Biological weapons

The government of Canada is committed to countering the threat posed by the spread of biological weapons.

Biological weapons are biological agents, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or toxins, used to intentionally cause death or harm to humans, animals, or plants. Their use in war was first banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention entered into force in 1975. It completely bans the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, and retention of all biological materials unsuitable for peaceful purposes.

Canada is one of over 170 States to ratify the Convention.

Canada actively works with other States Parties as well as the Convention’s Implementation Support Unit to ensure that neither rogue states nor non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations, acquire the means to use biological weapons.

Promoting national implementation

Each State Party is required to place the provisions of the Convention into its domestic laws.

Canada implements the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention through a series of laws related to:

The Human Pathogens and Toxins Act, administered by the Public Health Agency of Canada Centre for Biosecurity, is the most important of these laws.

Canada’s WMD Threat Reduction Program works with organizations like the Verification, Research, Training and Information Centre and Parliamentarians for Global Action to improve partner countries’ abilities to implement the Convention. The Program also work to promote biological security and the world’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to disease outbreaks, whether naturally-occurring or the result of a biological weapon.

Being transparent

The Convention currently has no mechanism for verifying States Parties’ compliance.

At the Second Review Conference, States agreed to submit annual Confidence Building Measures (CBM) in order to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions and in order to improve international cooperation. Canada completes its annual CBM in order to promote transparency and foster confidence that we are meeting our treaty obligations.

In these CBMs, we share data on:

CBMs also include a declaration on any offensive biological weapons research Canada conducted prior to the Convention’s existence.

Sharing this information transparently helps raise confidence among other States that we are in full compliance with the Convention.

The treaty’s Implementation Support Unit has published Canada's Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention CBMs on their public website since 2011.

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