Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 17, 2005
Canada plays nuclear roulette
The awarding of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency should be applauded at a time when nuclear weapons are being taken less seriously as weapons of mass destruction. ElBaradei and the IAEA won the award for using diplomatic means to resolve standoffs with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs.
The Nobel committee said ElBaradei and the IAEA should be recognized for confronting one of the greatest dangers facing the world.
"At a time when the threat of nuclear arms is again increasing, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to underline that this threat must be met through the broadest possible international cooperation."
But if ElBaradei gets the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps Canada's Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew should get the booby prize.
Last month, Pettigrew announced that Canada was resuming nuclear cooperation with India, agreeing to help the country improve nuclear safety and agreeing to sell nuclear "dual-use items" that can be used in both civilian and military applications.
The door is again open to Canada selling more nuclear reactors to India.
Canada cut off its nuclear ties with India 30 years ago when the country used uranium from a Candu reactor to explode its first nuclear bomb. Canada tightened those restrictions in 1998 when India and Pakistan conducted major nuclear tests.
The original 1974 tests came after India bought the Candu, agreeing to use it only for peaceful purposes. India is singing the same song today and Pettigrew believes it. Canada remains hopeful that the country will sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he told reporters.
Don't hold your breath.
India has openly stated that it wants nuclear weapons and also the right to use nuclear technology without restraint.
Canada has long supported nuclear non-proliferation. Last month's announcement - Pettigrew's hopes notwithstanding - throws a spear through the heart of that policy.
More realistic is the assessment by former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy that "What we are witnessing is a major sea change in (Canadian) attitudes toward nuclear non-proliferation."
Canada has long tried to play both sides of the nuclear game - opposing nuclear weapons and proliferation while also trying to peddle its nuclear technology far and wide.
But resuming sales to a country which so brazenly abused Canada's trust in the past tips the balance in an unseemly way.
Toronto Star columnist James Travers has asked whether the switch in government policy is part of a strategy to win over East Indian voters in key Toronto and Vancouver constituencies in the approaching federal election.
Others have suggested that Canada, having rebuffed the United States on its nuclear weapons defence program earlier this year, is now bowing to U.S. pressure to counter-balance China's growing might with a stronger India.
Whatever the motivation, it is unacceptable. Nuclear non-proliferation and eventual disarmament are key to making a safer world. Pope John Paul II, in his 1996 address to the diplomatic corps, said, "In the sphere of nuclear weapons, the banning of tests and of the further development of these weapons, disarmament and non-proliferation are closely linked and must be achieved as quickly as possible under effective international controls."
Nearly 10 years later, "as quickly as possible" has not happened and Canada is playing into continued proliferation.
Nuclear disarmament remains one of the key issues of our time. But the Canadian government is approaching that issue with an unfortunate lackadaisical attitude.
- Glen Argan
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