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Canada votes against nuclear freeze at UN

Metta Spencer — December 1984

The new Canadian government, like the previous one, has stated its advocacy of nuclear disarmament in theory, while actually voting in the United Nations against resolutions calling for a nuclear freeze. On November 20, Canada was one of only 12 countries voting against such a moratorium.

Three freeze resolutions were before the First Committee (the Disarmament Committee) on that day.

The one that most closely approximates the position advocated by the international freeze movement is sponsored this year by Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Sweden and Uruguay. It was supported by 111 nations, including Australia, Ireland, and two NATO countries, Denmark and Greece. Seven nations abstained: Bahamas, China, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and New Zealand. The 12 nations voting against the resolution were Belgium, Canada, France, West Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Portugal, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

The resolution urges both superpowers “to proclaim, either through. simultaneous unilateral declarations or through a joint declaration, an immediate nuclear arms freeze, which would be the first step toward the comprehensive program of disarmament…”

The substance of the resolution amounts to the following four provisions:

  1. a Comprehensive Test Ban of nuclear weapons and of their delivery vehicles;
  2. the complete cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons and of their delivery vehicles;
  3. a ban on all further deployment of nuclear weapons and of their delivery vehicles; and
  4. the complete cessation of the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes.

The resolution further stipulates that these actions would be subject to verification procedures, such as those already agreed to in SALT I and SALT II, and in earlier negotiations on the Comprehensive Test. Ban. This freeze would have. an initial duration of five years, to be prolonged when other nuclear weapon states join it.

A recent Gallup poll showed that 85 per cent of Canadians want such a freeze. Moreover, the incomplete poll of M.P.s by the Election Priorities Project turned up 109 Tories who personally support a freeze, provided that it be balanced and not lock either side into nuclear superiority.

External Affairs Minister Joe Clark defended the govenment’s decision in the House of Commons on the grounds that the freeze initiative would be “counterproductive” since. it would create “tensions within NATO

Canadian peace organizations quickly expressed dismay at this decision. A statement was prepared by Operation Dismantle and endorsed by a number of other groups, including Project Ploughshares, Science for Peace, the United Church Peace Network and the World Federalists, urging the government to reverse its position when the motion comes before the whole General Assembly, probably in early December. These peace groups urge others to send wires and phone calls immediately, before the final vote.

There are two objectives in stimulating a public response, according to Ploughshares officer Ernie Regehr. One is to get the vote changed. The other is to demonstrate support for those people in the new govenment who are working to change Canada’s policy toward support for actual nuclear disarmament.

Canada would not be the first country to change its vote. This year, for example, Australia has come over to supporting the freeze, stating that this shift is in response to world opinion and domestic concerns.

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