COMMENT: Foreign Affairs progress report 1
Our party is committed to earning back Canada’s respect on the world stage so that we can win back our seat at the Security Council table. We want to project a bold and ambitious agenda for cooperation, and to build a more compassionate, peaceful and sustainable world.
Since that work has already begun, I thought it might be informative to outline some of the NDP’s record in the most recent session of Parliament.
Afghanistan– Led by Jack Harris, NDP Defence critic, our team secured assurances that the Conservatives would no longer extend Canada’s role in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Syria– In reaction to the deepening crisis in Syria and the immense human suffering caused by the conflict, our Foreign Affairs critic, Paul Dewar, issued statements condemning the violence and calling for a n immediate ceasefire. Parliament unanimously adopted his motion to condemn the violence in Syria, support the joint UN-Arab League efforts for a ceasefire, engage Russia and China in seeking a resolution to the conflict, provide humanitarian aid to civilians and stand in solidarity with the Syrian people. Paul was also able to secure hearings on Syria at the Foreign Affairs committee last fall.
Women, peace and security– Gender violence is often used in conflicts by state security forces and armed groups alike to study the social and cultural bonds of communities and terrorize civilians. Last year Paul hosted the launch of Nobel Women’s Initiative’s International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. Thanks to strong pressure from civil society and activists, his motion to make Canada a leader on ending sexual violence in conflict was unanimously adopted by Parliament.
UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food– Our leader and a number of critics met with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, during his mission to Canada. On behalf of our party, Paul wrote a letter to Dr. de Schutter to thank him for his mission to Canada and express our regrets for the government’s negative reaction to his report.
Arms Trade Treaty –The new Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) seeks to stem the illicit global trade of conventional weapons, which fuels conflicts, empowers violent extremists and contributes to human rights violations. During the negotiations Canada played an uncooperative role, and tried to exclude recreational hunting and sports rifles from the treaty, but eventually reversed its position after attracting international criticism.
Sixty seven countries signed the treaty on opening day: June 3, 2013. So far, Canada has not committed to signing. The treaty will come into force ninety days after fifty countries ratify.
The treaty covers conventional weapons: tanks, armored vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and launchers, small arms and light weapons, and ammunition.
Canada was among the 154 countries that eventually voted at the United Nations in favour of the treaty. Only Syria, Iran and North Korea opposed the treaty.
The National Rifle Association and its Canadian counterpart oppose the ATT because they claim it will restrict legitimate domestic firearm use. However, the preamble of the ATT explicitly acknowledges sovereignty of countries to regulate and control conventional arms with its territory.
Conservatives must stop undermining the Arms Trade Treaty. The unregulated trade of small arms has led to increased violence in conflict zones, more civilian casualties, and undermined peace efforts. Hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of armed conflict. This treaty will help them.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.