17 March 2015
Canada Ratifies the Convention
Signing the Convention in Oslo, Dec. 2008. (c) Gunnar Mjaugedal/catchlight.no
Canada became the 91th State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 16 March 2015. Congratulations, félicitations! The instrument of ratification was deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the Convention will enter into force for Canada on 1 September 2015.
Canada already completed the destruction of its stockpiles of the weapon in June 2014.
With every new State Party to the Convention, the global stigma against cluster munitions grows, and the likelihood that anyone will dare to use this horrible weapon decreases. In the context of ongoing use of cluster munitions killing innocent civilians in Syria and Ukraine, and recent use in Libya, universal adherence to the Convention is essential.
While Canada's ratification is excellent news, there have been concerns about the legislation that translates the Convention's obligations into national law.
"Canada's national legislation is among the world's weakest. It contains unacceptable loopholes allowing Canadian soldiers to assist allied armies with the use of cluster munitions. This is not actually authorized under the Convention," explains Paul Hannon from Mines Action Canada. "However, the prospect of being politically embarrassed in front of the international community and straying so far from Canadian values will hopefully keep Canada from utilising those loopholes. We expect Canada to live up to its treaty obligation to discourage any of our allies from using this banned weapon."
The Cluster Munition Coalition will closely monitor developments.
During the legislative process, the draft law received intense national and international attention including commentary from the International Committee of the Red Cross, diplomats, and humanitarian law experts, indicating a widespread concern over the weak draft.
The thorough review of the legislation included clarification from the government that investment in cluster munition production is prohibited. Department of Justice officials stated that "[i]f there's investment in Canada in a company offshore that amounts to aiding and abetting, then it will be subject to the Canadian criminal law under the bill."
Canada is the 19th NATO member that joins the Convention, renouncing the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and promising to cooperate with other States Parties that require support to clear contaminated land or to fulfill the rights of survivors.
The Cluster Munition Coalition hopes that Canada will quickly return to its previous position among the world's top five donors on this issue.
The Costa Rican Presidency of the Convention has launched a call to reach 100 States Parties by the First Review Conference that will be held in Dubrovnik (Croatia) in September this year.