Legislation Regrettable

Canada’s implementing legislation on cluster munitions has a big loophole that seriously weakens the international treaty.

Foreign Minister Nicholson’s announcement this week that Canada has ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) includes $2.4 million in programming for demining and removal of explosive remnants of war. While the program funding is welcomed, these do nothing to mask the damage that Canada’s implementing legislation does to the international regime established by the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Canada’s implementing legislation is the worst of any state party to the CCM. It includes language that effectively undermines the treaty, by permitting Canadian soldiers to enable use of cluster munitions while in combined operations with allies, such as the United States, that have not signed the treaty.

Numerous legal experts, as well as all of Canada’s opposition parties, called for the legislation to be radically revised, to eliminate the “exceptions” (Article 11) that allow Canadian soldiers to participate in actions otherwise proscribed by the treaty. Notably, the government of Norway and the International Committee of the Red Cross called for changes to the bill. In Canada, the World Federalists presented an “open letter” signed by 27 international law experts that indicated in detail why the Canadian legislation is inconsistent with the treaty’s fundamental purpose—a ban on cluster munitions.

Canada’s damaging legislation sets a bad precedent. It creates incentives for others to write their own exceptions and loopholes. A couple of million dollars in program funding for mine clearance activities does not undo the significant damage that Canada’s bad example sets for this important piece of international humanitarian law.

– Robin Collins, World Federalist Movement