29 September 2012

Weaselling out of the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Cluster bombs are one of the nastier instruments of war. Each bomb can contain hundreds of bomblets, many of which fail to explode on impact and lie unexploded for years until disturbed. Because of their wide coverage, they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. Sometimes they are brightly coloured in order to warn civilians, but this unfortunately makes them more attractive to children. Human rights activists claim that one in four victims of bomblets are children who play with the explosives well after hostilities have ended.

In 2008, a group of nations adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, an international treaty that will ban the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of these weapons as well as any assistance with such activities. Canada intends to ratify the treaty, but its proposed legislation contains provisions that will undermine it. Bill S-10, currently before the Senate, will allow Canadian forces, when undertaking joint operations with the armed forces of non-party states, to authorize use of cluster munitions, to transport cluster munitions belonging to non-party states, and to counsel non-party state forces to commit acts prohibited to Canada.

As Senator Romeo Dallaire has stated, "It does not make sense to comprehensively ban an immoral, indiscriminate weapon, and then turn around and say it's still okay to use them in combined operations." The World Federalist Movement is hosting a petition to have the loopholes removed from Bill S-10. You can find it here.

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