I am the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and have served in this position for 17 years. The Foundation is a non-governmental education and advocacy organization with headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. It has members in many countries throughout the world, including Canada. The Foundation is a United Nations Peace Messenger Organization, and is on the roster in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Our advisors and consultants are some of the great peace leaders in the world, and include the XIVth Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and Joseph Rotblat, all Nobel Peace Laureates.
By training I am a political scientist and lawyer. I have written and lectured extensively throughout the world on nuclear dangers and the need to abolish nuclear weapons. I believe, in fact, that these are not weapons at all, but instruments of genocide and portable incinerators. I serve on the International Steering Committee of the Middle Powers Initiative, an abolition initiative led by Canadian Senator Douglas Roche. I am also on the Coordinating Committee of Abolition 2000, a network of some 1,400 organizations in more than 80 countries seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons.
It is also relevant that I am a citizen of the United States. While I represent only myself and the organization that I lead, I think you should know that most Americans oppose nuclear weapons and support their global elimination. Some 87 percent of the American public want their government to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Convention, similar to the Chemical Weapons Convention, leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
I have come to Vancouver to testify in these hearings because I believe that the issue at stake here has global significance. On the surface this is a dispute between the federal government of Canada and one of its provinces about a piece of seabed territory. Beneath the surface, however, the issue at stake here is whether or not ordinary people – the ones referred to in the opening words of the United Nations Charter – are going to have a voice in shaping their own destiny on this planet, or whether national governments are going to usurp the right of the people to create a future that is healthy for children and other living things.
The issue at stake in these hearings is not the land; it is the intended use of the land. It is the intention of the Canadian government to allow the United States the possibility to bring nuclear weapons into an area that the citizens of British Columbia have declared a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. This intention is contained in the acceptance by the Canadian government of the U.S. policy to “neither confirm nor deny” whether U.S. Navy ships are carrying nuclear weapons. It is a policy of deliberate ambiguity and deceit.
In the Notice of Intention to Expropriate the Canadian government said that the seabed areas at Nanoose “are required by Her Majesty the Queen in the right of Canada for purpose related to the safety or security of Canada or of a state allied or associated with Canada and it would not be in the public interest further to indicate that purpose.” This is a statement right out of the Cold War handbook. It provides very little information to citizens. Is the purpose for the safety of Canada or the security of Canada? Or is it for the safety or security of another state that is allied or associated with Canada? If the issue is the safety of Canadian citizens, I’m sure that there has been testimony at these hearings regarding the radiation dangers to the people and environment of British Columbia that are related to possible accidents from nuclear powered submarines and nuclear armed submarines in your waters. It is hard to imagine that it could be in the security interests of the people of British Columbia to invite the targeting of Nanoose Bay by other nuclear weapons states.
If I were a citizen of British Columbia I would find the Notice of Intention to Expropriate highly insulting. It appears to be purposely vague and ambiguous, similar to the U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons. The worst part of the Notice is the Canadian government telling its citizens that it would not be in their interest for the government to further indicate the purpose of the expropriation. In effect, the Canadian government is telling its citizens to be good children and not ask any more questions. This form of governmental paternalism is unbecoming of a mature democracy.
Grounds for Objections
I wish to object to the expropriation of the seabed in Nanoose Bay for three reasons related to the purpose of the expropriation, which is to allow the United States the possibility to bring nuclear weapons carrying submarines into the waters above the expropriated land. These reasons are illegality, immorality, and lack of respect for democratic principles.
Illegality. The International Court of Justice, the highest international court in the world, stated in its opinion of July 8, 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal if such threat or use violates international humanitarian law. This means that no threat or use of nuclear weapons can be legal if it would cause or threaten to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants or fail to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Since nuclear weapons are weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction, they cannot be used legally under international law and their threatened use for deterrence is illegal as well.
Should this expropriation occur and the United States bring nuclear weapons into Canadian waters, the citizens of Canada would become accomplices to threatening to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. These were two of the three crimes, along with crimes against peace, for which Nazi leaders were brought to justice at Nuremberg.
The Court also stated in its opinion: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” This is the Court’s clarification of the obligation set forth in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to which Canada is a party. By refusing to aid and abet nuclear crimes, Canada would be helping to move the United States and the other nuclear weapons states to fulfill this obligation under international law.
Immorality. Nuclear weapons threaten the mass murder of millions of innocent people, the destruction of civilization, and perhaps the extinction of the human species and most forms of life. Nuclear weapons place all creation in danger of annihilation for what some states have defined as their national security interests. I believe that the citizens of British Columbia should have the right, indeed the duty, to dissociate themselves from such extreme immorality, and in fact they have done so by declaring their province to be a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Now, the government of Canada seeks to expropriate this territory. In doing so, they will also expropriate from the citizens of this province the right to act upon their morals in their own community on this issue of such great importance to the future of life on Earth.
Democracy. Decisions about the deployment and strategy of nuclear weapons use are being made by only a small number of people in governments aided by the military-industrial-academic complex. Decisions about the actual use of nuclear weapons reside in the hands of even fewer persons, only perhaps a few dozen throughout the world. The people have been cut out of the equation, even though in countries where polling has taken place they overwhelmingly support a treaty to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
In Canada, 92 percent of Canadians want their government to lead negotiations for a Nuclear Weapons Convention. Canada could lead in this area as it did so ably with the Treaty to Ban Landmines. Yet, rather than doing so, the federal government is seeking to trample on the rights of the citizens of British Columbia in forcing them, through this expropriation, to accept the possibility of nuclear weapons in their midst.
British Columbia made a seemingly simple request in the negotiations with the federal government to extend the lease for the area in question. They simply wanted “a provision confirming that no nuclear warheads will be present at any time within the licence area.” Rather than championing this cause for the citizens of British Columbia, the federal government of Canada chose instead the route of expropriation. Rather than choosing democracy and listening to the voices of the people, the federal authorities have chosen the sledgehammer of expropriation as the means to resolve this issue. It is behavior unbecoming of a democratic state, and the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada should oppose it.
When Canada took the lead on the treaty banning anti-personnel landmines it was lauded throughout the world for its efforts. Canada could also exert such leadership in creating a world free of nuclear weapons. For it to do so, however, the federal government will need to listen to the voices of its people. What is happening here in British Columbia is a serious test of whether Canada will lead or continue to be – as some have unkindly said – a lapdog of the United States.
I want to conclude by assuring you that the great majority of citizens in the United States, as in Canada, support a world free of nuclear weapons. These American citizens, if informed of the issues at stake, would strongly support the efforts being made in British Columbia to oppose the expropriation of their land without the assurance that they seek that nuclear weapons will not be brought onto their territory.
By seeking to expropriate the Nanoose seabed, the Canadian government is crushing not only the dreams of the people here for a nuclear weapons free world, but also the dreams of the great majority of ordinary American citizens who would prefer to live in and leave to their children a world free of nuclear weapons. The fight of the citizens of British Columbia is a fight for global dignity, decency, and democracy. I am here to support your effort.