Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

Canada’s policy on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament is built around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and reinforced by related initiatives. Canada seeks to prevent States from acquiring nuclear weapons, decreasing the number of nuclear weapons worldwide, and eventually irreversibly eliminating them.

Canada strongly advocates for non-proliferation and a step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament. This approach involves having all states join the NPT, bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

Canada works closely with like-minded States to promote nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, including with:

Canada is also taking steps to prevent States and Non-State Actors from acquiring nuclear weapons and related materials, technology, and knowledge, both through Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program and through implementing commitments arising from the Nuclear Security Summit process.

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Nuclear and radiological security

Terrorists actively seek weapons and materials for use in a radiological or nuclear attack. Since the early 1990s, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has received voluntary reporting from its member states confirming 3,686 incidents involving nuclear or radiological materials as of December 2019. This includes 290 incidents of trafficking or malicious use. Canada’s goal is to reduce the likelihood of nuclear weapons and materials falling into the wrong hands.

The consequences of a single act of nuclear or radiological terrorism would have catastrophic humanitarian, political, environmental and economic consequences on a global scale. Canada is committed to continuing shared efforts to enhance security of radiological and nuclear materials, given remaining gaps in global capabilities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials.

Canada continues to strongly support international efforts to enhance the security of nuclear and other radioactive materials in order to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism both domestically and abroad. For instance, Canada has provided over $68 million in voluntary contributions to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund since 2003. This allows IAEA Member States to access assistance to strengthen nuclear security.

Canada actively participates in other policy initiatives such as the Nuclear Security Contact Group (NSCG), which implements Nuclear Security Summit commitments in the international nuclear security architecture.

Nuclear non-proliferation treaty

The government of Canada remains deeply committed to the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which remains the only legally binding global treaty promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The NPT has 190 members; India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan have not joined, and North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2002.

At its core, the NPT outlines a three-part bargain: States not possessing nuclear weapons commit not to acquire them; the five “Nuclear Weapons States” (United States, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, France, and China) agree to pursue good-faith negotiations aimed at nuclear disarmament; and all NPT States Parties undertake to facilitate international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, fully in line with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Review process

Every 5 years, NPT States Parties meet to hold a Review Conference, allowing them to review the treaty’s implementation and work to strengthen it.

During the 2000 Review Conference, the NPT States agreed to “13 practical steps” to achieve nuclear disarmament goals (including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the negotiation of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), and the “unequivocal undertaking by the Nuclear Weapons States to eliminate their weapons stockpiles). At the 2010 Review Conference, NPT States agreed to the 64-item Action Plan on nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Canada strongly supports the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Its entry into force is a key component of the step-by-step approach to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, including nuclear weapon tests. By banning such tests, the CTBT helps prevent States from developing nuclear weapons or improving them.

The CTBT is not yet in force, and will only come into force once all 44 countries listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty ratify it. A special conference has been held every 2 years since 1999, where States that have ratified the CTBT may consider measures to accelerate entry into force.

Along with Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands, Canada has co-hosted a Ministerial-level “Friends of the CTBT” meeting every 2 years since 2002, to further encourage countries to ratify and bring the treaty into force.

Canada ratified the CTBT on December 3, 1998 when Parliament passed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Implementation Act. The Act created the CTBT National Authority to implement the Treaty in Canada.

Institutional support for the CTBT

In preparation for entry into force, the CTBT is being provisionally implemented by the Preparatory Commission (PrepCom) for the CTBT Organization (CTBTO). This organization is associated with the UN and is based in Vienna. The CTBTO works to develop the treaty’s verification system.

Verification of the CTBT is being done with an extensive system developed to monitor compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament treaty (NPT). It has 3 main parts:

  1. the 337 monitoring stations and laboratories located around the world, forming the International Monitoring System (IMS)
  2. the International Data Centre, which collects and distributes the data from the IMS
  3. the on-site inspection regime, which will allow the CTBTO to visit suspected nuclear test sites on a State Party’s territory

Canada strongly supports verification efforts by the CTBTO. Sixteen IMS stations and laboratories are located in Canada. These stations can help detect nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, underground, or underwater.

Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty

Canada’s nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament priority is the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT). Such a treaty would halt the production of the material that gives nuclear weapons their explosive power, and thus eventually halt the production of nuclear weapons. An FMCT is a part of Canada’s step-by-step approach to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Canada has been a leader in the international community on the effort to commence negotiations of an FMCT. In 1995, Canada’s then-Ambassador for Disarmament, Gerald Shannon, brokered the first real agreement on a mandate to negotiate an FMCT. Although the Shannon Mandate was used to launch an Ad-Hoc Committee to negotiate an FMCT in 1998, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has been unable to adopt a program of work allowing FMCT negotiations to begin in earnest. The CD’s stalemate is due to the abuse of its consensus rule, under which any state can block work under any pretext.

As a result of this lack of progress, the UN General Assembly passed a Canadian-led resolution in 2012 that created an FMCT Group of Government Experts (GGE), which made recommendations on possible aspects of an FMCT. The GGE met from 2014 to 2015 under Canadian chairpersonship, and its consensus report contains the most recent and relevant thinking on the substance of a future treaty. In Conference, the UN General Assembly passed another Canadian resolution, co-sponsored by Germany and the Netherlands, creating a 25-member High-Level FMCT Expert Preparatory Group to build on the work of the GGE and to make recommendations on substantive elements of a treaty, in advance of its negotiation.

Participation in the GGE and the Preparatory Group was geographically diverse and inclusive. All five Nuclear Weapons States as recognized by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), India, and 19 Non-Nuclear Weapons States participated. The Preparatory Group’s work was linked to the broader UN General Assembly through two open-ended informal consultative meetings which were held in New York in March 2017 and February 2018. This unique mechanism helped to engage the broader UN membership in the work of the Preparatory Group.

At its final meeting in June 2018, the Preparatory Group succeeded in negotiating a robust consensus report recommending elements of a future treaty. Canada continues to support the commencement of formal negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty that will help end the nuclear arms races worldwide.

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Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

In July 2006, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) was created and consists of 89 countries, including Canada, and 6 official observers:

Canada was one of the first partners to join the GICNT and remains an active participant in GICNT exercises and workshops as well as meetings, such as the Implementation and Assessment Group and annual plenary meetings. Canada is currently chairing the GICNT’s Nuclear Forensics Working Group in order to help share our expertise on nuclear forensics with other countries building up their capabilities.

Rather than developing new legal instruments or policies, the GICNT focuses on real operational-level cooperation among partners to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism.

GICNT partners have conducted over 100 multilateral activities and 11 senior-level meetings in support of nuclear security objectives.

Nuclear Security Summit process

Canada strongly supported the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process between 2010 and 2016. This process stands as a critical series of meetings that have encouraged the international community to address shared challenges through effective nuclear security cooperation. Through Global Affairs Canada, we were the inaugural chair of the NSCG, which aims to sustain the momentum generated by the NSS process, and to help implement commitments arising from the Summits.

The NSS process has made an important and lasting contribution in addressing the urgent and immediate threat to global security posed by nuclear terrorism. The summits provided a unique opportunity for Canada and leaders from 52 countries, to focus on making commitments to prevent nuclear terrorism by strengthening international nuclear security. There were four Summits held in:

Canadian commitments

Through our Weapons Threat Reduction Program, we have made significant commitments in the NSS process. At the 2016 NSS, $42 million was committed for nuclear security projects overseas, including:

Implementation of Canada’s commitments from previous summits are captured in Canada’s National Progress Report. Canada’s National Statement outlines the commitments made at the 2016 Summit.

Canada also signed up to a number of additional commitments that aim to further strengthen nuclear security. These include issues such as cyber security, mitigating threats posed by insider personnel, nuclear forensics, certified training, among other topics. The majority of these have been shared in the context of the International Atomic Energy Agency as information circulars to allow for more states to support them.

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Verifying nuclear disarmament

A central component to any nuclear disarmament effort is verification.

Canada’s primary engagement on nuclear disarmament verification is focused on our contributions to the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verifications (IPNDV). In December 2014, the United States government and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) think tank launched the IPNDV, which focusses on developing key verification techniques. Participating states include all G7 states and many Non-Nuclear Weapons States.

Experts from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories participate in the meetings of the Partnership’s three working groups, as well as the annual IPNDV Plenary.

In addition to technical and policy expertise, Canada has provided financial support to the Partnership. In August 2019, Canada provided $1.2 million dollars through GAC’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program to support IPNDV activities in 2019 and 2020.

Further to the IPNDV, in 2016, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on nuclear disarmament verification. The work of the GGE concluded in 2019, and resulted in additional measures to improve nuclear disarmament verification. In November 2019, Canada co-sponsored a United Nations resolution to establish a subsequent GGE to commence work in 2021.

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Strengthening nuclear and radiological security

The Weapons Threat Reduction Program (WTRP) supports programming initiatives to enhance international nuclear and radiological security, as well as to prevent the trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials.

Canada’s main activities as part of this program are:

Nuclear and radiological threat reduction in action

Through the WTRP, Canada strongly supported 2010-2016 Nuclear Security Summit process, including an announcement of over $42 million in commitments in 2016 to enhance nuclear and radiological security worldwide. Our contribution has advanced projects that:

Canada has provided nuclear forensics technical and operational expertise to the GICNT. This includes continue to engage in GICNT working meetings, exercises, and workshops to develop our partners’ capabilities as well as practical tools to enhance nuclear security. Canada has been chairing the GICNT Nuclear Forensics Working Group since 2018.

Key initiatives

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