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Canada sends new delegation to the UN

Metta Spencer — November 1984

Most Canadian peace activists were encouraged by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s naming of Joe Clark as Minister of External Affairs. And Mr. Mulroney’s choice of a born-and-bred NDP man, Mr. Stephen Lewis, as Ambassador to the United Nations astonished everyone.

The appointment of Mr. Douglas Roche as Disarmament Ambassador was much less surprising. Until recently, Mr. Roche sat in Parliament as a member of Mr. Mulroney’s own party, and played a virtually unique role in alerting other Progressive Conservatives to the dangers of nuclear weaponry.. He has lately served as an officer of Parliamentarians for World Order (the organization that is largely responsible for the Five Continent Peace Initiative), as well as authoring (among others) a book on the United Nations. (See the review in the October, 1984 issue of The Peace Calendar.

In addition to these major appointments, peace activists Joanna Miller and Ann Gertler have been invited to serve as advisors to the current United Nations delegation. Ms. Gertler is a Montreal-based member of Voice of Women, and serves as a director of Project Ploughshares and also that of the new Canadian International Institute for Peace and Security. Both women often visit the United Nations as Non-governmental Organization (NGO) observers, and now during this session they will spend at least two or three weeks there as official government advisors.

Ann Gertler explained by phone how the session will probably go. The General Assembly lasts for twelve weeks. Most of the work is actually done in a number of committees, each of which may comprise delegates from all 159 nations. The Committee on Disarmament began work on October 15 by spending about two weeks hearing statements from member countries. On about November 19 it will begin voting on resolutions, which will then be received by the entire General Assembly. Only very rarely does the General Assembly’s vote reverse the decision of one of its committees.

The Canadian delegation will continuously receive instructions from officials of the Arms Control and Disarmament Division of External Affairs in Ottawa. Lately these instructions have been issued by two men: Mr. Louis Delvoie and Mr. Gary Smith. However, consultation and decision-making flow in both directions, and the relative influence of the Ottawa staff and the Disarmament Ambassador varies from issue to issue.

The peace movement will be watching closely for a reversal of the Canadian government’s vote against a nuclear freeze. However, Ms. Gertler does not give that issue top priority, since she is not satisfied with the formulation of the freeze proposals that have been put forward up to this time. She would much prefer the wording proposed by Mexico and Sweden, which calls for a bilateral moratorium and the use of verifications procedures that have already been established in the SALT I agreement.

According to Gertler, what really counts — and she says that this is recognized now in Europe — is a freeze that will be coupled with a removal of all land-based weapons. A freeze on production, on the other hand, cannot be instantaneous, since contracts already exist for the manufacture of weapons systems.

Ms. Gertler could not say, at the time of our interview, what the Canadian priorities will be at this session. The first clarification of that will come when Ambassador Roche gives his first speech. However, she mentioned six objectives that seem most important to her and Ms. Miller. They are as follows:

  1. Stop the militarization of space. Call for a moratorium on the testing of space weapons — both Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASATS) and Ballistic-Missile Defense systems (BMDs).
  2. Stop the testing of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems by a moratorium, to be followed by a treaty — which is almost ready anyway. It was practically finished in 1980.
  3. Establish an arms registry to help stem the effects of spreading militarization around the world. (This is a proposal strongly supported by Project Ploughshares.)
  4. Develop an International Satellite System as part of the verification procedures that would make treaties more credible. (Contrary to the views of Science for Peace, which has promoted ISMA — an International Satellite Monitoring Agency — Gertler does not propose that this be administered by a new agency: there are enough agencies already, she says.)
  5. The nuclear powers should all pledge No First Use of Nuclear Weapons. (As with Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, this commitment would be an important step toward reducing the chance of nuclear war.)
  6. Finally, it is possible that the Five Continent Peace Initiative (which contains a freeze clause) will be presented as a resolution to the General Assembly. If so, Gertler feels that Canada should vote for it.

Both Gertler and Miller encourage peace workers to write supportive, well-reasoned letters to Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Clark on these and other issues with which they will be dealing in the months ahead.