Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Ratifies Cluster Bomb Convention after Half Decade of Controversy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Ratifies Cluster Bomb Convention after Half Decade of Controversy

Article excerpt

Canada ratifies cluster bomb convention

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OTTAWA - The Harper government faced criticism Tuesday that it was undermining the international convention to ban deadly cluster bombs, as it ratified the treaty after more than half a decade of controversy.

Canada signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008, but dragged its heels on ratifying it in the face of widespread international complaints, including from the usually neutral International Committee of the Red Cross.

The opposition stemmed from a loophole in its ratification law that would allow the Canadian Forces to be involved in the use of cluster bombs in joint operations with the United States, which has opted out of the convention.

The government has defended its position based on the larger issues surrounding the need to remain interoperable with its biggest military ally, the United States. A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson reiterated that Tuesday saying the legislation "strikes a good balance between humanitarian obligations and preserves our national security and defence interests."

Earl Turcotte was Canada's chief negotiator on the treaty, but he resigned from the federal public service in 2011 because of concerns about the legislation.

Turcotte said in an interview Tuesday that the ratification law does not live up to the "spirit and the letter" of the convention. But now that Canada has ratified it will be "held to account by the international community, other states parties, civil society and UN agencies who will demand that Canada fulfil its international obligations."

"We have just seen the beginning of a serious criticism of Canada for its legislation."

Nicholson noted in a statement that cluster bombs have had a "devastating impact" on civilians and that Canada was helping save lives with a further $2.4 million contribution for mine clearance and education.

Paul Hannon, the executive director of Mines Action Canada, said Canada's traditional contribution to anti-mine efforts has fallen off in recent years, and should be increased to at least $35 million a year. …

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