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Statement of Canada to the 100th session of the OPCW Executive Council

Canada congratulates His Excellency Ambassador Ziad M. D. Al Atiyah on his new role as Chair of the Executive Council. I assure him of Canada’s full support and cooperation in leading the work of this body this week and beyond. 

The prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, as enshrined in Article I of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), has been violated several times in the past decade, and those who break this norm have yet to be held fully accountable. 

Canada condemns in the strongest terms the Russian regime’s unjustifiable and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. This invasion demonstrates utter contempt for the international rules-based order and the UN Charter 

The Russian delegation continues to allege that Ukraine plans to use chemical weapons, but presents no evidence and requests no action by the OPCW Technical Secretariat. This shows us that Russia’s accusations are merely components of a disinformation campaign, in keeping with their behaviour in the OPCW and other fora. The potential for chemical weapons use by the Russian Federation, including as a false flag attack in an attempt to justify its own aggression, remains a major concern. 

Russia also continues to deny involvement in the 2020 attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny with a Novichok-type nerve agent, a chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union and used previously by Russian agents in the attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom. We deplore Russia’s lack of cooperation on this matter.  Russia has ignored the questions posed by a group of countries, including Canada, and has not carried out any investigation into this attack. 

We call on the Russian Federation to make certain that those who used chemical weapons on its territory are held accountable, while also demanding that Russia respect international law and not use chemical weapons themselves. The world is watching, and those who use chemical weapons – anywhere – will be held accountable. 

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Republic also remains in non-compliance with the Convention. Legitimate and credible authorities have identified eight incidents where the Assad regime used chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict. Despite more than twenty consultations with the Declaration Assessment Team, the Syrian initial declaration still contains errors, gaps, and falsehoods, and all eight of the regime’s confirmed chemical attacks took place after the destruction of Syria’s declared stockpiles. Syria’s violations of the Convention are flagrant, intentional, and ongoing, and Syria continues to implement a vitriolic disinformation campaign, helped along by its allies Russia and Iran, to obfuscate the truth. 

Canada and the international community will continue to apply pressure on the Assad regime to clarify the discrepancies in its declaration, destroy its remaining chemical weapons capabilities, and become compliant with the CWC.  We must ensure that all those responsible for perpetrating the use of chemical weapons are held accountable for this egregious crime. We ask that the Executive Council remain seized of this issue. 

As we look to hold those who violate the CWC to account, we also continue to hope for a future world free of chemical weapons. 

Preparations have already begun ahead of the Fifth Review Conference. Initial consultations, expertly led by Ambassador Kuusing of Estonia, have been fruitful, and we are hopeful that they will help set us up for success next May. Canada expects to table a paper on gender-based analysis and the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, working with a range of partners. 

 Canada is pleased to recognize the commitment of the Technical Secretariat in advancing gender equality and diversity in the OPCW. This is a cultural change that requires prolonged and sustained effort. But inclusion is the way of the future, and it makes every organisation better. The OPCW can only benefit. As an International Gender Champion, I am personally committed to supporting this institutional change, not only in the OPCW, but also within my own delegation, to ensure we all do our part. 

Inclusion means more than ensuring the Technical Secretariat staff come from diverse backgrounds. We must also take care that everyone who has something meaningful to say is heard. To this end, we continue to support the inclusion of non-governmental organizations in OPCW work, especially the upcoming Conference of States Parties and Review Conference. No State Party should have the right to unilaterally prohibit a legitimate NGO from attending and speaking their piece. We sincerely hope that the States Parties will find common ground and ensure the voices of civil society will be included. 

The opening of the Centre for Chemistry and Technology is also drawing near.  We are pleased that construction remains on target and will be finished some time next year. Canada is proud to be the top national donor among 52 States, the European Union, and multiple civil society organizations. We are investing in the future of the OPCW, and are eager for the ChemTech Centre to begin its activities, including its critical capacity building work and its training of the next generations of OPCW inspectors. 

Five weeks ago, Canada was proud to announce a new contribution of €1.8 million to the OPCW.  This money will go to:  improve physical and cyber security resilience at the OPCW; enhance chemical incident response capacities through the ‘CHEMEX Africa’ programme; provide training for African customs institutions involved in monitoring the import and export of toxic chemicals, and support the Trust Fund for Syria Missions. 

I ask that the full version of this statement be made an official-series document of the 100th session of the Executive Council and published on Catalyst and public website of the OPCW. 

Thank you.

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