Conventional Weapons

Ballistic Missiles
Man-Portable Air Defence Systems
Small Arms and Light Weapons
Explosive Remnants of War
Cluster Munitions
Anti-Personnel Landmines


The term “conventional weapons” refers to all types of weapons that are not weapons of mass destruction (i.e. chemical, biological and nuclear weapons). Conventional weapons include large weapons systems such as large caliber artillery, tanks, and ships, as well as small arms and light weapons such as rifles, hand guns and grenades. They also include weapons delivery systems like ballistic missiles which can be used to deliver both conventional ordnance as well as ordnance carrying weapons of mass destruction. Conventional weapons that were used in previous conflicts but did not detonate are called explosive remnants of war.

Ballistic Missiles:

Canada is concerned about missile proliferation – a threat that continues to increase as the numbers of both local missile development programs and new exporters rise. In a shifting international security environment, the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems form a great challenge for the international community. As a partner country to the Missile Technology Control Regime, Canada ensures strict controls of missile-related technology and contributes to the fight against the proliferation of missiles to countries of concern. Canada has also been instrumental in creating the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), which serves as an important transparency- and confidence-building measure.

Man-Portable Air Defence Systems:

Canada is mindful of the serious threat to civil aviation posed by the unauthorized acquisition of Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) by criminals, terrorists, and other non-state actors. We are taking steps to counter the emerging MANPADS threat to the international community.

Small Arms and Light Weapons:

Canada supported efforts to negotiate an Arms Trade Treaty as one of a number of efforts to curtail the flow of illicit weapons to global criminals, terrorists and human rights violators. Canada similarly supports the UN Programme of Action for Small Arms and Light Weapons in its efforts to coordinate global actions to impede the flow of illicit weapons to those who would misuse them.

Explosive Remnants of War:

Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) are conventional weapons used during past conflicts but which did not detonate and now lie dangerously unstable. Weapons from former wars such mines, cluster munitions, and artillery shells remain buried in fields, or near homes, hospitals and factories rendering them unusable. Innocent civilians, including children, are often the latest victims of these weapons long after the conflict in which they were used have ended. One of the key international conventions that deals with the issue of ERWs is the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its 5 Protocols.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development provides funding for programs that address the challenges of ERWs through its Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START).

Cluster Munitions:

Canada is committed to ridding the world of cluster munitions. Unexploded bomblets from these munitions pose a threat to civilians long after the fighting has ended. The Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons. Canada’s implementing legislation for the Convention, An Act to Implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, entered into force on March 16, 2015, and Canada ratified the Convention the same day. Cluster munitions have never been used in Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)-led missions, and CAF completed the destructions of its remaining cluster munitions stockpiles in July 2014.

Anti-Personnel Landmines:

Anti-personnel landmines, scattered in close to 80 countries, are a global humanitarian problem. These horrific leftovers of war kill and maim innocent victims trying to use their land, travel or just play outside. Anti-personnel mines are a costly burden on affected countries, and to citizens who live with the fear of death or injury with every step. Landmines impede development and drain the medical resources of the countries they infest.

Political momentum to ban landmines was building, yet in 1995-96, international negotiations to limit them using the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, had stalled. With popular concern rising, and the UN process stuck, a small group of countries, including Canada, went to Geneva to talk informally about a ban with the International Committee of the Red Cross and International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

In January 1996, Canada announced an immediate moratorium on the use, production, trade or export of anti-personnel mines. By May, Canada announced we would host an international meeting to plan how to completely ban anti-personnel mines.

The Ottawa Convention was signed in December 1997. The Treaty gives a broad framework for dealing with the global landmine problem. Signatories to the Treaty agree to:

  • immediately stop producing, transferring and using anti-personnel mines;
  • destroy stockpiled anti-personnel mines within four years of signing the Convention;
  • clear mined areas;
  • aid mine victims;
  • educate people in mine awareness to reduce their risks, and;
  • co-operate to comply fully with the Convention.