Bureau at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, nevertheless argued in favor of Canadian participation in missile defense. His favorable assessment was challenged by the Executive Director of Project Ploughshares, Ernie Regehr, O.C., who concluded that Canada under no circumstances should partner with the US on missile defense.

The final session was chaired by Senator Douglas Roche, O.C., Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative. Pointing out that the elimination of nuclear weapons is the only sustainable strategy for the future and that the NPT is the most effective international instrument to achieve Canada's fundamental objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, Ambassador Paul Meyer, Canada's new representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, reiterated long-held Canadian policies regarding nuclear weapons and the NPT. Debbie Grisdale, Executive Director of Physicians for Global Survival, urged all Canadians to call upon their Government to make an extra effort in the run up to the 2005 NPT Review Conference to resolve the contradiction between its commitments under the NPT and its reliance on nuclear weapons as part of NATO.