Chemical weapons

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, and is a leading supporter of, the CWC’s implementing body, the Organis ation 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.

On this page

Defining 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:

Chemical Weapons Convention

The CWC is the treaty which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, retention, transfer, and use of chemical weapons. Over 190 States have ratified or acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In recent years, despite progress, there has been cause for concern with the Chemical Weapons ban:

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 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 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, INTERPOL and other members of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, Canada has to date contributed over $240 million to support chemical weapons destruction in Russia, Libya, Iraq and Syria and tangible chemical weapons threat reduction activities around the world. 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.

Recent changes

In November 2019, in response to the use of a Novichok-type nerve agent in Salisbury, United Kingdom almost two years earlier, 4 new categories of toxic chemicals were officially added to Schedule 1 of the CWC Annex on Chemicals. This new list of controlled chemicals entered into force on June 7, 2020.

The most up-to-date version of the Annex on Chemicals, including the list of newly added chemicals, can be found on the website of the OPCW.

Meeting our obligations

The verification system of the CWC requires each State Party, including Canada, to:

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:

Key initiatives

Date Modified: