Canada doesn't need a boot for cluster bombs

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: flickr/SchuminWeb

Almost five years ago, Canada signed a new treaty banning cluster munitions to end the unacceptable harm caused by these weapons. Cluster munitions are large bombs that release dozens or hundreds of smaller submunitions over an area the size of a football field. They harm civilians both at the time of use when they are dispersed over a wide area and after the attack as a number of submunitions fail to explode becoming de facto landmines.

Over 110 countries, most of NATO, have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Canada has never used cluster munitions and our stockpiles are being destroyed, but we have not implemented the Convention.

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee is currently studying Bill C-6, An Act to Implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was Bill S-10 before prorogation. The draft text contains many loopholes that could let Canada circumvent the prohibitions to which we have agreed, including one that will allow Canadian personnel to ask others to use this banned weapon.

That loophole about asking other countries to use cluster munitions reminds me of the Safeway parking lot where high school classmates tried to circumvent laws they didn’t like.

To really understand how a loophole in draft legislation could remind me of a shopping centre’s parking lot, I have to explain this particular parking lot. The shopping centre in question had a coffee shop, a video store, a Safeway grocery store and a government liquor store. To some of my classmates the Safeway parking lot was not just a place to leave your car while picking up groceries; it was the staging ground for an illicit but tantalizing quest.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, some of my peers could be found lurking in the parking lot approaching shoppers asking for a "boot" in the hopes of meeting that mythical stranger of legal drinking age who would go into the liquor store and buy alcohol on their behalf. Both the police and the centre’s security try to curtail the practice, but even to this day, you can occasionally find teens asking strangers to buy them beer in the Safeway parking lot.

At first glance, minors trying to get beer and an international treaty banning a weapon because it causes unacceptable harm to civilians seem completely unrelated, however, upon taking a closer look at Bill C-6, one can start to see the similarities.

In both cases, the prohibition is quite clear: no alcohol for minors and no production, stockpiling, use or assistance with use of cluster munitions for states that have joined the Convention.

In both cases, the prohibition does not apply to a select group: adults who have reached the legal drinking age or countries that have not yet joined the convention on cluster munitions.

In both cases, attempts are made to get around the prohibition by asking others to commit prohibited acts: either by waiting in the Safeway parking lot for a boot or through Section 11 of Bill C-6 which allows Canadian personnel to "expressly request" the use of cluster munitions by other countries not bound by the Convention.

There is little doubt that asking for a boot in the Safeway parking lot or being a boot is illegal, morally problematic and potentially dangerous, so I find it very disturbing to see draft legislation that would allow our personnel to ask another country to be their cluster munitions "boot."

As a Canadian, I expect that when Canada signs an international treaty to protect civilians during conflict, Canada will live up to the letter and spirit of the treaty. I believe our government does not mean to use national legislation to circumvent a key prohibition in the Convention. Now that our MPs are reviewing the bill, I trust that they will work together to #fixthebill and to make it clear that Canada will not be lurking around international humanitarian law’s parking lot.  

Photo: flickr/SchuminWeb

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.