Canada is committed to the complete elimination of chemical weapons and to holding to account those that use chemical weapons. Canada has been a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) since its entry into force in 1997. Canada works closely with the CWC’s implementing body, the Organiation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is based in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Canada actively works with other States Parties to the CWC as well as the OPCW to prevent chemical weapons proliferation and use by either states or non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations.
What are chemical weapons?
Chemical weapons use the toxic properties of chemicals to cause physical harm, ranging from discomfort to death. A toxic chemical agent is any chemical, which through its action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals.
Since their introduction during the First World War, chemical weapons have been used more often than any other category of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The 1925 Geneva Protocol first banned the use of toxic chemical agents in war.
The Chemical Weapons Convention defines chemical weapons as, together or separately:
- 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.
- Any equipment specifically designed for use directly in connection with the employment of those munitions and devices.
Chemical Weapons Convention
The CWC is the treaty which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, retention, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. 193 States have committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
In recent years, there has been both progress and cause for concern with the Chemical Weapons ban:
- Russia completed destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile (2017) and Libya’s remaining chemical weapons precursors were destroyed under verification by the OPCW (2018).
- Chemical weapons attacks have continued in Syria (perpetrated by both the Syrian regime and Daesh) and in Iraq.
- A chemical weapon was used to assassinate the half-brother of the North Korean leader in Malaysia (February 2017) and a highly lethal nerve agent was used in an attack in Salisbury, United Kingdom (March 2018).
To help prevent future use of chemical weapons and to hold to account those that carry out such attacks, Canada provides funds and technical expertise to the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission and its attribution mechanism, the Investigation and Identification Team. These contributions make Canada one of the largest contributors to the global effort to end the use of chemical weapons.
Eliminating chemical weapons
The disarmament provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention involves 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 Weapons Threat Reduction Program, has provided significant contributions to assist with the destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles. In partnership with the OPCW, the United Nations and other members of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, Canada has to date contributed over $235 million in support of tangible CW threat reduction activities in Russia, Libya, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Canada is steadfast in its commitment to support further concrete actions that mitigate threats and hold to account those that have committed CW-related atrocities, so as to protect Canadians and individuals everywhere from the horrors of chemical weapons.
Meeting our obligations
The verification system of the CWC requires each State Party, including Canada, to:
- Provide declarations verifiable by the OPCW through data monitoring and on-site routine inspections.
- declare to the OPCW annual data on its chemical industry and accept international verification of compliance.
- establish a National Authority to serve as the national focal point for liaison with the OPCW and with other States Parties.
Canada meets its obligations through the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act (CWCIA) and its regulations. These laws create the Canadian National Authority, located at Global Affairs Canada, 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 the obligations of the Chemical Weapons Convention affect you, please see The Canadian National Authority (Chemical Weapons Convention) related link.
Strengthening chemical weapons security
Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program is a global leader in the delivery of chemical threat reduction programming. The activities are guided by the collective vision of the Global Partnership, which aims to:
- support chemical weapons destruction
- prevent and respond to chemical weapons use
- strengthen and support the OPCW
- support and enhance chemical non-proliferation instruments, institutions and practices
- foster collaboration on national, regional, and global security initiatives aimed at preventing and/or responding to the misuse of chemicals
- enhance the security of chemicals and
- promote chemical security culture globally
- In collaboration with other members of the G7-led Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, Canada played a leading role in supporting the destruction of Russia’s declared chemical weapons arsenal (40,000 tons). Canada contributed more than $200M for the construction of nerve agent destruction facilities at Shchuch’ye (in the Kurgan Region of Russia) and in Kizner (in the Udmurt Republic), which eliminated over 10,000 tons of chemical weapons and four million chemical munitions.
- Canada is one of the largest national contributors to global efforts to end the use of chemical weapons, and has contributed more than $38M to the OPCW to support destruction, verification, monitoring, training and investigation of chemical weapons.
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