Canada is strongly committed to the complete elimination of chemical weapons. We have been a State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) since its entry into force in 1997. We work closely with its implementing body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, the Netherlands.
What are chemical weapons?
The CWC clearly defined the term “Chemical weapons” as, together or separately, the following:
- toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under the Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;
- munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals; and
- any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of those munitions and devices.
A toxic chemical agent is any chemical which, through its chemical action on life processes, can cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals. The use of toxic chemical agents in war was first banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol.
Chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic
The recent use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic triggered an unprecedented international response. This led to the creation of an ambitious plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program and prevent future use and proliferation of these abhorrent weapons. Though the OPCW has worked hard to ensure Syria’s compliance with the CWC, significant challenges remain.
The use of chemical weapons by any actor is a violation of international law. Canada is engaged to pursue justice for the victims.
Eliminating chemical weapons
The disarmament provisions of the CWC involve the destruction of all chemical weapons in a State Party's possession, all production facilities used since 1946 to produce chemical weapons and any chemical weapons previously abandoned on the territory of another State Party.
Canada, through the WMD Threat Reduction Program, has provided significant contributions to assist with the destruction of chemical weapons and related activities in countries such as Russia, Libya and Syria.
Since the basic raw materials for the production of chemical weapons are available in the chemical industry, verification measures are required for the non-proliferation aspects of the Convention.
Meeting our obligations
The verification system of the CWC is based upon each State Party providing declarations that are verified by the OPCW through data monitoring and on-site routine inspections.
Each State Party is obliged to declare to the OPCW annual data on its chemical industry and to accept international verification of its compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
Every State Party to the CWC must establish a National Authority to serve as the national focal point for liaison with the OPCW and with other States Parties. The Canadian National Authority is located at Global Affairs Canada.
Canada’s obligations are met through the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act (CWCIA) and its regulations. These laws create the Canadian National Authority and set out the rights and obligations of Canadians, including those who must submit declarations and those who are subject to inspection by the OPCW.
If you believe you are affected by the obligations of the Chemical Weapons Convention, please see the "The Canadian National Authority (Chemical Weapons Convention)" page.
- Text of the Chemical Weapons Convention
- Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
- Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act
- Canadian National Authority
- WMD Threat Reduction Program
- Canada condemns use of chemical weapons in Syria
- Canada’s response to the conflict in Syria
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